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Renville County may reconsider 20-acre gravel mine size minimum

Renville County is willing to reconsider an ordinance requiring that gravel mines be a minimum of 20 acres in size. The County Board of Commissioners want to know if there are many potential gravel mine sites under the 20-acre threshold. It comes two years after the county's board of adjustments and appeals rejected a variance to operate a gravel mine on a site along the Minnesota River that was 3.02 acres shy of the requirement.

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The Renville County Board of Commissioners has indicated it is willing to reconsider the county's requirement that gravel mines be on a site of 20-acres or more, if they learn that there are multiple, potential sites smaller than 20 acres. A variance request for a site less than 20-acres, located along the Minnesota River south of Sacred Heart and near the gravel mines show here, was denied in 2015 after the county's board of adjustment and appeals heard opposition to it from neighboring property owners. Tribune file photo

OLIVIA — Renville County is among a handful of counties which requires a 20-acre minimum size for gravel mine operations.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners is willing to reconsider that limitation, but first they want to know: Are there many potential gravel mine sites under the 20-acre size? The commissioners instructed Scott Refsland, environment and community development director, to survey gravel mine operators in the county as to the potential number of gravel mines under the 20-acre size limit.

The 20-acre limit was adopted sometime prior to 1998. Refsland told the commissioners at their Oct. 1 work session that he reviewed county records but has was able to find exactly when the size limit was adopted, or for what reasons.

The limit came into play in 2015, when Duininck Inc., of Prinsburg, sought a variance to operate a gravel mine on property it owns along the Minnesota River south of Sacred Heart and County Road 15. The company had purchased the 11.98 acres of land holding high quality gravel, and obtained an easement on five acres adjoining it, when the county’s 20-acre requirement was already in place. That left the site 3.02 acres shy of the required size.

The company’s request for a variance was denied after the county’s board of adjustment and appeals heard opposition from property owners bordering the site. The road that would be used to haul gravel out of the site comes to within 20 feet of a residence. The owners said they built the house at the location in the belief that the 20-acre limitation protected them from mining operations there. The gravel site is bordered by the Minnesota River and lands enrolled in permanent easements, making it impossible for Duininck to acquire additional land to reach the 20-acre size requirement, according to Refsland.

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Duininck Inc., could again ask for a variance on the site. The company has not done so, said Refsland. It has asked if the county is willing to look at reducing the 20-acre size requirement.

In discussions on Oct. 1, the commissioners said they are not willing to change county ordinance for the purpose of this one site. Changing an ordinance based on one situation is not good public policy, the members said.

However, they said they would be willing to reconsider the size limit if they learn there are multiple possible sites less than 20 acres.

Discussions focused on the need for gravel for road projects in the county and the costs of hauling it. “It’s a very important resource,” said commissioner Rick Schmidt. He pointed out that access to gravel affects the costs the county pays for its road projects.

Refsland said he contacted 20 counties, including those bordering Renville County and to the southwest. He found that six of them have a 20-acre size requirement in place, while the others have no size limit on the size of a gravel mine.

He will report on his findings in a few months. If the 20-acre ordinance is to be changed, the planning commission must hold a public hearing and make a recommendation to the county board of commissioners to do so. The entire process would likely take several months, according to the director.

Related Topics: RENVILLE COUNTY
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