As the fifth month of the one-year moratorium approaches, the Winona City Planning Commission plans to tackle environmental reviews at its Monday meeting. Assistant City Planner Carlos Espinosa will discuss with commissioners the possibility of requiring an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) be completed before a conditional use permit (CUP) application for new mining proposals will be accepted.
An EAW helps to provide information about a project that could have the potential for significant environmental effects. A worksheet for a project is either mandatory, exempted, or conducted at the discretion of the local government.
The City of Winona has an existing discretionary EAW guidance checklist for mining applications that helps determine if a worksheet should be required. The checklist includes well protection, potential for soil erosion and sinkholes, air emissions, and other environmental and health related issues.
If the change is approved, planning department staff must review a CUP application using the existing EAW checklist. If the application triggers one or more of the criteria, it will be brought before the Planning Commission, and potentially the City Council. If the application is found to produce significant environmental impact, the council can order an EAW.
If the commissioners agree to this new language, it will be placed in the mining ordinance of Winona city code.
In late June, the commissioners discussed a possible nonconformity agreement with Biesanz Stone Quarry to regulate future expansion plans. The agreement carried 10 stipulations that limited where the mine can be located, how deep it can be, hours of operation, dust mitigation plans and a reclamation plan.
After the discussion with the commission, Espinosa discovered that no ordinance exists in city code that states Winona has the authority to impose “reasonable regulations” on the quarry.
Espinosa will ask commissioners Monday to draft a nonconformity amendment that would mirror the state’s statute, which says a municipality may impose reasonable regulations to protect the public health, safety and welfare.
The proposed amendment states nonconforming uses may expand only after issuance of a CUP.
If the commissioners agree to pen the nonconformity amendment, a public hearing on the decision will be scheduled for the meeting following.
The Planning Commission meeting will be Monday at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers of City Hall.