On Monday, the city of Winona officially entered into a nonconformity agreement with Biesanz Stone Company, which will regulate future mining operations at the quarry. The City Council approved the agreement in a 6-1 vote, with council member Gerry Krage in opposition.
In June, the City Planning Commission discussed how to regulate the quarry, which has "grandfathered" status, and Assistant City Planner Carlos Espinosa said a nonconforming use agreement would be best.
"Legally, [Biesanz] doesn't need to enter into this agreement because they are a grandfathered use," Espinosa said. The quarry has been producing aggregate products since 1904, and while that continues to be its main business, the quarry has, during the last year, mined for frac sand. "The reason the agreement is being entered into is because it is a better fit than a [conditional use permit]. Also, it is the best way to address the diminishing asset characteristic of the mine, which means it has to expand to continue."
At a pre-council meeting earlier this month, Biesanz Stone Company Manager of Quarry Operations Pete Schwab said that although the company approved the agreement, there had been some hesitation to do so.
"To be honest, we swallowed hard on some of these conditions," Schwab admitted. A condition detailed in the agreement forces the company to meet strict setbacks from residential properties. "For us in the quarry business, certainty of operations is key, and 15 years from now, who knows what our plan could look like."
However, Schwab said he understood concerns of residents near the quarry and said that knowing what "the rules of the game" are for the future will benefit the company.
Throughout the one-year moratorium, the City Planning Commission directed planning staff to create reasonable regulations that protect public health, welfare, and safety, without hindering business.
After months of receiving comments from concerned citizens, health officials, industry personnel, and city officials, the commission compiled a detailed list of 15 stipulations to which the quarry must immediately adhere:
• Excavation must be set back a minimum of 600 feet from existing residential property lines in Knopp Valley and a 450 feet from existing residential property lines in WE Valley.
• Excavation must not occur in designated areas outside residential setbacks.
• An environmental assessment worksheet is required for sand excavation outside the 2011 quarry footprint.
• Maximum depth of excavation is 975 feet.
• Hours of operation in the nonexempt portion of the quarry will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
• Outdoor operating equipment on site must be equipped with white noise alarms or other noise-"muzzling" devices to reduce back-up beeping.
• All trucks departing the site must be covered and any spillage of materials will be cleaned up by Biesanz.
• Moisture testing is required and sand moisture levels must be maintained at 1.5 percent.
• All local, state, or federal permits must be placed on file with the City of Winona.
• A copy of the quarry's fugitive dust plan must be placed on file with the city.
• An excavation plan must be prepared by Biesanz and submitted within a year of the effective date of the agreement.
• A reclamation plan must be on file within a year of the effective date of the agreement.
• Yearly updates on the progress of the excavation and reclamation plans must be submitted and kept on file with the city.
• Changes to the excavation and reclamation plans that exceed the terms of the agreement must be approved by the council.
• Continued compliance with local, state, and federal performance standards is required.