Winona resident Diane Leutgeb Munson, right, and more than 50 area residents lit up the entry of Winona City Hall Monday during a candlelight vigil in protest of the silica sand industry.
Winona City Council members failed to agree on mining ordinance language Monday and postponed the final vote to end the year-long silica sand moratorium until later this month.
For the second time at consecutive city council meetings, area citizens flooded the meeting chambers to hear discussion regarding four action items that would change city code to better address concerns regarding air quality, road and traffic impact, moisture testing and structural setback limits.
The council adopted three of the four items, which are as follows:
• No part of an extraction operation can be located within 2,000 feet of a residential district (previously 1000 feet). Hours of operation at all mines within city limits will be from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (previously 10 p.m.).
• Stockpiled silica sand and other materials must maintain a moisture level of 2.5 percent at all times (previously 1.5 percent).
• All structures housing processing equipment or stockpiles must be located a minimum of 500 feet from a residential property (previously 200 feet).
However, there was no agreement on the fourth item: language addressing road wear, specifically traffic impact analyses (TIA).
Throughout the city’s moratorium, council member Pam Eyden, previously a city planning commission member, took issue with language stating how a TIA would be triggered.
According to proposed language, a TIA would be triggered if any site, whether frac sand or another operation, was expected to produce more than 200 heavy vehicle trips per day. During the meeting, Eyden asked for the language to be more specific.
“I want to amend the ordinance to specify that a traffic impact analysis be required when heavy truck vehicles from an operation contribute to more than 20 percent of traffic on any local road,” she said.
Council member Al Thurley said he understood Eyden’s motion, but asked that a TIA be conducted for “all frac sand operations, regardless of the number of trucks.” Thurley then asked to give the ordinance back to city planning staff to investigate how a TIA would affect local businesses.
Newly elected council member Paul Double made a motion to postpone the discussion until the meeting later this month, and with a 4-2 vote—the mayor, Eyden, Double and Thurley voting in the affirmative—the ordinance was sent back to the planning department.
Council member George Borzyskowski and Michelle Alexander cast the dissenting votes, and council member Gerry Krage was not in attendance.
“I’d rather we pass something, go back, and adjust it down the road,” Alexander said. “We should have something to work with rather than nothing.”
Assistant city planner Carlos Espinosa said the planning department would bring the ordinance back to the discussion table before the next meeting to discuss “how business would be affected if we applied it just to frac sand operations.”
He added that other cities in Minnesota, specifically Red Wing, have passed language that pertains strictly to frac sand operations.
“This council has taken in a lot of information in such a short time,” Espinosa said. “It’s a lot to digest but I’m happy with the progress.”
The council has until March 13 to approve regulations that would govern new frac sand operations in the future. If the council is unable to approve new regulations, the industry in the city of Winona would rely solely on language provided in current conditional use permits.