From: Marie Kovecsi
Monday the Winona Board of Adjustment meeting was a disappointment for citizens, particularly families in homes near the Pelzer St. overpass.
The board washhearing discussion on allowing development of a rail spur 135 feet from the nearest home. (Minumum distance in City Code is 200 feet.) The spur serves the frac sand processing and transport operation approved by the City at McConnon Drive.
Before discussion began the citizens and neighbors were scolded by Chairman, Chris Sanchez for “making this into a frac sand issue. It is not.” We were also told not to mention frac sand in our two minute remarks to the board.
This same board approved the CUP for the industry served by this rail spur. They are approved to dry, screen, sort, store and ship by rail... Yes, frac sand. Our city website has a map titled “Active and Proposed FRAC SAND Operations in Winona, January 2013,” emphasis mine. This operation is labelled number 2 on this list of 9 frac sand operations in the City.
The operation needs a rail spur and the operation processes, sorts, screens, stores and ships frac sand. Is it clear that the rail spur will handle frac sand? Well, it is clear to the citizens and neighbors of this site that frac sand will be products shipped from this faciliity.
Once again, people living in this area as well as Winona, had health and safety concerns about this proposed variance. There is a City Park, very popular, that is closer than the 135 foot variance ultimately approved.
Our City Council has been discussing the option of requiring air quality monitoring for all frac sand sites in the City. The Minnesota Department of Health is currently researching the amounts of frac sand particulates allowable in our ambient air.
Once again, the only persons to speak in favor of this variance were those who have a financial interest—the owner and a family who has a financial relationship with the owner.
The board granted the variance. People with asthma, the elderly and our children will live with the health impacts. The owners will make money from this enterprise as long as this sand-rush boom mentality lasts.