Marilyn and Joel Bjorlo are paying the city’s $185.50 fee to appeal a recent Winona Board of Adjustment decision. On March 20, the board granted a variance for the construction of a rail spur 65 feet closer to a residential district than permitted in city code. The Bjorlos live immediately next to Mikrut Properties’ intermodal transport facility at 25 McConnon Drive, which the rail spurs will serve. That facility is permitted to handle frac sand as well as other goods.
The Bjorlos were one of several neighbors and other citizens who urged the board to deny the request, citing noise concerns and health risks for residents living next to a frac sand facility and for children playing at the city park adjacent to the proposed rail spurs.
“We feel like nobody is on our side,” Marilyn Bjorlo said. “Whenever any of these things come in to any of the boards, there are more people against these things than are for it, yet they are always approved.”
The Bjorlos say they are appealling because they are deeply concerned about the effect increased business at the McConnon Drive facility will have on their neighborhood. “I want to be respectful of Mr. Mikrut,” Marilyn Bjorlo said, “But I don’t want to give up my land and I don’t want to give up the quality of life that we had.”
One Board of Adjustment member, David Kouba, voted against the variance request. He said he was voting to deny the request because of all the citizens who had called him with concerns. Board member Laura Priem argued against the variance on the grounds that it would alter the “essential character of the neighborhood,” and was motivated solely by economic concerns, but later voted to approve the request with amendments.
The couple that lives closest to the proposed spurs spoke in favor of the development, saying fences which Mikrut Properties promised to build would make the area safer. Mikrut Properties owner Rich Mikrut also said the area would be safer with fences preventing access to the Pelzer Street underpass.
The City Council will hear the Bjorlos’ appeal on Monday, April 15. That meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall and is open to the public.