Attorney wants to
Earlier this month, developers proposing a multimillion dollar sand rail transfer facility in Buffalo County withdrew a rezone request just prior to an expected final vote. While the news had some opponents rejoicing, Glacier Sands representatives say they're simply regrouping and attempting to reengage a dialogue with local stakeholders: township and county officials and residents and the Cochrane-Fountain City (C-FC) School Board.
The delay is not the first experienced by Texas-based Glacier Sands; in 2012, the company failed to receive permits for the 350-acre site near the C-FC school. Since, Glacier Sands attorney Brian Nodolf said developers have adjusted plans to address neighbors' concerns: added a multimillion dollar bridge to plans that would keep semi-trucks from traveling on Highway 35 near the school entrance, and added enclosed facilities to minimize dust.
The changes did little to ease opposition to the plan, with fliers, bumper stickers, and protest signs similar to the 2012 permit request for the site. The divide among neighbors also mimics the 2012 process: some neighbors claim the development would harm neighborhoods, present safety concerns at the school, and generate dust, diesel exhaust, and noise in a quiet agricultural area; others have urged county leaders to support a plan they say will reinvigorate a county that has lost jobs and suffered a dormant economy.
Developers cited misinformation circulated among residents as one reason to hold off on the rezone request, and Nodolf said the first step Glacier Sands will take will be to provide correct information that will be the basis for future dialogue. "Ultimately, we believe that, properly located, this is a win-win for the community," he explained. "The tax base, the jobs that are created, they're not inconsequential."
An informal survey mailed to Town of Milton residents by an opponent group showed a majority of respondents against the planned sand facility, but Nodolf said the survey did not represent all residents, nor was it unbiased nor scientific. He hopes to bring residents from all perspectives to the table for productive talks, and wants to make sure that township and county leaders are aware of the diverse opinions among residents when it comes to the proposed multimillion dollar project.
"We've made attempts to both speak with the town and the school district and discuss these issues," he explained, adding that C-FC officials have been unwilling to sit down for talks in recent months.
While he knows some of the most passionate adversaries of the proposal will likely not be convinced, no matter what developers concede, Nodolf said he hopes to have an opportunity to engage elected leaders and residents alike, and not just during formal government meetings prior to a high-stakes vote. "There's certainly a number of people — that's true for anything — no matter what we say or what we do, [for whom] the answer is going to be 'no,'" he admitted. But, he said, several changes have been made to the development plans thus far to help address concerns from that group, and there is potential for more adjustments to be made that would help ease lingering concerns.
For now, Glacier Sands representatives are working the plan to spark more productive talks than those that have been had in recent public hearings, and Nodolf said the timeline for a new rezone request is unclear, but it's coming. "We will just keep talking to the community until they understand the true value of this project."