Fillmore County's planning commission convened last Thursday evening to review several items, including a draft of the ordinance governing "excavation and mining of construction materials" and the transport thereof, setting limits to the operation of sand mining within the county.

Fillmore County Zoning Administrator Chris Graves sat before the planning commission and presented the draft, which underwent numerous changes throughout the course of the meeting attended by nearly 60 members of the public.

The first of the ordinances under review was number 721, defining excavation and mining, the activities included in a conditional use permit, classification of mining and excavation sites, exceptions to the ordinance as well as operational requirements for rock quarries and sand pits. The ordinance also addresses the regulation of blasting activity at excavation and mining sites, reclamation of excavation and mining site requirements and application requirements for a conditional use permit (CUP).

"This does not allow industrial sand mining, and if we continued on, it would not," Graves stated, later adding, "I don't think it had as many teeth before, and now this gives us some."

A vote was taken to move ordinance 721 to a public hearing on Nov. 15.

Next, the commission tackled the tenets of ordinance 736, which has a defined purpose "to protect natural landscapes from excessive excavation and mining activity, protect water resources, aquifers, streams and rivers from excessive contamination and appropriation, minimize soil erosion, protect agricultural land and farming activity, monitor and control the extraction and mining of industrial minerals and metals, and minimize land use conflicts."

Graves said, "A lot of different information was added to help define different kinds of mining. One thing that was changed is that 736.04 prohibits activities...it essentially prohibits washing sand materials."

Ordinance 736 also addresses the size of mining sites, limiting it to 80 acres and only 40 acres or less open, with provisions for reclamation.

"We added a mining plan. We want to know the haul routes and we set hours for this type of mining - Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and winter hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (defined by central daylight and standard time)."

Commission chairman Gary Ruskell pointed out that 736.11 establishes that a gravel road maintenance agreement must be drawn up with townships and the county.

Graves agreed, "We want the townships involved."

The ordinance also lays out restrictions on the return of chemically-washed or flocculant-laden industrial materials into the county, either by truck or pumped back in by pipe.

Changes made to the ordinance called for "no materials brought back into the county" by either manner of transportation.

Commission members voted to hold a public hearing on 736 as well. The revised draft of the ordinances should be available on the county's website this week, Graves added.

In other business, the commission approved the village of Whalan's official move toward doing its own zoning. Graves stated the town officially adopted its zoning ordinances as of Oct. 1.

The commission also granted a feedlot expansion for Heusinkveld Farms in Forestville Township, pending township board approval. The farm requested permission to expand its capacity from 454 to the maximum 600 animal units, having added onto a free stall barn this past summer.