By a 5-2 vote, the Houston County Planning Commission recommended approval for a contentious conditional use permit (CUP) renewal on May 22.

Members decided that CUP #261, which allows Tracie Erickson to engage in mineral extraction on a property located in section 30 of Yucatan Township met the criteria required to resume operations, as long as all local, state, and federal rules and regulations are adhered to. The mine had been in limbo after prospector Minnesota Sands attempted to change the operation from commercial sand (for projects such as road construction or livestock bedding) to frac sand, in spite of a moratorium that the county had in place on new frac sand operations.

The board also recommended that another condition be formally added to the CUP. Production would be limited to 10,000 cubic yards annually. The renewal would be for an additional five years.

The planning commission does not have the authority to actually grant permits, but is expected to study applications and pass on their recommendations to the county board. County commissioners will therefore need to determine if they can allow the mine to reopen when it comes before them on June 3.

Still at issue is whether or not the county is the RGU (responsible governmental unit) where the mine is concerned. That's because the property was to have been included in an Environmental Impact Statement including multiple Minnesota Sands mines.

Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan said that the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) has asked Minnesota Sands to provide a scoping document describing which Houston County properties they intend to mine. "To be honest, Minnesota Sands is dragging their feet," he stated. The company is also expected to provide funding for the study, which the EQB would oversee. Scanlan said that funding has not been offered.

Scanlan added that in his opinion, the permit will earn automatic approval if the county doesn't act by June 27. That's because there is a limited time allowed for permits to be either approved or rejected.

Commissioners Dana Kjome and Rich Schild voted no. Both said they were unsure whether or not Houston County has the authority to grant the renewal.

Tempers flared once again on the issue. Resident Donna Buckbee was escorted from the room after telling the board "you are being lied to." Michelle Erickson stated that four other mines with similar circumstances are "permitted and running... We feel we are being discriminated against," she said.

Commissioners also voiced approval for three new CUPs and an interim use permit (IUP).

The IUP was for Adam and Arlene Augedahl of Caledonia Township to locate a non-commercial family cabin in an agricultural protection district.

Joshua and Dayva Goetzinger's application would allow the Jefferson Township couple to build a dwelling on a lot of less than 40 acres in an agricultural district.

Darin Meyer of De-Su Holsteins (Wilmington Township) applied for a permit to expand a feedlot from 494.5 animal units to 550 a.u. and add two manure storage structures.

SBA/AT&T and Dylan Becker applied to build a telecommunications tower in an agricultural district within Caledonia Township. Becker's grandfather, Harley Doering, expressed concerns over that CUP, stating that he has a lease at the property allowing him to park machinery there. "We will work this out," Becker stated, assuring the board that he will provide plenty of space for Doering. Commissioners voted to recommend approval, as long as Becker can provide written proof to the county board that Doering is also satisfied with the arrangement.

The site of the tower covers 100 x100 feet. It would be completely fenced in, stand 205 feet tall, and provide access to other carriers.

Twelve already-issued building permits were also approved. They included five sheds, an agricultural building addition, a storage building, two shop buildings, horse barn, the replacement of a home destroyed by fire and a home deck.