Houston County commissioners went into closed session on May 28, holding a teleconference with attorney Jay Squires.

Based in Minneapolis, Squires serves the county on land-use matters. The board invoked attorney-client privilege as the reason for closing the meeting.

Following the session, Chairman Justin Zmyewski stated that commissioners discussed ongoing litigation brought by frac sand mining company Minnesota Sands.

Earlier, Commissioner Dana Kjome commented on current mining issues when he reported on a Planning Commission meeting he attended on May 23 (see an article elsewhere in this week's Herald for a full report on this meeting).

After it was learned that a construction/ag sand mine had gone beyond its permitted boundaries, the company applied for a new conditional use permit with a larger footprint, he said.

In addition, two neighbors reported damage from blasting, while a third expressed misgivings about possible damage to his well.

"They (the Planning Commission) voted to postpone (a vote on) it," he added. "They wanted to conduct a viewing. I voted against it."

Chairman Justin Zmyewski said, "I talked to one of the other landowners this weekend. He expressed concerns since he lives right next to it, and he had an issue that needed to be brought up, too.

"What are the repercussions for violating a permit? When you go past the boundaries, it's been protocol just to allow a new permit. We've got a whole thing with the Fields' case that went to court because the mine company exceeded what they were permitted to do."

"These are tough issues, and they'll keep coming up as we go forward," Kjome said.

Commissioners are currently drafting parallel ordinances for frac sand (industrial) and aggregate (commercial) mines.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Houston resident Kelley Stanage told the board that the planning commission meeting brought two things into focus.

First, the current ordinance is "woefully insufficient to handle even current construction mining operations," and secondly, current county staff is "insufficient to protect Houston County residents from the harm that even current construction mining operations can do."

Spring Grove area resident Yvonne Krogstad also spoke on mining issues, stating that State Senator Jeremy Miller had refused to support a mandatory one-mile setback requirement from trout streams for new frac sand mines.

"If we are going to protect our trout streams, we're going to have to do it on our own," she said. "It's up to our zoning."