By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
Members of the Houston County Board were presented with a writ of mandamus by petitioners from throughout Houston County regarding the Erickson mine.
The petitioners hope to hold the county to their zoning ordinances according to papers filed with the court.
It states that in the area of regulation of mining operations within the county, “there requires that there be a conditional use permit for mining and processing of minerals including sand within the county.”
It spells out several factors that must be included in the conditional use permits for approved mineral extraction.
The documents allege that one Alan Thorson received a conditional use permit to operate a mine at a site in Yucatan Township in 1992. The mine site is now known as the Erickson mine.
The permit was renewed on the five-year anniversary in 1997, 2002 and again in 2008.
The 2008 permit expired on January 8, 2013.
“After this date, Erickson had no right or claim to operate under any conditional use permit regarding the mine property,” the court documents state.
The mine property was transferred from Thorson to Erickson in December of 2009.
The writ of mandamus also states that “no formal action was taken to transfer the conditional use permit.”
On or about 2012, Erickson leased the mine property to an entity known as Minnesota Sands.
Again the writ alledges that “no application to assign or transfer a conditional use permit was filed with the county in regards to this lease.”
The document claims that in July of 2012, the Houston County Zoning Administrator issued a “stop work order” against the Erickson mine stating that the mine had commenced operations in violation of the then existing conditional use permit.
The purpose of the stop work order was to identify voiloations and direct that such violations cease.
Houston County denied modification, amendment and renewal of the Erickson mine conditional use permit.
In November of 2012, District Court Judge Walters denied a motion for the preliminary injunction issued by Minnesota Sands and Erickson who appealed to stop the work order and denial.
In January of 2014, the document states that the district court dismissed the case with prejudice when Minnesota Sands and Erickson declined to proceed with the action.
On May 14, 2013, the attorney for Houston County wrote to the Zoning Administrator that “The Most recent CUP expired at the beginning of this year,” and “There is no existing CUP that would allow mining.”
In or about February of 2014, Erickson is said to have claimed that the lesase with Minnesota Sands was terminated and filed a document attempting to renew the expired conditional use permit.
On May 28, 2014, the Houston County Planning Commission recommended to the County board that a conditional use permit be issued to Tracie Erickson for the Erickson mine.
The writ alleges that “the recommendation of the Planning Commission does not address violations of the 2008 permit that exist and are documented in the records of the Houston County Planning and Zoning Department,” and that “no hearing has been held to review such violations.”
On March 20, 2012, the writ claims that Houston county amended its zoning ordinance to adopt a temporary moratoriam “on the issuance of any conditional use permit for new silica sand mining or accessory uses.”
The writ claims that a new application for a conditional use permit for the Erickson mine is subject to the moratorium ordinance and new state laws regulating and restricting silica sand mining cannot be heard before the county board at this time.
Any taxpayer of the county, provided by the ordinance in section 0110.1001, subd. 8, “may institute mandamus proceedings to compel specific performance of any duty required by the ordinance.”
That mandamus hearing was scheduled to take place on June 6 at 9:00 am.
During the weekly county board meeting on June 3, several concerned citizens attempted to give their feelings on the matter.
However, because the pending legal action, the county board could not allow for the discussion during the county board meeting.