The Carver County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to delay a decision on a proposed Dahlgren Township gravel mining expansion.
After a break of several minutes to mull it over, project managers and attorneys agreed to amend the proposal for another preliminary vote on Dec. 17.
If the application is approved, Wm. Mueller & Sons would purchase about 103 acres of property, including 20 acres already under lease for mining. The site is located south of Carver, off County Road 40 near East Union Lutheran Church.
On Nov. 19, the Carver County Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor of a large gravel pit expansion, in front of a packed room of residents. About 25 people attended the Dec. 3 meeting in county board room.
Jason Mielke, Carver County land use manager, addressed the board regarding the aggregate mining operation’s plans. Neighbors of the proposed expansion spoke up, saying the plan was too vague in its timeline and dangerous to people living nearby.
Some say the current mining is already too disruptive to neighbors, and worry about what a substantial expansion would do for health, home value and quality of life.
“We’re about as impacted as anyone,” said Roger Falkenstein, who lives in a home close to the site.
He addressed the board members and asked them to request a defined project timeline.
Mielke said it makes sense for the pit workers to both extract and crush the gravel at the same site to reduce transportation. But Falkenstein, who has lived in his home for 25 years, disagreed.
“It’s not just the noise, but all the movement of this material,” he said. “It impacts our quality of life.”
Mielke said to reduce silica dust, a byproduct of drilling into sand or other materials, the company would keep piles of crushed gravel lower than site berms.
Falkenstein’s son, Adam, reemphasized his health concerns regarding silica dust. He also noted an adequate economic impact study hadn’t yet been completed to determine how the operation would affect nearby home values.
Ted Holsten, who purchased a 136-acre property near the proposed site expansion, also wants to see a more definite plan for when the project would finish.
“I would like to see a timeline,” he said. “Then we can live with it.”
Jon West lives in a house near the Falkensteins. He said the proposed hours of operation — which include Saturdays — would be a “great disturbance” to his family’s quality of life.
West also worried the piles of material might be too high, with the potential for particles to fly into the air.
“We’re in an incredibly tough place here,” West said. “Our home is at risk of going really, really low on value and I don’t know if I have any choice but to move, take a loss, put my entire family’s future at risk.”
After hearing the public’s concerns at the nearly two-hour meeting, Kirsten Pauly, a geologist and civil engineer with Sunde Land Surveying, provided some assurance.
Pauly said silica dust is a concern when the bits are so small they could be inhaled. For this particular mining project, the crushing and screening of sand and gravel wouldn’t create an issue, she said.
“We listened very closely at the public hearing to the residents’ concerns. It’s all designed to protect properties and minimize impacts,” Pauly said.
Board Chair Randy Maluchnik asked Larry Harris, an attorney working with Wm. Mueller & Sons, if the board could wait to vote on the plan’s progress until an adapted version was formed.
At first, Harris was resistant, but after a break to discuss, project officials agreed.
The board will vote on the amended proposed permit at at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17.