BY GABE LICHT
BUFFALO, MN Discussion regarding expansion of the Delano Sportsmen’s Club will extend to a fourth meeting, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19.
During the June 28 Wright County Planning Commission meeting, the commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Dan Bravinder opposed, and commissioners Charlie Borrell and Pat Mahlberg absent.
“I want to be fair to the applicants, and I want to be fair to the other folks who are opposed to what the applicants are proposing here, so I would really like to see seven commissioners up here,” Commissioner Ken Felger said when making a motion to continue the meeting.
Commissioner Dave Thompson noted the commission would simply be making a recommendation for findings for approval or denial, with a final vote taking place at the next meeting.
Chair Dan Mol said that vote could be 3-2 either way to ask for findings, and the vote at the next meeting could reject those findings and ask for findings for the opposite scenario.
Assistant County Attorney Greg Kryzer said he would not be opposed to doing the extra work of gathering findings both for and against the proposal if the commission asked him to do so.
In discussing whether or not the meeting should be considered, Mol said he would like to close the public hearing and not allow comments at the next meeting, but Zoning Administrator Sean Riley convinced the commission not to do so.
“If we’re requesting it to be continued so two members can be here . . . I’m not sure what we’re gaining if they can’t have any interaction with the applicant or the public,” Riley said.
Bravinder countered that the absent commissioners could rely on the minutes to get up to speed on the happenings at the meeting and the comments they missed. In explaining his reasoning for his no vote, he said, “I think we should make a decision tonight.”
All five commissioners pledged to be at the July 19 meeting.
When providing background to the commission, Riley noted that the noise study was resubmitted due to miscalculations in the first study. In review of the revised study, staff determined that putting a fence on the top of the berm would result in a noise violation.
Brad Spencer, speaking on behalf of the Sportsmen’s Club, said that the sound engineer initially tripled the number of shooters that will be at each of the three proposed trap ranges.
“The effect of reducing it to the actual number of potential shooters during that maximum scenario had the effect of reducing the sound generated by an average of 5 decibels per receptor,” Spencer said.
He added that the primary area of concern was a receptor north of the proposed ranges.
“Under the new calculation scenario using design two, which is the recommended study previously, the maximum reading projected by the engineer dropped from 66 (decibels) to 61, which is below the 63-decibel state standard,” Spencer said.
Resident John Metz said the sound study did not take into account the addition of ponds if a separate conditional use permit for mining on Sportsmen’s Club property is approved.
“As near as he (the engineer) could project, it would be a difference of about 1 decibel on the scale,” Spencer said. “One decibel is a lot, but the primary affected receptors would be R-8 and R-9 to the northwest. They are currently under the maximum shooting standard at 51 and 50, which is 12 to 13 decibels below the state standard. Even if there is an increase, it would be significantly lower.”
Sportsmen’s Club President Tom Delaney added that the club is proposing making changes to the existing range to reduce sound.
“With the new concept, we can take down the huge fence that is currently up on the end of the range, and that creates a huge echo effect,” Delaney said. “That will take a lot of our sound away.”
That fence was erected to prevent lead from reaching the river, which wouldn’t be needed under the proposal, since no trapshooting would take place at that range.
“There were concerns expressed about the lead fall zone,” Spencer said, referencing the June 7 meeting. “There’s no current standard for lead shot recovery. There are EPA-recommended guidelines. They have design standards that made lead recovery more practical and achievable. The design of current recommended design would enable that recovery, and also minimize the risk of any kind of runoff.”
After 1 million rounds, the club would plan to recover the lead, a practice the club had not previously done. Flat ground with low elevation would aid in the recovery, Spencer said. He added that the fall zone would be tiled to prevent runoff into the river.
“If it filters through the soil and you recover the lead from the soil, you’re less likely to transfer lead,” Spencer said. “The other practice that’s easy to use on shot-fall zones is the application of lime. That will make sure leaching doesn’t occur.”
Commissioner Jan Thompson asked about alternatives to lead shot.
Spencer said some states mandate steel shot, but not Minnesota.
Differences between lead and steel shot include how the shot travels, including the distance and speed it travels.
“The American Trap Association prefers lead shot, especially in an area where it can be recovered,” Spencer said, adding that steel shot is more expensive.
Daniel Moonen, who served as a captain of the trapshooting team until he graduated in May, said steel shot can damage the firearms the team uses.
Commissioner Dan Bravinder said his biggest concern was the effect of lead shot on wetlands.
Mol added that the reason why some states have mandated steel shot is due to water fowl getting lead poisoning from lead shot.
In a separate issue related to the Delano Sportsmen’s Club, the commission approved a motion to conduct a site visit at club-owned property where RAM Excavating has proposed to mine sand and gravel.
Joe White, of RAM Excavating, detailed the plans that he had previously shared with the Franklin Township Board.
He said the plan is to mine and crush the gravel on the site, which is expected to take no more than two months.
Sand mining will then take place in phases, and berms would be constructed around the property. In the second phase, sand would be excavated from groundwater, with no pumping required, and stockpiled to drain. Isaac Fuhr, senior engineer with Carlson McCain, Inc., added that the resulting ponds would add to the flood capacity.
Riley raised concerns about those ponds.
“The MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) does not allow shooting over wetlands,” Riley said. “I don’t know how that cannot conflict with the gun range expansion.”
Neighbor Dwayne Ganzel asked “How can mining be done in a sensitive area?”
Mol added that efforts would need to be taken so that fill would not be placed where lead shot had fallen.
White said there would not be wetlands, but when Riley showed otherwise, using the plans that were submitted, White said plans could be amended so that the land in the fall zone would not be below the flood plain or become wetlands.
“We are fine with leaving that area flat,” White said, estimating that would result in 30,000 to 40,000 fewer yards of gravel being mined.
Thompson said, in her experience, wetland delineation was required before work could be done, and Riley confirmed that is normal protocol.
Neighbors joined Thompson in voicing concerns about flooding.
White estimates it would take more than 10 years to complete the mining of about 700,000 yards of sand and gravel.
Mol suggested it could last longer if there was less than expected local need for the material, noting that the commission had experience with many gravel pits that were mined longer than expected.
“It could be five (years), or maybe it’s 15,” White said. “With the demand for aggregate in this area, and I’ve been working in this area for 25 years, there’s not as many pits around.”
Fuhr acknowledged conditions put in place by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and pledged to meet those conditions as required.
White estimated 55,000 truckloads of material, or about 22 loads per day, would be removed from the site, with a total of 110,000 trucks going in and out of the site over the life of the project.
Neighbors raised concerns over that amount of truck traffic traveling down county roads.
Resident Nicolle Berg said 197,000 people visit nearby Lake Rebecca Park annually, and she raised concerns regarding traffic congestion and safety of those visitors. She also believes the project would result in an increase of particulate matter that could harm those in the area, including students, and her pediatrician told her those concerns were legitimate.
Sportsmen’s Club member DeWayne Bauman said that vehicles transporting 197,000 visitors to the park would result in “a lot more emissions” than the project.
White added an assertion that Highway 12 accounts for more pollution in one year than what would be generated over the life of the project.
Delaney said the truck drivers are professionals who pride themselves on safety, and White relayed that, in 2016, trucks accounted for 4,238 accidents, or 8 percent of the 74,600 accidents throughout the state of Minnesota.
Regarding the number of people in the area of the proposed mine, White estimated that more than 1 billion yards of material have come from the mine in Maple Grove, which coexists with shops and restaurants that have cropped up around it.