Board of Supervisors adopts zoning ordinance amendment for frac sand mining

by Bob Beach

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors passed an amendment to the County's zoning ordinance at the Board's regular meeting Tuesday, June 3 to regulate the mining of frac sand and other industrial minerals. Though the amendment represents months of work on the part of the Allamakee County Planning and Zoning Commission, numerous public meetings and extensive input from the public, the Board approved the third and final reading of the amendment and passed it with little fanfare or ceremony.
While the amendment does allow for the mining of frac sand and other industrial mining, the application process is extensive - Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Tom Blake has estimated that it could take a year or more for a mining company to complete an application for a conditional use permit, which would then require approval by the Board of Adjustment, adding that he would inform the Board of Supervisors when any application for a conditional use permit under the amendment ordinance is pending. Any mining operation granted a conditional use permit under the amendment will be limited to the hours of 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. central daylight time and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. central standard time Monday through Friday, and if any nuisance is alleged to be caused by the operation, the County has the right to shut the operation down and revoke the conditional use permit. A summary of the amendment can be read on Page 6A in this week's edition of The Standard and the full text of the amendment can be viewed on the official Allamakee County website,
Allamakee County's moratorium on frac sand mining remains in effect until June 30, 2014, though the amended ordinance goes into effect upon publication (June 11, 2014).
Supervisor Sherry Strub reported that Allamakee County had been praised during a recent six-county meeting for the work done on the amendment, which may serve as a model ordinance for other counties where frac sand mining is a concern. Board Chairman Larry Schellhammer added that he has heard compliments regarding not only the work that went into the amendment, but also about the entire process, which included a lot of public input, and the amendment itself.

The Board also met in closed session with County Attorney Jill Kistler to discuss settlement of a civil case alleging that the Board of Supervisors violated Iowa's open meeting law. After meeting in closed session regarding the case Tuesday, May 20, the Board agreed to make a settlement offer of $300. Following the closed session Tuesday, June 3, the Board agreed to up that offer to $1,500 (Supervisor Dennis Koenig voted against upping the County's settlement offer).
The case was filed by Thomas and Karen Place, Michael and Leana Place, Clark and Dave Stilwell, Mary Walker, Susan Smrcina, Camilla Johnson, Marsha Zahasky and Stilwell Island LLC, alleging that the Board of Supervisors improperly met in closed session in March of 2011 to discuss a zoning dispute regarding a property near Harpers Ferry.

In other business, the Board approved the contract and bond with Bruening Rock Products for the resurfacing of County gravel roads and set June 17 as the date and time to open bids for the paving of Prairie Drive. The Board also approved renewing a two-year lease with Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission for office space at the courthouse for $75 per month.