City Council votes ‘no’ to landfillsCloquet City Councilors and Mayor Bruce Ahlgren voted unanimously Tuesday, Nov. 22, to prohibit both the creation of new landfills and expansion of existing landfills within the city limits.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Cloquet City Councilors and Mayor Bruce Ahlgren voted unanimously Tuesday, Nov. 22, to prohibit both the creation of new landfills and expansion of existing landfills within the city limits.
The vote came one day before a city moratorium on landfill permits was set to expire. It also followed a months-long landfill study conducted by Community Development Director Holly Butcher and three planning commission members, which was also adopted by the council Tuesday night.
There were six people in the audience: three representing Cloquet’s new Shamrock Environmental industrial landfill, two neighbors (Clarence and John Badger) who were very active in opposing the approval of the Shamrock landfill, and John Sanders, chair of the Cloquet Planning Commission.
Sanders and both Badger men encouraged the council to vote for the most restrictive ordinance, rather than an option that would have allowed for expansion of existing landfills under certain conditions.
Sanders, in particular, highlighted the city’s lack of develop-able land.
“Cloquet has an area roughly 36 square miles but approximately 57 percent of Cloquet overlaps with the Fond du Lac Reservation,” Sanders read from a prepared statement. “The Cloquet Forestry Research Center comprises roughly 10 percent of the community, and wetlands cover roughly 40 percent of the city. Our city’s Comprehensive Plan states, ‘Cloquet’s land supply is finite. Therefore, it is important that Cloquet guide and use land wisely.’ As chairman of the Planning Commission, I believe our remaining land could be put to better use than landfills.”
Although John Domke – vice president of SKB Environmental, the company now operating the recently opened Shamrock landfill – argued for the more lenient ordinance, his arguments for allowing landfill expansion apparently didn’t resonate with the council. Mayor Ahlgren did briefly argue against “tying the hands of future city councils” with the more restrictive option, but ultimately voted for the more that
Ward 1 City Councilor Dave Manderfeld said Domke’s statement that the Shamrock landfill has a life expectancy of 10-15 years rather than the 25-30 years predicted by DemCon Companies last year concerns him because it would mean greater traffic and higher volume.
“Such [busier] landfills, according to the study, do impact home values,” Manderfeld said. “To me, that’s a tremendous concern. That’s why I think the less restrictive policy does fly in the face of the findings.”
After the council voted unanimously for the most restrictive ordinance, the audience members left the chambers. However, council members and the mayor then went on to do a roll call vote, with each person explaining the reasons behind his or her vote.
Most mentioned the city’s lack of develop-able land and negative impact to surrounding property values, along with the need for the city code to specifically address such developments.
“I think this ordinance offers the code guidance that we were lacking approximately a year ago,” Ward 2 Councilor David Bjerkness said. “From findings of fact, the reduction of property values and … there was proven to be adequate capacity regionally for … all landfill types, so I don’t think we can defend a need for additional landfills [within the city of Cloquet].”
Ordinance 402A amends the city’s municipal code regarding prohibited uses within districts zoned “heavy industrial.” Prohibited uses now include: residential, institutions for human care, municipal solid waste landfills, incinerators, hazardous or infectious waste facilities, industrial landfills, construction and demolition debris landfills and any expansion of existing landfills.
In other matters Tuesday, Council members voted to publicly disclose a conflict of interest regarding an application for a $10,000 Small Cities Development Program commercial loan by Gerald Manthey, who owns commercial and rental properties in the city but is also the building official for the city of Cloquet. Manthey applied for the loan to renovate the exterior of his building at 612 Cloquet Ave. in order to open a retail/antique shop to be known as “Annie’s Cottage.”