County debates conditions for Veit Landfill expansion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Austin Daily Herald

Bill and Bonnie Ryther live next door to a demolition landfill that is poised to triple its size.

The Rythers fought the landfill from its inception only to lose battle after battle, with the most recent occurring a month ago. That's when the Mower County Board of Commissioners granted Veit Demolition Landfill Austin Facility LLC a conditional use permit renewal and expansion by 51 acres.

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At the time, the Rythers, who farm land abutting the landfill north of Austin along U.S. Highway 218 had two possibilities: (1) Lansing Township's interim zoning ordinance could delay or cancel the expansion plans or (2) Conditions placed on Veit's permit could protect them.

The former remains to be tested and the latter is mired in "tweaking."

The conditions applied to the permit, which was approved June 10, are still being drafted.

On Tuesday, the commissioners spent two hours discussing the original 18 conditions they approved two weeks ago with Scott Vandenheuvel, environmental manager for Veit.

"The purpose of this discussion is to review the CUP conditions for Veit," Craig Oscarson, county coordinator announced at Tuesday's meeting. "The county board is only going to review them as part of the minutes for the June 10 meeting."

Oscarson pointed out the permit's conditions were available only in "draft form" and subject to the county commissioners' review as part of the official minutes of the meeting for June 10.

Vandenheuvel prefaced his remarks by telling the commissioners he appreciated the work of county staff, who processed the Veit application. "I think we're where we want to be."

Daryl W. Franklin, county planner and zoning administrator, said the original permit's conditions made no specific reference to asbestos. Veit obtained the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's permission to add asbestos to the industrial solid waste materials it can collect after the county board granted the original permit and over the objections of the county commissioners.

Veit said the county staff misunderstood the correct wording of the specific asbestos materials the company is allowed to collect.

Recalling the 22 separate submissions of reference materials both sides (Veit and the Rythers) submitted, it caused the commissioners to delay action in order to study all of them.

Ray Tucker, 2nd District commissioner, then made an observation.

"This is what happens when you flood somebody with paperwork," he said.

A debate ensued over the difference between "non-regulated asbestos" and "asbestos materials."

Vandenheuvel said the operator of the landfill was allowed by the state to accept "regulated asbestos materials."

As the debate wore on, Oscarson told Tucker, "I believe the wording accurately reflects your motion."

That didn't stop Vandenheuvel from attempting to have the commissioners "tweak," as he described his actions, another condition.

This argument concerned the difference between "required" and "recommended."

The reference was to the setback -- 182 feet from the highway, according to the county -- for the expanded landfill site.

Vandenheuvel relented. "I'm not here to quibble. I'm here to tweak," he said.

Dick Lang, 4th District, grew impatient.

"I think you're talking about changing the rules in the middle of the game," Lang said of the Veit requests to change the wording of the conditions. "I'm not for these changes. You work for a company and I work for the people of Mower County."

Oscarson tried to return the focus to Tucker's original motion to grant the permit renewal and expansion.

"The only thing is 'What was your intention when you made the motion?'" he asked the commissioner.

Richard P. Cummings, 1st District county commissioner, also questioned Vandenheuvel's motives for the changes. Finally, the commissioners agreed to delay adopting the June 10 minutes of the meeting.

The commissioners will study the latest draft of the permit's rules and make a decision July 1.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at