Appeals court affirms board’s decision to deny asbestos storage request

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed the Mower County Board’s decision to deny a request by Veit Disposal Systems to start accepting and storing two kinds of friable asbestos.

“We will affirm the decision of a county board to deny a CUP [conditional use permit] so long as the decision is reasonable and neither arbitrary nor capricious,” Judge Roger M. Klaphake said in his decision.

On April 24, 2012, the county board denied Veit Disposal System’s request by 3-1 to amend and existing CUP so the landfill could start accepting and storing two kinds of friable asbestos. The discussions lasted an hour, and arguments peaked with one neighboring property owner walking out during a public hearing,

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The board largely based its decision on incremental increases of noise, dust and vibrations from the additional materials, which the board said would cause adverse effects on neighboring landowners.

Veit had asked the county board and planning commission to amend its conditional use permit to allow types of friable asbestos — a dangerous material if it becomes airborne and is inhaled — at its VONCO IV Demolition Debris Disposal Facility, 24477 U.S. Highway 218, north of Austin. The business already accepts non-friable asbestos. On April 3, 2012, Veit officials took its request to the board, and neighboring property owners Bill and Bonnie Rhyther argued additional friable asbestos would be detrimental to their health and the value of their land.

Bonnie compared it to signing a death warrant for she and her husband, noting it would only take one molecule of friable asbestos to adversely affect their health.

“I want you to know that if your decision is yes, you’re kind of signing my husband and I’s — more or less — death warrants,” she said.

After researching and reading a book about incidents with friable Asbestos, Bonnie said she was willing to keep fighting through media such as

“I hope you think about this, because I’m not going to stop here,” she said.

Veit maintained that the process would be safe. In fact, another landfill is currently accepting friable asbestos a few miles from Veit.

Had the board approved the change, the friable asbestos would’ve been shipped in pre-sealed plastic bags before being buried under 12 inches of dirt. Work on friable asbestos would have to stop if wind exceeded 10 mph.

Reinartz, who works in appraisals, said the friable asbestos would reduce home values.

“It does diminish and impair property values,” Reinartz said.

The April 24 hearing was tense, with the Rhythers and Veit attorney Jack Perry squabbling on multiple occasions. At one point, County Attorney Kristen Nelsen attempted to stop the arguments, and told Bonnie to stop arguing or leave. Bonnie left.

However, those nearby property owners may rest a little easier with the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision. Veit argued the county board did not base its decision on findings of fact at the same time it made its decision. However, Klaphake agreed with the board’s finding of facts, timing in regards to the zoning issue and further stated “county officials have sufficient expertise to determine matters such as likely impacts on property values. … Therefore, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support denial of the CUP request.”