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SKB could resume plans for site after new ordinance

With a new solid waste ordinance taking effect this week, SKB Environmental is looking at moving forward on plans to change its landfill property, potentially by seeking permits to accept household waste.

“We still think it’s a win-win,” SKB Division Vice President John Domke said.

During a special meeting Tuesday morning, the Mower County board unanimously approved a new solid waste ordinance, Statement of Need and Reasonableness (SONAR) and a new fee structure. The vote capped about two years of work by the county to craft a new solid waste ordinance to replace the previous ordinance that was more than two decades old.

That process started in 2015 when SKB discussed adding mixed municipal solid waste — or household garbage — and possibly recycling services, to its Mower County site.

But the county board put a moratorium on new solid waste requests until it could replace its outdated solid waste ordinance.

Now, Domke says SKB will dust off plans and possibilities for its Austin site, which includes its Lansing Landfill, the Austin Landfill formerly owned by Veit, and about 50 acres SKB purchased about two years ago.

“We think it has a lot of merit yet,” Domke said of the potential plans to develop the site just west of U.S. Highway 218 north of Austin.

Domke said the company isn’t sure yet what kind of modifications the company would seek to make at the site; however, he said the process could begin this summer.

Any major changes would need county, state and Lansing Township approval.

One thing was sure Tuesday: Most involved were pleased with the final ordinance.

“Overall, it’s going to prove to be a real good ordinance as far as regulating future development in that area of landfills and composting and that sort of thing,” said Commissioner Jerry Reinartz, who serves on the Solid Waste Committee with Commissioner Mike Ankeny.

The commissioners noted the ordinance should be good to all parties involved, including SKB.

“I think the end result was satisfactory to what we were looking for,” Ankeny said.

The board was slated to vote May 2 on the ordinance, but delayed the decision after new questions arose about odors for neighboring homeowners and which plots of a landfill would be grandfathered in under the old law.

After meeting one last time with consultants last week, Environmental Services Director Angie Knish outlined some of the final changes Tuesday, some of which she described as “wordsmithing” where a few words were changed or a few phrases were changed to clarify language.

Some language ensures that modifications and additions to existing landfills will be subject to minimum setback requirements.

Domke questioned if that would mean those setbacks would apply to upgrades to the facility, for things like new liners or monitoring wells, adding he didn’t think that was the intent of the ordinance. But Knish noted the ordinance differentiates between major and minor changes to the landfills.

Overall, Domke praised the county and consultants for their handling of the process.

“We think that the consultant and everybody involved did an excellent job,” he said. They took input. They listened to us. [It was] a very thorough process.”

The new solid waste ordinance is over 160 pages and has been studied and written over the past two years. Jurisdiction, licensing, transporting, abatement, storage, landfills, composting and other scenarios are all covered in the new document. Attorney Scott Anderson and consultant Dave Lucas of Sherburne County joined county staff, planning and zoning, commissioners, and members of the solid waste committee, in creating the new ordinance.

The ordinance becomes official once it’s published in the county’s legal publication, the Austin Daily Herald, which expected later this week.