TOWER—The city of Tower gave final approval to an environmental assessment worksheet, or EAW, for a proposed RV park, on Monday, but the decision came more than two months after a deadline for such …
TOWER—The city of Tower gave final approval to an environmental assessment worksheet, or EAW, for a proposed RV park, on Monday, but the decision came more than two months after a deadline for such action set in state rules.
The delay has been a source of intensifying frustration for Dave Rose, the project developer, who had been seeking guidance from the state’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB), which oversees the environmental review process in Minnesota.
Rose had been in frequent contact with the EQB in recent weeks as the city fell further out of compliance with the decision-making deadline set in the state’s administrative rules. Those rules give local units of government 30 days from the completion of an environmental assessment worksheet to determine if the document is adequate and whether or not a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement is required. An EIS is typically limited to major projects, such as mines or other very large developments that could impact hundreds or thousands of acres, so there was little likelihood that an EIS would be required for Rose’s project, which involves 20 RV sites on about 4.5 acres.
According to Kristin Mroz, local government coordinator with the EQB, the city had 30 days from the end of its comment period on the Rose EAW to make a determination. That comment period ended April 4, which would have given the city until May 4 to issue its decision.
“If they were getting close to the May 4 deadline and weren’t ready, they could have asked for an additional 30 days,” said Mroz. “We did not get an extension request.”
Even had the EQB commissioner issued an extension, that would have extended the city’s deadline only to June 3.
At a meeting of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, July 9, city engineer Matt Bolf acknowledged that the decision probably failed to meet the rule, but said it’s “not the first time that’s happened.”
The city’s P and Z commission had been set to finalize and approve the EAW decision on Monday but was unable to do so due to the lack of a quorum. Commission chair Steve Altenburg entered the council chamber for the meeting ten minutes late, only to find no one but the applicant and a few other interested parties and media in the audience. A second commission member, Morgan Carlin, arrived about 15 minutes later. Altenburg suggested they use the time to work on the “no significant impact” resolution and findings of fact, but in the end, he and Bolf fielded questions from some of those in attendance. The meeting broke up about half an hour later without findings or any recommendations to submit to the council.
Rose said the delay in processing his EAW could well prevent him from beginning work on his project this year. Rose first proposed his RV park in early 2016, but his plan has run into opposition from neighbors as well as planning and zoning hurdles. The city of Tower has served as the Responsible Government Unit, or RGU, for the project, which is why the city has been in charge of processing the environmental review.
Approval of the EAW is not the only step remaining for Rose’s proposed project. Bolf noted that Rose will still need to conduct a Phase I archeological study and will likely need to do some soil contamination studies given the site’s proximity to the former city dump. Rose will also need to seek a conditional use permit.
In a related development, city officials indicated that Rose’s recent statement that he intends to sell some or all of the planned RV lots would not affect the EAW. At last month’s meeting, city officials had suggested that a new EAW would likely be required if Rose intended to sell the lots, rather than rent them seasonally, but it now appears that will not be the case.