Consideration of Hennepin County’s application to amend their conditional use permit to allow them to increase the amount of garbage they may burn at the Energy Recovery Center in downtown Minneapolis was discussed in February at the Zoning and Planning Committee.
The County requested that the matter be postponed for another year, then withdrew the request saying it was not necessary but that they wanted the Council to delay any decision until after the a review by the state Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) was completed. When this came to the Planning Commission over 3 years ago they denied the application. The County then appealed that decision and this has been stuck at the committee level ever since.
It was clear at the committee that we had the authority to deny the appeal. I favored this position in part because of the long delay, but also, more importantly, because the evidence supports the findings of the Planning Commission that increasing the capacity of the garbage burner could very likely
- Be detrimental to public health, safety, comfort or general welfare,
- Be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the vicinity,
- Impede the normal or orderly development and improvement of surrounding property for uses permitted in the district,
- Additionally, this use is not consistent with some policies of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
Despite my opposition, the committee supported a continued postponement until after the review is complete which may be in as soon as April 2013 or as late and April of 2014. I appreciated that some people were able to attend the meeting and was glad that we were able to take some comment at the committee, but in retrospect, I wish I had been more insistent that we take it before the vote was taken.
If and when new information is presented as part of that process I will certainly consider it carefully before taking another vote in the future and will be careful to base my vote on the information in the public record. At this point I am very concerned about the long term health concerns related to the burner. I support more aggressive goals to move us to a no- or zero-waste city and working harder to reduce waste. It is worth noting that under the current practices, even as Minneapolitans reduce waste, increase composting and recycle more, the amount of waste burned at the downtown facility will not change because the county continues to bring waste in from other cities including St. Louis Park and Minnetonka.
When this does come back to the committee I look forward to a full public hearing with plenty of notification so that people can plan accordingly.
For more information you may wish to review the staff report and check on the MPCA's progress.