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Council public comment sees the return of Mississippi Dunes November 17

Council public comment sees the return of Mississippi Dunes November 17
Mayor for the day Lucas Staiert calls for Clerk Joe Fischbach to do the roll at the November 17 Cottage Grove Council meeting. He also gaveled the session to order and led the Pledge of Allegiance, among other functions. Screenshot from Council meeting video on the Cottage Grove YouTube channel.
Council public comment sees the return of Mississippi Dunes November 17
Mayor for the day Lucas Staiert calls for Clerk Joe Fischbach to do the roll at the November 17 Cottage Grove Council meeting. He also gaveled the session to order and led the Pledge of Allegiance, among other functions. Screenshot from Council meeting video on the Cottage Grove YouTube channel.


by Joseph Back

With publication anticipated for November 29, directions for Cottage Grove residents who wish to comment on the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for Mississippi Dunes will be posted at the City website, along with a link. The EAW will be distributed to various governmental agencies and posted for 30 days to solicit comment, after which the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU) will decide if an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed and respond to comments. Following a period of judicial review and the RGU decision, a notice will then be published in the EQB Monitor (EQB standing for Environmental Quality Board) within seven to 21 days after receiving the decision.

With the EAW link yet to come on the city website, the Cottage Grove Common Council met prior to adjournment November 17 at 7: 00 p.m. in the St. Croix Room at City Hall. Tackling many items on the night’s agenda, things were led out by Mayor for the Day and local student Lucas Staiert, who gaveled the council session to order, seated next to Myron Bailey. Staiert then lead those present in the Pledge of Allegiance and made a call for City Clerk Joe Fischbach to take roll.

“Can the Clerk please do the roll?” Staiert said, being obliged in his request by Clerk Fischbach. With all members present save Dave Thiede on roll call, it was on to Open Forum—and a long-running comment topic.

“This is the opportunity for someone to speak on any item that is not on the agenda,” Bailey announced, handing the floor first to Sharon O’Boyle, who chose as her topic the former Mississippi Dunes golf course property, slated for development.

“Thank you,” O’ Boyle said on reaching the podium. “I’m here to speak on Mississippi Dunes. O’ Boyle then shared that her grandmother had once owned the Mississippi Dunes property. With that being said, O’Boyle wanted to bring up something she said she had noticed.

“One thing that I did notice when reading the EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) is that whoever did the EAW was hired by the owner,” she shared. “And that to me would seem a conflict of interest, because it’s not an impartial EAW.”

The Mississippi Dunes former golf course along with some adjacent property is currently owned by David Gustafson as the registered agent for Dunes LLC as property holder. The EAW ‘proposer,’ meanwhile, is listed as Pulte Homes, having been previously identified by Gustafson as involved with development plans for the site.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Council meeting, O’ Boyle stated that the person doing the EAW had not done proper research and that while she (O’ Boyle) had known what a Scottish style golf course was, she had come up with two points of interest on the matter that she had researched herself.

“Mississippi Dunes, via the Golf Links golf course directory, states that….’the Scottish links style golf course was built on a prairie alongside the Mississippi River,’” O’Boyle said. “So there is no rough, just the natural terrain defining the fairways. The greens are fast and undulating. There are six par 3’s, six par 4’s, and six par 5’s in the design. A difficult par 5 is number 13, which measures 547 yards, and requires a tee shot over water to a well-bunkered area,” she said. “I’m reading this verbatim because I want to make sure you understand.” Following more information on golf course design and other information, O’ Boyle clarified just what she wanted the Council to understand.

“In another area, with my own words, the housing developer alleges that because the Mississippi Dunes golf course was a golf course, that it is more suited to be a housing development than an open space area. They make this allegation based on presumptions and allegations this allegation based on presumptions and allegations that because it was a golf course it was quote—and this is their words within the EAW—‘heavily manicured and used a large amount of fertilizer and pesticides,’ she said. “But if they truly done any research about this golf course, they would know it was a Scottish-type golf course.” O’ Boyle was then interrupted by Bailey to remind of the three-minute time limitation for public comment.

“Sharon, we do limit the open forum to three minutes. You’re over the three minutes, but do you just want to kind of wrap up with—and then I’ll share some info with you.”

“Ok, I’ll wrap up,” O’ Boyle said. “That means that the land which was left in its natural state, which also means that the wildlife has thrived in this habitat which also includes endangered species. Any quote ‘enhancement’ to the land was minimal,” she said, also touching on what she said was the City’s approval of a 252-acre space to become a warehouse, “the size of 73 football fields,” she said. “And if you also allow a housing development, you’re also taking almost 500 acres of open space, instead of making any preservation of open space.” O’Boyle closed out by asking for an update on the arson investigation, not having found anything online.

An article in the October 28 Cottage Grove Journal reported that the arson investigation had been passed from the state fire marshal to the Cottage Grove Police Department. Bailey then shared information with O’ Boyle before handing over public comment.

“Before I call the next person up—because I think that might be on the same thing— Mississippi Dunes,” Bailey said, receiving apparent confirmation. “Ok. The other thing I will share with you is that as you are aware is that on tonight’s consent agenda we are accepting for publication the EAW,” Bailey said for Mississippi Dunes, confirming with the city attorney and others that there would be an opportunity for public comment, along with the document being released upon council approval “to all the governmental agencies,” of which Bailey listed the DNR and PCA, or Pollution Control Agency. O’Boyle had another question for the Mayor, though.

“Mayor Bailey, will there be a EAW that is done by somebody that is not connected to the city or the developer?” O’ Boyle asked. Bailey then asked City Administrator Jennifer Levitt to respond to O’ Boyle’s question.

“Mayor , members of the Council, on your consent calendar tonight is the EAW that was prepared by an approved consultant that the developer did hire,” Levitt said, adding, “that is standard practice.” The EAW was also reviewed by Bolton and Menk, Levitt said. “They are our consultant under contract to us,” she said.

Next up for Open Forum was resident Bonnie Matter, who had what she said were some procedural questions.

“So, first of all, on Mississippi Dunes, on the EAW, I saw that it was on the consent agenda, so there will be no discussion, is that correct?”

Bailey shared that the information was being accepted by the Council for publication and that it would not, “unless a member of the Council were to pull it for conversation” he told Matter. Once published “And so if it goes out to the public is it published on the Cottage Grove website?” Matter asked, being confirmed in this by the Mayor. The information in the packet for each Council meeting is posted online under “Agendas and Minutes” for City Council.

“What we are going to do because some of these government agencies aren’t going to go to our website so we would acknowledge to them and we would send it to them so they could give feedback,” Bailey told Matter.

“So how would the individual residents give feedback?” Matter asked next, being answered by City Administrator Levitt.

“Mayor, members of the Council, as part of this tonight, your action is to allow publication with the EQB,” Levitt shared regarding the Environmental Quality Board. “At that time it will be published. We’re anticipating the publish date of that would be November 29. At that point the 30-day comment period would commence,” Levitt said, adding that directions would be posted at the City website for those wishing to find the report and comment.

“There will a format and a process there (at the city website of https://www.cottagegrovemn. gov.) that they can find the link to that document,” Levitt said.

Matter’s final comment on Mississippi Dunes was to the effect that she didn’t think the traffic study “was robust enough” for the road that will be next to the Mississippi Dunes. The area is due to see an arterial that would be taken over by the County and lead out to Grey Cloud Island.

Those wishing to view the EAW before it hits official publication towards the end of the month may look it over in the November 17 Council packet under item 07N, with address of We b L i n k / D o c Vi e w. aspx?id=768993& dbid= 0& r epo= Cot t age-Grove& cr=1.

Sharon O’Boyle