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Second try coming after tie vote on Granite Shoals mining ordinance

George Schneph, chief financial officer for Coldspring

George Schneph, chief financial officer for Coldspring, a Minnesota-based company that quarries in the Highland Lakes, addressed questions about dust mitigation and unsightly piles of waste granite during the Granite Shoals City Council meeting March 8. At the dais are City Attorney Jeff Katz (left), councilors Ron Munos and Bruce Jones, Mayor Will Skinner, and councilors Samatha Ortis, Eddie McCoy, and Phil Ort. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

A new mining ordinance temporarily died in a 3-3 vote during the Granite Shoals City Council meeting Tuesday, March 8, but came back to life during the discussion. Councilors asked City Manager Jeff Looney to put the issue on the agenda for the next meeting, which is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, when the entire council should be present. Council member Steve Hougen did not attend the March 8 meeting and will presumably be the tie-breaker when the ordinance comes up again.

The vote and discussion came after a half-hour executive session with City Attorney Jeff Katz. Councilors Bruce Jones, Samantha Ortis, and Eddie McCoy voted against the ordinance. Councilors Ron Munos, Phil Ort, and Mayor Will Skinner voted in favor of replacing mining ordinance 809a with ordinance 826.

“I’m concerned about the health and safety of our citizens,” Jones told DailyTrib.com after the meeting. “There’s too much dust and because of what you see — the holes in the ground. It’s an eyesore for our citizens. There’s one across the street right here.” 

“I still think (the ordinance) needs to be tweaked,” McCoy said. “This is for our citizens, to protect our citizens.” 

Ortis said she didn’t want the city to “become a pawn between developers and mineral rights owners,” explaining that some people bought property but don’t own the mineral rights. 

“With our ordinance, it takes the rights of the mineral rights owners,” she said. “We are not allowing them to mine. Their mining rights are gone. All the land we’re talking about, the mineral rights are owned by someone else and the land is owned by someone else. We are not worried about that. We are worried about our citizens.” 

Councilor Munos asked George Schneph, chief financial officer for Coldspring, what the Minnesota-based quarrier could do about cleaning up piles of granite in the area. Schneph’s answer included crushing large rocks into gravel, which did not go over well with some councilors. 

“What about the dust?” Councilor Ort asked. “What about the noise? I think what Mr. Munos is talking about is hauling it off and crushing it somewhere else.” 

“Well, that’s a lot tougher,” Schneph said, pointing out that the amount of dust from crushing granite would be minuscule compared to the dust generated from mining operations along U.S. 281 between Burnet and Marble Falls, where trees are covered with a fine, white powder. 

“We will cooperate however we can,” he added. 

The council also discussed amending the ordinance to include a sunset clause, which might be done at a later date. Another offshoot of the mining ordinance would deal with damage to city streets from large trucks. Katz, the city attorney, suggested a separate ordinance that would apply to all large trucks, not just mining vehicles. 

“A lot of cities regulate routes and require small bonds for any damage large vehicles cause to their streets,” he said. “It would make a lot of sense to have a similar ordinance.” 

suzanne@thepicayune.com