I finally got my domestics done, so after running the pooch this morning, I dug around on the floor of the car and hauled the mail inside. The Rice County outhouse (not inhouse) attorney, Paul D. Reuvers, of Iverson Reuvers, served their Answer to the RCLUA lawsuit, and I’m still snorting.

Here’s the RCLUA Complaint. Download file Click “read only” button.
Here’s the Rice County Answer. Download file

This Answer is a hoot because it’s totally off point, apparently they haven’t read the statute, and apparently they think we want to overturn Rice County’s decisions!

In the Complaint, I have to lay out the group’s standing to sue, that MERA provides a cause of action to any person, that RCLUA is a corp and that a corp is a person under the MERA statute. In their Answer, they claim that RCLUA is not a “person” under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA).

Here’s the statute, 116B.02, Subd. 2 (bold added). What do you think?

Subd. 2. Person. “Person” means any natural person, any state,
municipality or other governmental or political subdivision or
other public agency or instrumentality, any public or private
, any partnership, firm, association, or other
organization, any receiver, trustee, assignee, agent, or other
legal representative of any of the foregoing, and any other
entity, except a family farm, a family farm corporation or a
bona fide farmer corporation.

It’s right there in black and white, “any public or private corporation.” DUH!

In the Complaint, I also have to be specific about what I’m asking the court to do, in this case make a declaratory judgment regarding the many violations of environmental law, that the county’s authority for environmental review be pulled, and that the County Commissioners, County Planning Commission and County Staff receive remedial environmental review training (like the recent training for Dundas officials)(see also Bruce Moreland’s blog). In their Answer, they claim that because we did not properly ask for review of the decisions, or properly appeal the decisions, we have no cause of action under MERA. That might make sense as an argument if we were trying to get review of their decisions, to appeal the decisions, but we’re not. The very specific point of the suit is that they violated the law and we want them to have their authority to do environmental review pulled while they get remedial environmental training. We haven’t asked that any decisions be reviewd or overturned, the decision is not the issue, it’s that they routinely violate environmental law and we want them to stop. We want them to follow the law!

They are also saying that environmental review is under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and so therefore there’s no cause of action, but MERA covers all environmental law, there is no prohibition, no limitation under MERA, and conversely, no requirement that suits be brought under MEPA. The entire point of MERA is to make it easy for citizens to hold others accountable for violation of environmental law.

And the County’s rush to develop the I-35 corridor made the Northfield News opinion page again yesterday. It’s on the Northfield League of Women Voter’s blog, David Bly, Northfield City Councilman Jim Pokorney, and at northfield.org — can it be this is rising in the community consciousness?

Here’s some of the land in question, taken just north of the intersection of Co. Rd. 46 and Co. Rd. 1, looking north and east. Can you imagine this scene covered with office buildings and warehouses, with a water tower in the background?


Jim Pokorney states in his letter:

Therefore, I am against the actions being taken by a slim majority of Rice County commissioners to first promote, now plan, then legislate, and finally finance with taxpayers’ money an Interstate 35/Rice County Road 1 commercial district.

I believe any meaningful net increase in jobs or taxes imagined to be harvested on the unincorporated, serviceless rural land along I-35 could be more easily reaped within the confines of one of our growing cities with less taxpayer dollars, less ecological damage to our rural environment, and most importantly, with less irreversible harm to our implicitly agreed upon county way of life exemplified by our social compact.

“Let cities be cities and let rural be rural.”

This compact, never legislated but I believe always understood, has been the basis for this county’s unique lifestyle over the past 150 years.

If you agree with my logic, call your commissioner and reaffirm your commitment to our county lifestyle — both city and rural choices — by leaving at the tone the following message.

“Let cities be cities and let rural be rural.”

And we can always count on Gordon Kelly, Rice County Planning Commission, to shoot himself in the foot. This time, in his letter, he proves my point that the Highway/Commercial rezoning IS NOT IN EFFECT. Remember the EQB guidelines that state the AUAR requirement that an analysis be completed under the plan in effect at the time the AUAR was ordered? That means as it is now, not as it will be December 31, 2005. They can’t avoid it by passing around outdated EQB guidelines. Thanks to Gordon for the backup on my point, unintended as it was! Here’s part of his letter (bold added):

Certainly “Rice County residents posed concerns about water, air, etc.” at the recent public hearing. The purpose of the public hearing was to hear these concerns so they may be addressed during the preparation of an environmental analysis of this commercial zone.

The commissioners did not turn a deaf ear, they simply moved the planning process along so that now those concerns can be analyzed and evaluated. The vote from the commissioners was (yes indeed!) to proceed with the analysis. The master planning of the highway commercial zone is proceeding on schedule and we intend to complete the plan before the Dec. 31 deadline.

The committee must complete the plan by that time because the zoning takes effect with or without a plan. What could be worse than having a highway commercial zone without a plan?

Thank you for clarifying that the Highway/Commercial zoning is NOT in effect now and will not take effect until December 31, 2005. Also, Kelly misrepresents the purpose of that hearing. It was a hearing about whether the Planning Commission would accept the Master Plan, it was NOT a scoping hearing for the AUAR. I did ask Arlyn Grussing whether there would be a scoping hearing, and did not get a response. The prohibition on public particpation at the Committee #1 meeting and the draft AUAR that was distributed to the Committe, but WHICH WAS NOT PROVIDED FOR MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC TO REVIEW, belies the true nature of this process. I guess that’s what the Data Practices Act is for.

OK, folks, one more time, with feeling, from the EQB’s AUAR guidelines, repeat after me:

Important Note: Every AUAR document MUST review one or more development scenarios based on and consistent with the RGU?s Comprehensive Plan in effect when the AUAR is officially ordered. (This is equivalent to reviewing the ?no-build? alternative in an EIS.)


Important Note: Every AUAR document MUST review one or more development scenarios based on and consistent with the RGU?s Comprehensive Plan in effect when the AUAR is officially ordered. (This is equivalent to reviewing the ?no-build? alternative in an EIS.)


Important Note: Every AUAR document MUST review one or more development scenarios based on and consistent with the RGU?s Comprehensive Plan in effect when the AUAR is officially ordered. (This is equivalent to reviewing the ?no-build? alternative in an EIS.)

… sigh… we’ll see if they’re listening…

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