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Paynesville Press - May 3, 2006

Council approves EAW for new development

By Michael Jacobson

The environmental comment period for the North Paynesville Development - 240 acres straddling Lake Avenue on the north side of the Crow River, which the city annexed in July 2005 - has ended, and the Paynesville City Council has approved an Environmental Assessment Worksheet for the project without requiring a longer, more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement.

The 30-page Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) was published in late February, and the comment period lasted until the end of March. The Paynesville City Council approved the EAW in mid-April.

North Paynesville Development map

The North Paynesville Development, owned by Ferche Development, LLC, of Rice, Minn., is planned to include more than 175 residential lots, 32 townhome units, 24 twin-home units, 43 acres of park (mostly along the Crow River), nearly 25 acres of commercial property, and 13 acres of industrial property. The development is planned in phases (of 20-30 lots each) beginning this summer.

An Environmental Impact Statement would take at least a year to complete, engineer Scott Hedlund told the city council last month. Mitigation of environmental impacts identified in the EAW will be done as the development proceeds, he added.

Requiring an Environmental Impact Statement is something that entities only require if they want to kill a project, said councilor Jeff Bertram last month.

The Environmental Assessment Worksheet drew comments from six government entities: the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; the Minnesota Department of Transportation; the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; the North Fork Crow River Watershed District; the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District; and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Both the Corps of Engineers and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency mainly reminded the developer of required permits. MnDOT wanted to be sure that no additional stormwater drainage would be directed towards new Highway 23. And the DNR reminded the developer of required permitting and asked about on-site replacement of wetlands.

Both the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District and the North Fork Crow River Watershed District focused on water quality, especially with the North Fork of the Crow River running through the proposed development. The Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District raised concerns about cover types, the physical impact on water resources, water use, erosion and sedimentation, and water quality.

By far the most detailed comments came from the North Fork Crow River Watershed District, which sent a five-page letter listing 18 comments, including construction methods, the increase in impervious surfaces, runoff, road crossings, grading, wetland mitigation, etc.

A record of decision was sent to all the government bodies who were notified of the comment period, including those agencies who commented, Hedlund told the council last month. The developer acknowledges environmental concerns during the project and intends to continue to work with the city to mitigate any effects, he added.

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