by Rebecca Terk, crossposted from Big Stone Bounty
Packets have gone out to the Ortonville City Council this evening for Monday’s 7pm meeting in the Ortonville Public Library Media Center. On the agenda, under New Business: “Hedge Annexation.”
Rumors of Ortonville City’s possible annexation of the proposed Strata aggregate quarry site in Ortonville Township have been leaking out for a few weeks now, and those rumors were further fueled by a post-meeting-adjournment question to the council from Ortonville EDA Community Development Coordinator Vicki Oakes about whether the city would rezone the proposed quarry site when (not if) it was annexed.
Since passing an interim ordinance late last winter, the Ortonville Township Board of Supervisors has moved to create their own planning and zoning committee and to develop their own land use plan in order to preserve and protect the quality of life of their approximately 100 residents. I have been a witness to several of township’s board and planning committee meetings, and I can tell you that these people are incredibly dedicated public servants who have embarked on a very steep learning curve in order to do right by their residents.
The State of Minnesota provides for townships and other municipalities to exercise this right of local control through passage of an interim ordinance precisely because larger governing bodies do not always respect the will of the people in smaller ones. Clearly, this was the case when the Big Stone County Board of Commissioners moved to approve the Strata Corp. conditional use permit for an aggregate quarry in Ortonville Township despite the objection of the majority of its residents and despite the county’s lack of jurisdiction once the interim ordinance was passed.
And, despite the legal right of the township to take control of its own land use planning, Ms. Oakes, formerly Big Stone County Planning Commission chair, has publicly ridiculed the township’s process, spread false rumors about its intentions and effects, and has continued to push the quarry project and the interests of one non-resident landowner (who happens to be one of the wealthiest citizens of Big Stone County) over the rights of the many residents of the township.
It is frankly amazing how much information Ms. Oakes can convey considering her presence at only one of these township meetings–one at which no planning committee business took place. Is spreading rumor and innuendo and ridiculing the process of local governments an appropriate role of a paid employee of the City of Ortonville?
Now, in defiance of the township’s role and right to preserve and protect the health, safety, property values, and quality of life of its residents, Ms. Oakes, landowner Gayle Hedge, and Strata Corporation are pushing the City of Ortonville to annex township land and push forward the quarry project against the will of the majority of the families who actually live there.
Is this the kind of place we want to live? Where a bigger government bullies the smaller one, and residents have no say about the community they want to live in?
Unfortunately, townships have few legal rights when it comes to annexation by a neighboring city. The process that Ortonville Township has embarked upon to protect and serve their people could be for naught unless the people of both Ortonville City and Ortonville Township stand up and make their voices heard.
Plan to attend Monday night’s meeting, and contact Ortonville City Council members to tell them to preserve the rights of Ortonville Township residents by rejecting annexation of the Hedge property.
Ortonville City Council:
Mayor David Dinnel 839-6226
Mel Reinke 839-3084
Mike Dorry 839-3048
Angela Doren 763-202-3487
Ron Thomas 839-3039
Robert Meyer 839-2364
Steve Berkner 839-3914
A resident of Clinton, Minnesota, in Big Stone County, Rebecca Terk is a Community Based Food Systems Organizer for the Land Stewardship Project. She mostly writes--and writes quite wonderfully--about food and local food systems at her blog, Big Stone Bounty.
Photo: Picket signs outside the Clinton Community Center in winter 2012.
Editor's disclosure: After posting about an earlier meeting of the Big Stone County in Big trouble in Big Stone County: Strata mining, Ortonville Township and House File 389, Bluestem's editor consulted on social media with CURE's grassroots citizen organizing project about the Strata mining project.