East Bethel town hall draws a big crowd

A crowd of more than 240 residents attended an April 19 town hall meeting and open house hosted by the city of East Bethel.

A crowd of more than 240 people showed up at a town hall hosted by the city of East Bethel. Most wanted to talk about a business application by CST. Photo by Brian Siddons
A crowd of more than 240 people showed up at a town hall hosted by the city of East Bethel. Most wanted to talk about a business application by CST. Photo by Brian Siddons

Residents took the opportunity to speak out against a proposal by CST, a trucking and distribution company that also would like to process mulch near the northeast corner of Highway 65 and 237th Avenue.

Since learning about the proposal less than a month ago, residents have moved quickly to organize neighborhoods, prepare a plan of action and become heavily involved in the process.

A variety reasons have been cited as causes to rally against the type of business looking to locate near Cooper’s Corner and across the street from single family homes, child care services and St. Andrew Lutheran church.

Neighbors have listed numerous disruptions  as reasons to deny the business application; noise, early morning and late evening business hours, and unsightly storage on the premises.

But concerns over excessive water use and water pollution, poor air quality from mulch particles, increased road traffic and safety concerns, and the possibility of home values dropping have also been raised by those who do not live near the proposed site.

There was far less interest in the open house than the town hall meeting, which opened with presentations from MidContinent Cable and MnDOT before Mayor Steve Voss opened the floor to questions on any topic.

“Regarding CST, the white elephant in the room, nothing has been formally presented to the city planning commission or City Council,” Voss  said. His comments did nothing to stem the tide of concern that was now rising among the audience.

For more than two hours the mayor and council members, as well as City Administrator Jack Davis, took questions from East Bethel citizens and listened to their concerns, which were, time and time again, about CST. It was an evening filled with passionate expressions by the residents and reasoned responses from the council and city staff.

Key questions dealt with how CST seemingly falls short of expected light industrial standards and why the application is even being considered.

Many in the audience have been attending city council meetings over the past month, after learning of CST’s business application and pending purchase of 40 acres of property that is zoned light industrial. While typical council meetings attract about eight to 10 people, attendance has jumped to 35-40.

Davis reminded those in attendance that as of Tuesday, CST had not submitted a properly filled out business application. There were seven items on their original application that needed to be corrected before the city would accept the form.

Although two days later, on April 21, a completed business application was received.

The process to either approve or deny the application will now take its next step, which is a review by the East Bethel Planning Commission, which was slated to discuss it at the commission’s April 26 meeting.

After the Planning Commission performs its review, the application will then be passed to the City Council for review. In addition, there will be interaction with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, MnDOT, and other state and county agencies to ensure all questions and concerns regarding codes, laws are regulations are addressed.

“We’ve never had this much discussion about something we have not even been presented with,” Voss said.