Homeowners organize to oppose tree and pallet grinding operation near Sioux Falls landfill
Mueller Pallets needs permit from Minnehaha County to open southwest of the city limits.
SIOUX FALLS — A group of homeowners has organized to oppose a proposed tree-grinding operation near the Sioux Falls Regional Landfill about four miles west of Sioux Falls.
A large number of the opponents overflowed the Minnehaha County Commission chambers on Tuesday, May 16,to object to the operation, which will have to wait on a possible permit from the county as a decision was deferred until Aug. 15.
Mueller Pallets plans to grind trees and other untreated wood products to create mulch that is sold for landscape, livestock and water filtration uses. The company has been in operation for decades until it was asked to leave its current site just east of Tea next to Interstate 29.
Mason Steffen of the county’s planning staff told commissioners the county’s planning and zoning commission approved the permit on a 6-0 vote but set up 11 conditions.
However, one of the conditions concerning the driveway into the tree grinding site has to first be approved by the city, which will now have about 90 days to make a decision on the project just north of the city’s landfill.
Residents, who also strongly objected to the project at the zoning commission hearing last month, mostly live in a neighborhood across the highway from the landfill, although other residents along the county highway, which extends from West 41st Street, have also joined the group.
The residents main complaints are traffic concerns, possible debris along the highway, noise, dust, air quality, drainage and rodents.
Grant Edgecomb, a spokesman for the group, was tight-lipped when interviewed after the public hearing on the permit.
But he said the group was “well-organized” in its opposition.
He suggested they would meet with the city officials to object to the project and County Commission Chairwoman Jean Bender said residents could also offer objections at the Aug. 15 meeting.
"We recognize there's a lot of frustration by homeowners with how they feel they have been treated.” said Mueller’s lawyer, Paul Tschetter.
County Commissioner Gerald Benninga said the issues involved were “very important” to the nearby residents.
“Frankly the neighborhood has been good partners with the city for many years,” he said in referring to the landfill.
He urged the city to also work with the company to possibly come up with a better plan.
Benninga said the commission has received “tons of emails and phone calls” from residents about the proposed project.
Sioux Falls Environmental Services Manager Josh Peterson, who also addressed the county commission, said he believes they can work on some of the issues before the next meeting in August.
“I think we can find a solution that works for everyone," he said.
Peterson said the landfill operation, which is the only other place where tree grinding takes place in the county, isn’t really interested in taking in additional material.
County Commissioner Joe Kippley, who serves as the liaison to the county planning and zoning commission, said he favored deferring a decision to make sure conditions in the permit would be met.
“We want to keep the roadways clear and safe,” he said.
Steffen described the conditions laid out by the planning board, some of which include limiting hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday, having only clean and untreated wood accepted for processing, having a gate or person on duty to prevent dumping of non-wood products and having the right for inspections by the planning department,
Mueller Pallets said the site, on current agricultural land, would be used to collect trees, tree branches, lumber and other non-treated wood from the public at no charge. Owner Margie Mueller also has said they would have a gated entrance with a guard shack and security system and would be on site to grind wood about only one week a month.
The company, which has 48 employees, has been grinding wood since 2006 and is the largest pallet recycler in South Dakota.