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County shoots down controversial Long Lake gravel pit

Gravel was being mined recently at a Strata Corp. pit just south of Becker County Road 6. Nathan Bowe/Tribune

A proposed gravel pit west of Long Lake was laid to rest Tuesday by the Becker County Board, which voted unanimously not to grant the conditional use permit necessary for Strata Corp. to open and operate the pit. The County Planning Commission had also voted earlier to deny the request.

On Tuesday, commissioners also voted 4-1 not to allow Strata to table its conditional use permit request so that it could make adjustments to the proposed depth of the pit, hours of operation and other details.

The request to table came late in the game, after the planning commission vote, but Commissioner Larry Knutson still cast the sole dissenting vote on that issue. He said in his 16 years on the planning commission and multiple terms on the county board, he has never seen a request to table been rejected before by commissioners.

Knutson represents the eastern half of the county and is the only one of the five commissioners whose district does not include or come close to the proposed gravel pit site.

A crowd of concerned Long Lake residents filled the County Board room for the vote Tuesday morning, and although they were smiling and hugging afterwards, they had to endure an unusually tightly-enacted measure, which involved some parliamentary maneuvering — a motion by Commissioner Ben Grimsley was made and seconded by Commissioner John Okeson, then rescinded and later unanimously approved, with the addition of pages and pages of findings of fact being read into the record.

The county was clearly concerned about being sued by Strata Corp., and commissioners were acting cautiously under the advice of specialist attorney Scott T. Anderson of Rupp, Anderson, Squires and Waldspurger of Minneapolis.

Strata Corp., which operates a large gravel pit and cement plant off County Road 6, wanted to add the new pit west of Long Lake to its existing system, which is served by a BNSF railway spur.

Opponents included a number of Long Lake property owners and the city of Detroit Lakes, which has long-range infrastructure improvement and development plans for the area.