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Under scrutiny, Mayville grain elevator to install dust-control system

MAYVILLE, N.D. - The Mayport Farmer's Co-op Elevator has revoked a building-permit application for two new grain silos and is moving forward with installation of a dust-control system for the building it has now.

And all eyes in town are on the elevator to ensure the new system works properly.

More than 25 residents and co-op board members voiced their opinions about the issue Wednesday night during a meeting of the town's Planning and Zoning Commission.

Residents are pleased with the decision to add a filtering system, but spoke on the co-op's inability to control the dust and noise emitted from the elevator since its expansion in 2006, which has been blamed for causing possible respiratory issues.

Co-op Board President Richard Moen said the co-op hopes to have the dust control system ordered and installed as soon as possible, but expects it to take at least three months.

"It's a way to move forward," he said. "It's a way to make progress."

Karen Huso lives two and a half blocks from the elevator. She said the co-op has told residents they were going to take care of the debris when it expanded the elevator in 2006.

"I would like some assurance and to see comparisons of systems to know they are choosing the best options," she said during the meeting.

Moen and board members assured her they were choosing the best system, saying it will diminish the debris substantially.

The move to install a filtering system came after the co-op's board of directors voted to install the system ahead of the proposed expansion project, which pleased Huso, but only time will tell to see if it works, she said.

"There's no way we're going to drop the ball," Huso said. "We're going to be watching them."

To contest the proposed expansion project and push for the filtering system, residents have formed the Mayville Clean Air Campaign.

The group hired Craig Richie, an attorney from Fargo, to represent it. The campaign has established itself as a nonprofit, asking for contributions to help with attorney fees. With a goal of $10,000 to $20,000, some residents have already contributed upward of $200 to $500 each.

Rather than expanding, Richie said at the meeting the co-op should look at moving out of town.

"Economically, it's not to their advantage to fight this when they want to be successful," Richie said.

"Maybe this is the time to look at another site somewhere in the future, somewhere out of town that won't cause problems," he said at the meeting. "It certainly is going to be cheaper in the long run to build something new than keep adding onto something. We don't want Mayville to be a place where people get sick and have trouble breathing."

Once the filtering system is in place, Moen said the next phase will address the expansion project.

But city zoning ordinances currently prevent the elevator from expansion.

John Shockley, of Ohnstad-Twichell law firm in Fargo, is representing the city of Mayville after Mayville City Attorney Lynn Slaathaug Moen recused herself because she represents the co-op, too.

Shockley determined that the proposed expansion is not consistent with city zoning laws. He said the commission will have to determine if the co-op is defined as a warehouse or wholesale business to approve the expansion proposal.

The elevator would then have to be rezoned into a light industrial zone and then apply for a conditional-use permit.

Such a permit can be used for land or structures that produce, process and clean materials not previously allowed by city ordinance.

TJ Jerke writes for the Grand Forks Herald