Posted: October 12, 2012
I remember writing a column about six years ago emphasizing that neighbors who opposed the expansion of the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport were suffering from the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) dilemma. Well, even though the proposed sand rail site plan on the north side of Eau Claire is at least one mile away from my home in the Village of Lake Hallie, I felt an obligation to be a concerned neighbor.
Thankfully, the rail spur extension for Muskie Proppant was denied for the time being. Looking back on the process, it's apparent that the company, which is owned by Oklahoma-based Gulfport Energy Corp. and a Connecticut hedge fund management firm called Wexford Capital, did not plan for the outrage from the neighborhood.
I fault the company and its representatives for not being forthright from the outset about its project. Even though the firm was awarded a conditional use permit one year ago, the residents who were affected by the company's plans were not fully informed about the sand loading site operation. To make matters worse, the developers underestimated the ability of the 50 homeowners who felt affected by the project to band together and demonstrate their concerns for the health, safety and well-being of their families and property values.
Muskie Proppant, which was a relatively unnkown entity until the public hearing this week, hired a well-qualified attorney to speak on its behalf. Brian Nodolf, who has worked for other sand-related companies in the area, admitted that he is not very well-liked in the public arena. I can see why. His demeanor and candor made him an easy target for the neighbors and the city council.
Two hours before the city council was to decide the fate of the proposed development agreement, and the day after the public hearing on the issue, Nodolf submitted a letter to the city council asking for a two-week postponement so that Muskie Proppant could have more time to work out an agreement with the neighbors who opposed the project. The city council was mostly appalled by the request and rejected the proposal. Good luck to Nodolf and Muskie Proppant as they attempt to negotiate with the affected propery owners.
I highly doubt that an agreement will be reached with the northside neighbors who live near the proposed Muskie Proppant sand loading facility. The three to five jobs that will be created by the company is a pittance relative to the potential damage to be impacted by the development.