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Planning commission approves rail car storage area at Flint Hills

Flint Hills plans to start storing and shipping propylene from its Rosemount site. As such, the refinery will build a tank expansion, loading spur track and rail car storage area.

City planner Eric Zweber said the tank expansion and the loading spur are minor expansions of an existing use and so city approval is not necessary. However, the rail car storage area is a new use and was reviewed by the planning commission on Tuesday night.

The commission held a public hearing and received only one comment. That comment was in support of the project.

The rail storage area will be located south of the refinery on an area of Flint Hills property that currently does not have track or rail car storage.

The refinery submitted site plans for review. Additionally, Flint Hills requested two variances regarding the rail car storage area. The first request was for zero setback from Union Pacific railroad tracks. The second request was from the city's landscape screening requirement.

Zweber said staff supported the site plan and the setback variance but did not support the screening variance.

Instead, Zweber said staff supported a compromise allowing the refinery to install the landscaping incrementally over three years. As part of the condition Flint Hills would provide a letter of credit for 110 percent of the value of the landscaping requirement.

Flint Hills property manager Don Kern told the planning commission that the company had no objections to the landscaping requirement. He added that Flint Hills planned to add 500 to 1,000 trees to the property and that the company could adjust plans to fill in the area.

The area will be located close to 140th Street and a proposed Rosemount interpretive trail corridor. Commissioner Wade Miller asked if having loaded train cars near a road and people posed a risk.

Kern said it wouldn't pose any more risk than a loaded car on an active track. The city has plans to put up fencing and possibly other barriers between the trail and the rail car area when it's constructed.

Miller also asked who would be responsible for the rail storage area, which will be operated by Union Pacific. Kern said the refinery will own the cars and that Union Pacific will be responsible for filling them.

Miller then asked that a condition be added to the approval of the site plan and the approved variance that the refinery's risk management document be reviewed by police and fire departments to ensure the new use falls under their current plan.

The planning commission approved the variance and site plan 4-0. Commissioner Bruno DiNella was absent.

The city council will review the issue at their March work session before making a final decision.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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