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Planning Commission makes recommendation on Wausau demo permit

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Brainerd Dispatch
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Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

If Renu Recycling wants to tear down the former Wausau Paper Mill site, it will have to do so following city guidelines.

At least, that’s what the Planning Commission agreed on at a special meeting Tuesday. The commission’s recommendation to accept Renu’s interim use permit, as long as it follows city guidelines, will go before the Brainerd City Council for the final say at its Monday meeting.

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Should the council approve the Planning Commission’s recommendation, it will be up to Renu officials if they want to continue with the project. Or, the Michigan-based company still could walk away from the project.

At the special Planning Commission meeting, officials from Renu Recycling, an investment recovery, recycling and demolition company, spoke publicly for the first time on their application for an interim use permit from the city to tear down some of the buildings at the former Wausau site.

The only reason Renu will leave some buildings standing is because there’s a potential buyer of the land after Renu’s work is complete. That potential buyer, T and E Properties, requested some buildings remain.

But the city and Renu did not see eye-to-eye on many aspects of the demolition process. The biggest disagreement, however, was just how much of the foundation should be removed from the site below ground level.

Renu proposed removing two feet, which is industry standard, said Carlos Avitia, director of demolition with Renu.

City staff recommended that all of the concrete be removed from the ground, which is estimated to go 17 feet under in some places.

Other city staff recommendations include:

• The permit be for one year, with an option to apply for up to a six-month extension.

• All buildings and structures must be removed.

• A town hall meeting must be held before work is started.

• Statement of financial capability must be provided.

• Escrow account made to cover unanticipated cost items.

• All asphalt surfaces must be removed, except those on city-rented easements.

• Site restoration should include native vegetation be planted.

• The city can inspect the site at any time.

• Debris on-site will be kept back 200 feet from Mill Avenue, so public doesn’t have to see it.

• Operation hours limited to: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Trucks cannot travel between 9 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. No Saturday hauling between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

• Some sort of financial guarantee (like in the form of bonds) showing that Renu is capable of finishing the project.

Other big concerns with the city are noise, dust and vibration. Renu said that each will be monitored, with levels available for city officials to check on.

Odor should be reviewed in a case by case basis, said City Engineer Jeff Hulsether.

After city leaders detailed their recommendations to the Planning Commission, officials from Renu had a chance to respond.

Carlos Avitia said some of the requirements expect too much from Renu, which is the “bridge” between Wausau and the potential third-party buyer.

Carlos Avitia said Renu’s proposed demolition plan is the industry standard. Never has the company had to remove foundation deeper than two feet underground or show a financial guarantee in the form of bonds, he said.

The foundation requirement to remove everything, however, could cause Renu to walk away, said Peter Avitia, business development manager with Renu.

“(The project) will skyrocket (in price) to a point where we can’t proceed,” he said.

Carlos Avitia added that it’s not a cost-effective move, and that it’s easier for a future builder to remove whatever they want at the time they come in.

Renu is willing to work with the city on other parts of the project, he said.

During the public hearing part of the meeting, six people spoke to the issue, one being a resident who lives near the site, who said officials should concentrate more on the environmental effects of a project.

Another speaker was Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Sheila Haverkamp, who said the organization’s board did not support Renu’s application as a whole. Instead, the board agreed with the city staff’s terms.

Other speakers during the public hearing included several city council members and the mayor.

The commission tossed around the idea of listing questions for staff and Renu to hash out, especially trying to come to an agreement on the foundation removal, and to come back at a later time to make final decision.

But Peter Avitia said the company would walk away because of lack of time should that happen.

“We are at the end of the rope with our contract with Wausau. To delay this for another meeting, you’d be better off rejecting it,” Peter Avitia said.

Instead of delaying the decision, the Planning Commission unanimously agreed to recommend to the city council that Renu’s interim use permit be granted, but with the conditions listed by the city staff.

The full council will discuss that recommendation Monday.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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