CITIZENS AGAINST THE MOTORSPORTS PARK
March 7th - It is stated that a Supplemental Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW)* has been received from Bradford Development for the Mankato Motorsports Park Project. City staff is currently in the process of seeking proposals from consultant to complete a Third-Party Review. Staff expressed that the developer has not offered to pay for the supplemental EAW, whereas the developer paid for the initial 3rd party review on the original EAW. Included in the packet for this meeting was a letter from the City Administrator to the Mayor and City Council members, twice stating that the cost would be paid for by the project proposer, Bradford Development.
*There is no legal process for a "Supplemental EAW". This is, in fact, a supplemented EAW. It is not a separate entity from the original EAW, it is information obtained to fulfill the initial requests in the EAW.
It is explained that this supplemental information pertains to the two issues not adequately discussed in the EAW: impact on wildlife and the cumulative effect on climate change. Should the city have a third-party review and it's completed, the EAW will move on to publication and the public comment period will be open to the public and agencies to submit comments. For this period the comments are to pertain ONLY to the supplemental information - not the entire EAW.
Council votes and approves to receive estimates from third-party reviewers and contact the developer to determine who will pay for the review.
This is a privately funded project and should be fully paid for by the developer.
Mid-March: "STOP" signs replace the "Yield" signs at the intersection of Hwy 14 and CSAH 17/27. This is to make drivers stop and observe oncoming traffic before completing their left turn from Hwy 14 onto CSAH 17/27. Personal experience has noticed MANY drivers blowing right through the STOP sign as though the "Yield" was still there. This is also NOT stopped the westbound illegal U-turns that are common at that intersection.
April 4th - Meeting packet includes received bids from Houston Engineering, Inc. (who did the original third-party review) and Braun Intertec. At the March 7th meeting it was stated that the city has to accept the lowest responsible bid. While the Houston Engineering bid is nearly $8,000 cheaper, they also missed the the lack of information that has brought the project to this stage.
Included with the bids is a letter from the City Administrator to the Mayor and the City Council. In this letter is it stated that: "The developer is not required to pay for a third-party review and has recently expressed that while compensation from him for the second 3rd-party review isn't unjustified, he feels that an effort to share the expense could be an equitable alternative for all parties". Again, this is a privately funded project. It should not be on the city to cover any of the cost. Had due diligence (or even careful reading) been done during the last review this step likely wouldn't have been necessary.
There is also a letter from the City Administrator to the Mayor and the City Council regarding nearly 80 acres initially desired for this project. Ownership has changed hands and the current owner has plans they want to address. Owner has stated that they are a separate entity from the proposed project and the developer claims the sale of the parcel will not affect the viability of his project and it could move ahead without the parcel. Given that part of the course and a driveway were located on the parcel, one can expect to see a modified plan to appear at some point. The question is, at what point is it no longer what the public and agencies reviewed?
May 2nd (click to view meeting on YouTube. The livestream did not start right away so Brad is already speaking and it goes to around 22 minutes) - Brad Bass, the developer was present for this meeting. The last time he showed up for a meeting was virtually on September 30, 2020 for a discussion on the developer's agreement. Before that it was July 1, 2019.
Brad states that he is still on track with moving forward with the project. He addresses the northern section of the property being sold to another party, who will work with him to sell land for the motorsports part in the future when needed. Additionally, the city attorney brings up the lack of a purchase agreement for the other parcel and that it could revert back to the township this fall when the annexation agreement ends.
Brad explains that he is waiting for the 3rd party review - although the city council and Brad can't come to an agreement on who should pay for it (it's a privately funded project). He is also waiting for the city to make a decision on whether or not he can move forward so he can keep working with the landowners. He also shares that this decision is important to have real conversations with landowners about the direction of the project.
Further discussion included concerns about the current layout (which has NOT been made public), how the new owner's plans to build sheds will affect the project and whether or not any of it warrants starting over.
Brad states that he can have the buildings superimposed over his current layout so the city council can view what the final project may look like. This information is to be available by the June city council meeting. He also states that these buildings are identical to the structures they were going to build. At no time did the plans show sheds in that same spot or condos with a typical shed exterior. Guesses are made that the sheds will only enhance the reduction of noise to neighboring residents. There is also the concern of the new owner going off on their own and working with the township.
Mike had submitted comments to be read out loud at this meeting and they weren't. They were included in the packet for the council members but these questions/concerns were meant to be read for the benefit of those who aren't council members.
Mayor Auringer states there will be public "hearings". We have also been told that we would have a 30 cay comment period.
June 6th - Despite the talk of a 3rd party review at the May 2nd meeting and that it was prudent to be consistent, that appears to have been dropped as nobody wants to pay for it. In a letter to the mayor and the city council, the city administrator states "Since no resolution has been reached on which party will be responsible for the cost of a 3rd party review and because it is not required, it does appear likely that a 3rd party review will be completed with the supplemental EAW". So it appears likely, but the very next step is "scheduling a Special City council meeting in which Bradford Development and Bolton and Menk present the EAW and answer questions. The meeting would be open to the public and public comment received. Following that meeting, the RGU (City of Eagle Lake) would be tasked with making an EIS need decision on the two items remanded back to the City for further review and then prepare a record of decision, including the findings of fact and responses to all substantive comments."
So no 3rd party review, no 30 day public comment period and a new determination of the need for an EIS in 21 days.
In 35 days they went from concern about a new land owner, additional buildings, and annexation agreements to suddenly being ready to make a new decision.
Something got fast tracked and it happened out of the public eye. 3 years of asking for transparency and it still seems impossible. So on June 28th at 6pm in the Eagle Lake City Hall, there will be a public hearing where I imagine someone will be diligently writing down our concerns so the responses can be included in the final decision.
June 9th - After meeting with the city administrator this morning, it has been clarified that the meeting on June 28th will be just a public hearing. There will NOT be a decision on the EIS made that day and there WILL be a 30 day comment period sometime after the hearing.
She agreed that the previous communications were confusing with incomplete or inaccurate information. She apologized and confirmed that June 28th will be a public hearing where the developer will be there to present the project and receive public feedback.
We appreciate her willingness to reach out and correct this information after I had emailed the council on Tuesday afternoon, questioning what appeared to be an attempt to rush things along.
June 28th - (The video only shows the slideshow it's dark for everything else. The camera showing the council, speakers, etc. was not on). Special City Council meeting in which Bradford Development was to present the project's supplemented pieces of the EAW. The developer briefly spoke then turned it over to Jason from Bolton and Menk (also Gina and Dan) to give the slide presentation.
Mayor Auringer asked for some details on how the noise study was conducted with the receptors. Gina was suppose to be able to address this question but with being virtual they were unable to get her at a volume for all to hear. Dan took the podium to answer what he could. One thing that was addressed is HOW the noise is created. It's a computerized model, not an actual source of track comparable activity. Once again there is a comparison to Hwy 14 with the idea that there is already noise there, how will this be any different? Also discussed was a Ted Nugent concert "in the valley" that was heard up in North Mankato.
Other things discussed during this meeting:
If you stand next to a running combine it is loud. If you move away from it, it is not as loud. (27:40 and 1:20:20)
The use of pollinator grasses is planned for the infield.
Eagles ARE present
A really big discussion was how are residents informed of developments such as this? At the beginning the information coming out was minimal. Public notices buried in the classifieds of the newspaper and it would be on the city council meeting agenda. This isn't a resident putting up a shed. This is a huge development crossing over Hwy 14 and impacting the future of Eagle Lake. Now:
There has been a designated section for the "Mankato Motorsports Project" on the City of Eagle Lake website for well over 2 years.
The meeting schedules and agendas/packets are available for public viewing on the website. If this project is going to be addressed, it will be on the agenda.
There are newsletters and emails residents can sign up for to stay informed.
It's a not a perfect system but residents should take advantage of the resources to stay informed and in this case of a large development the developer should involve them with his own informational output.
With the developer present at this meeting I took the opportunity to ask about the possibility of a drag strip. We never said that there was going to be a drag strip and the developer never said that there was going to be a drag strip. The talk of a drag strip came from supporters online (including on the MMP social media) and no one from the development team ever took the time to reply and set the record straight: NO DRAG STRIP. (Near the 1:01:00 mark)
It was stated during this meeting that this was not a public hearing and there will not be a public hearing. However we have been told numerous times that there would be a public hearing for this project. (most recently: March 7, 2022 "Mayor Auringer stated that there will be a public hearing in the future in which public comments will be heard...". This public hearing has yet to happen. So the frustration lies in being told something will happen and then later being informed that it was essentially never going to happen.
In the end, it was decided that this supplemented information to the EAW was NOT complete. The council made the decision to give the developer yet another chance to fully address the issues of the impact on the wildlife and the cumulative effects on climate change.
*****AFTER THE MEETING*****
After the meeting had concluded and members of the public had moved outside, we were given the opportunity to speak with the developer. There were multiple witnesses present to view the way he made accusations, spoke over people or simply ignored their questions. He was not interested in hearing actual concerns from residents affected by this proposal. He was not interested in answering questions he - the developer - should know about this project. He didn't want to have a conversation, he wanted to rant at those who didn't agree with him. This was only his 3rd time (in 3 YEARS) interacting with the residents (whether in person at a meeting or a virtual meeting) who will be affected by this project. He doesn't get to be the angry one.
Meanwhile, Mayor Auringer took the time to go around to each group of residents who were still standing around and talking. The meeting had gotten a little heated at times and the gavel got a lot of use! He took the time to listen to what they had to say and was one of the last to leave the parking lot that night. Thank you Mayor Auringer!
September 12th (I have included a link to the meeting, however there was an issue with the livestream not starting until AFTER the EAW discussion had already happened).
Mayor Auringer explained that (at a previous meeting) the council had asked for more information on the effects the proposed motorsports park would have on climate change.
Mr. Femrite and Ms. Tuese from Bolton & Menk explained the following:
Existing greenhouse gases (GHG) for HWY is 37,045 MTCO2e/year. The existing 230 acres of cropland output is 185.28 MTCO2e/year. Total: 37,230.28 MTCO2e/year. The output from the proposed project would be 35,221.87 MORE MTCO2e/year. The per acre GHG is 315 MRCO2e/year vs. the current 161.87 MTCO2e/year.
There are no Minnesota or National ambient air quality standards for GHGs so there is no threshold identified.
Traffic levels in this study included a 20-mile stretch to include commuters.
While it was clear some things couldn't be answered due to the lack of studies, the council determined that the EAW was complete enough to move on to the 30 day comment period that ran from September 20th-October 20th.
(Just hours before this meeting a tragic accident at the Hwy14/CR17/27 intersection later took the life of a young lady. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.
Despite changes to this intersection it continues to be an issue and simply can't safely handle a larger volume of traffic from more development.)
November 7th - Once again, the livestream is not started on time and misses a good chunk of the MMP discussion. (I have reached out to the city administrator about these issues. They understand the frustration and have been working to make sure things are running on time).
Mike spoke to address his submitted comments being included in black/white vs. color. The reason this is important is that a map showing the topography of the proposed area needs the color shading to the change in land elevation. It calls into question whether or not the proposed berms/walls would even be tall enough in some areas.
At this meeting the council would again need to determine if there was sufficient information to make a decision on the need for an EIS. Included in this discussion is information provided in the meeting packet that included public comments that were submitted during the public comment period that ran from September 20th to October 20th. Some items addressed by Mr. Donayre from Bolton & Menk:
the projects effect on the wildlife
the DNRs comment that Eagle Lake South is a designated wildlife lake
the noise impact from this project
the impact of the noise on the shore of the lake
Sound modeling - that there are no studies or models to provide parameters. There is an "unpublished sound study" by a researcher who has supposedly looked at this and found no indication of effect on migrating birds.
there is no need to conduct an in-depth wildlife use survey as no public data suggests that waterfowl utilize the lake for nesting (but lake users and trail users can view this nesting so this claim is very questionable)
There is additional items but it's the same stuff that has already been discussed as it's clear the studies needed are outdated or simply don't exist (meeting minutes with more of the items can be found here). Council discussion included the desire that the responses from the DNR comments be fully vetted and that they would like to see responses to other comments that were submitted.
Mayor Auringer stated that he was looking for the report to contain written responses to all of the comments (as it was the first round of comments) and that he would like it addressed before an EIS decision would be made. He proposed a postponement of a decision for up to 30 days to allow for those responses to be received and provided to the council 2 weeks prior to the December 5th meeting. He moved, and seconded by Councilmember Steinberg, to declare insufficient information and to postpone the EIS decision to the December 5th meeting. It carried with the mayor and all council members voting in favor.
This is what, the 4th time that a decision for this project has been delayed because information was lacking? It's not that they can't tell us, they won't because it won't help their argument. They can't prove irreparable damage wouldn't occur to the proposed area and the wildlife near and on a designated wildlife lake. Additionally, they can not show that this project would not have a cumulative effect on climate change.
***From the lack of information in the original EAW, the inadequate responses to the requests of the appeals court, the supplemented subpar information to the EAW, and the extensions to gather yet more information - there is no doubt. This is way over the heads of the city council - it's not their job. It needs to go to the agencies qualified to provide needed insight of the impacts. In all my research over 3 years I have yet to find a project of this nature (road course, no drag strip or big events) that has been successful AND located next to a noted wildlife lake. Projects like this aren't built near areas like that for a reason. Protections exist and should be respected. This needs to move forward with an Environmental Impact Statement.***
December 5th - While on the agenda for presentations, Bolton and Menk representatives do not actually have a presentation, they are there to answer questions (25:30 mark). At this point the city council should have had the requested information (responses to comments submitted during the 30 day comment period) for almost 2 weeks.
Nearly every single response points the reader back to the original EAW (that was deemed insufficient with addressing the noise impact on the wildlife and the cumulative effect this propose project could have on climate change) or the 2022 supplemented piece - the VERY document being questioned.
They can't tell you how the noise would impact airborne wildlife's ability to sense direction for not only their flight plan, but mating and protection.
They can't seem to answer how they studied wildlife nesting in the trees (not just on the ground). But they are looking to add more trees to attract wildlife.
They are looking to attract the Rusty Patch Bubblebee with native grasses - surrounded by track.
They want to deter wildlife (for their convenience) but attract it as well. For what? To be in the way of high speed vehicles? To have geese milling around? Wildlife burrowing into the dirt berms?
Mike presented (at 49:30) to discuss some of the submitted comments, namely by the MNDNR, who have repeatedly stated this project should be located elsewhere. The only outside source used by the developer is an article written about the Grand Prix event in Melbourne, Australia about the effect the event had on local black swans. This study finishes with stating that further studies are warranted. (Did the developer's team not read the entire article?).
Finally, at the 1:41:10 mark, there is the discussion preceding the decision on whether or not an Environmental Impact Statement is needed. As stated about the council discussion in the meeting minutes "Concern about wildlife impact was expressed" and it was clear members did not fully understand what an EIS would do. It was clear that few of them understood that they were given regurgitated information in response to their request for the developers answers to submitted concerns. The council expressed interest for more answers to their questions, but in the end, they voted 4-1 to NOT move forward with an EIS. Mayor Auringer was again, the sole vote to do an EIS.
****After this meeting, we saw the developer and a former city councilman congratulating each other in the hall outside of the meeting room. We never had any doubt about involvement from this former councilman, but the brazen display of their relationship seemed pretty unprofessional. Oddly enough, when we filed a complaint after this councilman sent me a message outlining his involvement, it didn't seem to violate any kind of ethics. A council person using their position to advance a project they could possibly benefit from with their own business? Doesn't seem right but until more people start speaking up nothing will change.****