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Lanesboro residents frustrated with city over completed grain bin violating height restrictions

Many Lanesboro residents want to see action from the city after a grain bin was built despite violating the city's height restriction and having an approved variance, or amendment. Residents believe the bin to be a safety hazard for where it's located.

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The grain storage bin at 18 Beacon Street in Lanesboro. The bin currently violates the city's height limit for structures and does not have an approved variance at this time.
Contributed / John Levell
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LANESBORO, Minn. – Towering over the city of Lanesboro is a newly built grain storage bin that many residents already want to see torn down.

Residents such as John Levell, who’s lived in Lanesboro for the last 27 years, believe the 100-foot plus structure – at 18 Beacon Street – has a negative impact on the city, worrying the structure is a safety hazard with where it’s located and being well above the city’s 45-foot height restriction for structures.

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“When they dry the corn, there’s all these particles in the air and these particles will get in your central air conditioning units outside,” Levell said. “There’s been times when it looks like it’s snowing there’s so much of it in the air. So any person with respiratory issues, it’s probably not good that they would be breathing it.”

Levell and other Lanesboro residents planned to voice these concerns at a public hearing for a variance request for the grain bin on May 18, 2022, but the meeting was postponed nearly an hour before it was supposed to take place.

“Our city attorney and city engineer requested additional time to review the information for the building permit, the variance application and the city ordinances,” City Administrator Michele Peterson said to the Post Bulletin in an email. “The hearing had originally been called for May 2022 at the direction of the city attorney, as the posted notice for the original hearing did not state a variance request for height, although it was included in the original application. In short, we are reviewing the details to ensure proper administration of the application submitted.”

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Peterson said the meeting hasn’t been rescheduled at this time, but said it will take place this summer.

In December 2020, Richard Horifan of RLH Grain, LLC, applied for a building permit for the new grain bin. The plans submitted for the permit showed the bin in violation of the height restriction and a variance – an amendment to the height restrictions – needed to be applied for, Peterson said.

Horifan or any representative of RLH Grain, LLC, did not respond to interview requests.

A public hearing in January 2021 was held where the Lanesboro Planning and Zoning Commission recommended to the city council the variance application be approved, which the council did in February 2021.

With the permits and variance application approved, construction began in April 2022 and was finished the same month. During the construction process, the city restarted the variance application for the grain bin due to the posted notice for the original hearing not stating a variance request for height. Peterson informed Horifan to secure the structure and stop the construction of the bin.

Levell and other Lanesboro residents believe Horifan defied the city’s orders to cease construction, but Peterson said she instructed Horifan to complete construction for safety reasons.

“I asked for the structure to get to a point where it can get secured, and that did mean completion of the structure,” Peterson said. “Obviously, I didn’t want it to increase the safety hazard by having something that couldn’t be secured midway.”

For Levell, he believes the grain bin being completed despite not having an approved variance at the time has made it “impossible for people to participate” in local politics in Lanesboro.

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“I’d like to say that this is just some oversight, but I’ve been here too long,” Levell said. “I’ve seen the same scenario play out multiple times here. You’ve built this thing. It’s outside of the variance, you have a variance meeting after the structure is completed, and then you go ahead and approve it… I’m not going to be here much longer. I can’t take these politics.”

Erich is a digital content producer at the Post Bulletin where he creates content for the Post Bulletin's digital platforms. Before he moved to Rochester, Erich worked as a sports reporter for Rivals.com covering the University of Illinois' athletic programs in Champaign, Illinois. Readers can reach Erich at 507-285-7681 or efisher@postbulletin.com.
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