Isanti County getting tired of business' CUP non-compliance

Several large piles of shredded tires are easily seen from the entrance of First State Tire. The county and fire marshal require these piles be no more than 10 feet tall. 

Isanti County Planning Commission and the County Board of Commissioners have been grappling with what to do about First State Tire, which is out of compliance with its conditional use permit (CUP). 

The permit allows 30 days for the business to regain compliance with the permit, but the business has been out of compliance for several months. 

The issue was first addressed at a county board meeting in November, and was again addressed at the Jan. 22 county board meeting. It is scheduled to be addressed at an upcoming committee of the whole meeting, and at a joint meeting of the board of commissioners and planning commission Feb. 27.

First State Tire recycles used tires to be shredded and used for a number of different purposes. A complaint regarding the business was received in September 2019 regarding the tire piles, and a letter was sent to owner Monte Niemi regarding the issue and that his permit was in need of review.

The last review of the business’ conditional use permit was in September 2014, and the permit is scheduled to be reviewed every two years. The business was found to be out of compliance with its permit during an inspection Nov. 6, 2019, with the two main concerns being tire piles exceeding the 10-foot height requirement and only one row of evergreen trees between the business and Minnesota Highway 65.

Isanti Planning Commission began reviewing First State Tire’s conditional use permit at its Nov. 14 meeting. During that meeting, it was noted the height limitation for tire shred piles is due to safety in the case of a fire at the facility. It was also noted that the business is still producing tire shred, but there is no place to store it.

At the meeting in November, Joe Otte of Wenk Engineering was present, and stated that Niemi has pioneered tire shreds and their benefits. An employee of First State Tire was also present and stated the business is working with the county to have the piles come into compliance. The review of the permit was tabled until the Jan. 9 planning commission meeting.

At the Jan. 9 planning commission meeting, Niemi gave a presentation detailing his future projects, as well as projects that have already been completed. He also stated that the hauling of the tire shred off the property is not going as planned due to needing storage site permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The long-term plan is to have permitted staging sites throughout the state for tire shred storage, but it may take up to six to eight months to get MPCA permits.

Zoning Administrator Trina Bergloff conducted another site review Jan. 7 to ascertain if any progress had been made to bring the business into compliance with its conditional use permit since the last inspection in November. Although two of the 13 tire shred piles had decreased slightly, all piles were still in noncompliance with the 10-foot height restriction. 

Isanti Fire Chief Al Jankovich was also present at the Jan. 9 meeting and reported he inspected the site the previous week and his concerns were flammability, self-combustion and cooling methods of the tires. He noted the fire code rule of tire storage is 10 feet, and there is an emergency plan in place for 10-foot piles. He noted that the tire piles do not comply with the fire code at this time, and if a fire were to occur, it would take up to one week to extinguish due to how tires burn.

During its Jan. 22 meeting, the Isanti Board of Commissioners heard from Marty Seifert, who was representing First State Tire and was hired to work with the business to help it come into compliance with its permit. 

He stated the business is diligently working to come into compliance with its conditional use permit, noting the business met with the MPCA for two hours. 

“We are going to try to have those tire piles put into compliance as soon as we can,” he stated.

A letter from the fire marshal gave the business until March 31 to be in compliance with fire code regarding the height of the tire shred piles. However, in order to comply with everything in the letter from the fire marshal, the layout of the business needs to be adjusted, Seifert said. 

“We’re going to have to work with your planning and zoning department to make sure that footprint is accommodated, that we have the conditional use permit amended,” he said. “MPCA is going to work with us on that, as well.”

The business already has a contract in place to plant an additional row of evergreens on the east side of the property to bring that into compliance, and it is working to bring the tire piles into compliance, Seifert noted.

“As this comes to your board for consideration, we’re asking not to put those 50 people out on the street,” Seifert said, speaking about the 50 people employed by First State Tire. “We know that we are over deadline on some things. I realize that, but I’m asking for your understanding and patience.”

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