BEACH — Citing the absence of a council member, the Beach City Council tabled a rezoning decision regarding a proposed $7 million railroad expansion for the Beach Grain Cooperative following a public hearing at its regular meeting Monday night.
Beach Mayor Walter Losinski said Tuesday that the council “didn’t want to make a snap judgment” after about 20 people attended Monday’s meeting and others provided letters and comments both for and against the rezoning of 156 acres on the city’s east side from agriculture to commercial. The council’s next meeting is Oct. 6.
“We wouldn’t have done anything without a full council. It’s too big of an issue,” Losinski said. “It impacts more people than just the ag people. It impacts people on both sides. Everybody needed that extra time to wrap their heads around it. A lot of questions need to be asked and answered yet.”
Some residents of Beach, including those in a growing residential neighborhood adjacent to the proposed railroad expansion site, have spoken out against the project. Losinski said there are places where the rails would be within 40 feet of residentially zoned property.
“You’re talking close,” he said. “You’re talking in an area where there are young families and young kids. A lot of these people who have just built homes up in that area, their kids aren’t even in school. You’re looking at gradeschool-age kids down to toddlers, so there’s concern.”
Paul Latenschlager, manager of Beach Grain, said he was encouraged by Monday’s meeting and what he called “several letters of support” that were sent in by residents.
Beach Grain wants to build the railroad expansion so it can load 110-unit train cars. Currently, the elevator can only load 52-unit trains.
It has an agreement with Too Far Farms to purchase the land if it rezoned to commercial.
Latenschlager told The Press in August that BNSF Railway sends the cooperative fewer trains because of its inability to load 110-unit trains. He said Tuesday that BNSF is raising its freight rate for the cooperative 15 cents per bushel beginning in October.
“It’s very important that we get this in place if we want to continue operations the way we have,” Latenschlager said.