Fire department training burn will not happen in Independence

The Maple Plain and Loretto Fire Departments are looking for buildings that can be set on fire and used to give firefighters hands on training in real life situations.

Earlier this year, the two fire departments thought they had a likely structure. Stephen and Mary Lindholm, of Clarkfield offered a vacant home on property they own at 3212 Independence Road in Independence. The training burn would have saved the Lindholms $12,000 in demolition costs.

However, because of terms of a legal settlement, the two departments have discovered that using the Lindholm house for a training burn is not an option.

Plans for the burn, originally scheduled for July 19, alarmed Mark and Sheri Fischer, who live next door to the Lindholm property. Sheri had had three surgeries on her sinuses during the past year, and she did not want to risk breathing smoky air. She also expressed concerned about her six horses that occupy a pasture near the Lindholm house. Mark Fischer pointed out that the house is close to Lake Independence, an impaired water body.

The Fischers took the issue before the Independence City Council in June. The council told the two fire departments not to burn the house on July 19 so that the city could get more information on state regulations and environmental and health regulations pertaining to training fires.

Not satisfied, the Fischers went to court and filed an injunction against the Maple Plain and Loretto Fire Departments and the city of Independence that called for them to stop the training burn. Then on Tuesday, July 22, Independence City Attorney Robert Vose learned that attorneys for the Lindholms and the Fischers have settled the law suit out of court.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Lindholms have agreed not to burn the house and, instead, tear it down “in an appropriate manner,” according to a July 22 e-mail to Vose from Patrick Michenfelder, attorney for the Fischers.

City Attorney Vose announced the settlement at the July 22 Independence City Council meeting. At the meeting, the council took up other business. Here are some meeting highlights.


The city council was getting ready to pass a 30-day temporary ordinance that called for no wakes from watercraft being operated on all of Lake Independence during periods of high water. The purpose of the temporary ordinance would be to provide time for Medina and Independence to collaborate on enacting a permanent no wake ordinance for the entire lake. Currently, ordinances for the two cities prohibit wakes within 250 feet of shore on Lake Independence during periods of high water.

City Councilor Brad Spencer said he discovered that the temporary ordinance is not necessary. The Department of Natural Resources told him that a temporary 30 day ordinance is meant as an emergency measure for cities that do not have no wake ordinances in place. The high water situation is not an emergency for Lake Independence, and, very likely, no wake restrictions for the lake would be lifted Friday, July 25.

Meanwhile, Medina City Administrator Scott Johnson said on July 23 that no wake restrictions would, in fact, be lifted on that Friday.

The Independence Council directed city staff to work with the city of Medina on a permanent no wake ordinance that would go into effect on all of Lake Independence during periods of high water. The ordinance change is meant to make no wake regulations easier to enforce.


The city council approved a letter to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency expressing Independence’s support of Loretto as the latter city deals with wastewater issues. State Representative Jerry Hertaus already has gotten the city of Greenfield to write a similar letter, and he is seeking letters from Medina, Maple Plain and the Pioneer Sarah Creek Watershed Management Commission.

Loretto Mayor Kent Koch told the Independence council that his city is caught between Pollution Control Agency water quality requirements for Lake Independence and the Metropolitan Council’s decision to delay for three years the expansion of its sanitary sewer system to Loretto. The Met Council originally had planned to hook up Loretto to metro sanitary sewers by 2017. Because of this plan, Loretto agreed to close its wastewater treatment ponds and eliminate the city’s phosphorus input to Lake Independence by 2017. Now the Met Council’s capital improvement plan mentions 2020 as the date for Loretto to get metro sewers.

The Pollution Control agency has said that Loretto needs to provide compelling reasons for an extension of the city’s wastewater permit to 2020, along with the cost of a temporary solution via the Tri-City sewer system located in Medina, Greenfield and Independence. Meanwhile, Medina, operator of the Tri-City system, has no desire to let Loretto connect because of capacity concerns, according to Loretto Mayor Koch.


The city council also:

CANCELLED the Aug. 12 regular City Council meeting because of primary elections and voted to meet instead at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19.

APPROVED a minor subdivision and lot line arrangement for the Jill Robbins properties located at 3570 Lake Sarah Road.

AUTHORIZED an additional $10,000 for city road improvements for this year.

DISCUSSED the Pioneer-Sarah Creek Watershed Management Commission, which the Board of Water and Soil Resources has criticized for lack of leadership on water quality projects. City Councilor Brad Spencer described several watershed district options for Independence, including the possibility of forming a small watershed district with Medina.

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]