See more of the story

The city of Sartell is planning to convert an industrial landfill in the heart of the city into land usable for future developments.

In a closed session Monday, the Sartell City Council approved a purchase agreement with Cleveland, Ohio-based AIM Development to buy 167 acres just west of the Mississippi River for $800,000.

"Sartell City Council is confident that this decision will protect the best assets of our community — our residents," Nikki Sweeter, Sartell's engagement director, said in a news release.

AIM Development bought the former Verso paper mill site in 2013. The paper mill, which had operated on the shores of the Mississippi River for more than 100 years, was destroyed in an explosion on Memorial Day in 2012 that killed one worker.

The 2013 purchase included the industrial landfill site on Fourth Avenue S., which has stored solid waste from paper mill operations since opening in 1984.

In 2014, AIM applied to renew a permit with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The application asked to increase the area of land used for disposal and include nonhazardous waste from generators other than the paper mill.

The city opposed the application and has been in litigation with AIM since 2016. A district court ruled the landfill is limited to waste generated by the paper mill and disposal of waste from other generators would be an unpermitted expansion of the use allowed in zoning and permitting.

The state's appeals court affirmed the district court ruling, but the Minnesota Supreme Court last year reversed the lower court's ruling and found the owner of a facility for nonhazardous industrial waste can accept waste from additional sources.

The city's economic development authority will hold the property while the city exhumes or closes the landfill, plats the land and eventually sells the property for future development to recoup the purchase costs.

The former paper mill site on the east side of the river, also owned by AIM Development, is not included in the purchase agreement, but the agreement requires AIM to plat the property in preparation for a sale to a private party for future development.

Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299

Twitter: @bergjenny