PROPOSED CHANGES TO VESTED RIGHTS LAW BENEFIT FEW, DESTRUCTIVE TO MANY

SB464 and AB582 are an attempt to legislatively override local zoning and put the groundwater and thousands of acres of land in a single township at risk

SARATOGA, Wis. [January 4, 2016] – A pristine aquifer and thousands of acres of pine forest in one rural Wisconsin township are at risk if a proposal before Senate and Assembly committees makes its way through the legislative process, confirmed Attorney Paul Kent representing the Town of Saratoga in Wood County. A public hearing on SB464 is slated for 11a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5 in Senate Hearing Room 412E while AB582 comes before the Assembly Committee on Housing and Real Estate on Thursday, Jan. 7.

These bills include a provision that would retroactively apply an expanded concept of vested rights and in so doing limit a local government’s ability to protect the property rights and health of its residents, Kent said.

The Wysocki Family of Companies has proposed siting a 5300-cow dairy facility in the Town of Saratoga. Known as Golden Sands Dairy, it would encompass almost 6000 acres in the Town, some 4660 of which is managed pine forest that would be clear-cut for vegetable production. “If the proposed vested rights language passes, the original Wysocki building permit for six buildings on 98 acres could apply to thousands of additional acres in the Town,” Kent said.

“These bills are being supported by the Wysocki Family of Companies to further its attempt to override the Town’s zoning ordinance and a pending Court of Appeals decision on the scope of that zoning ordinance,” Kent said.  “Wysockis would like to sweep local zoning aside so that the only remaining review of the operation would be by the Department of Natural Resources.”

“The Town’s zoning was designed to protect the area’s fragile aquifer and sandy soils and was initiated in its 2007 comprehensive plan long before Golden Sands Dairy was proposed.  The problem for the Town, Kent explained, is that this area, as designated by the U.S. Geological Survey, is highly susceptible to groundwater contamination, and more than 5000 residents depend on the quality of that groundwater. The zoning was intended to protect public health and the property rights of those residents,” he explained.

The Wysocki proposal includes application of 55 million gallons of liquid manure and 25,000 tons of solid manure annually on the 4660 acres for vegetable production. “Manure application to that extent on those 4660 acres will compromise the soil and the groundwater in short order,” Kent said, “and threaten more than 500 residential wells in close proximity to those fields.”

These concerns are not hypothetical.  In recent months, monitoring wells at Wysocki’s Central Sands Dairy, which is sited on similar soil and located just across the Wisconsin river from Saratoga, have demonstrated nitrate levels as high as 77 parts per million (ppm), or nearly eight times the drinking water standard of 10 ppm, Kent said.

While this change would directly impact the Town of Saratoga, passage of the vested rights language in AB582/SB464 could also severely limit the ability of towns and other local governments to regulate frac sand mining and other land uses throughout the state, he said.

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About the Town of Saratoga

A township in Wood County, Wisconsin, Saratoga is home to 5385 residents. It is situated in the southeast corner of the county, bordering Juneau and Adams counties and includes Ten Mile Creek, Ross Lake, a portion of Nepco Lake and Five Mile Creek.  Its predominate land uses are woodlands owned by private landholders, residential subdivisions, limited agriculture (cranberry bogs), commercial developments along highways 13 & 73 and open spaces. The Town is listed on the US Geological Survey map as an area highly susceptible to groundwater contamination. The main aquifer consists of glacial sands and gravels resting approximately 20 feet below the land surface.

 

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