From: Joan Schnabel
and Jeff Falk
The Buffalo County moratorium has now ended. At least one application for non-metallic mining has already been filed and one mine that was previously denied has announced that it will submit a new application. The new zoning ordinance is in place, as are the new policies and procedures. While there are still many weak areas, there have been some positive changes, such as reference in the ordinance to “cumulative effects,” and the restriction that any transload facility, or rail spur, must be zoned industrial.
Another positive is that the town (township) will now have 45 days to review a mine application proposed for that Town. While the opinion of the town is not binding, if the town is clearly opposed to the mine, the Board of Adjustment will have to give that serious consideration. Along those same lines, each town is mandated to pass, by ordinance, a comprehensive land use plan, as is the County. The County loses big bucks in grant funding if it does not comply. Again, a strong comprehensive land-use plan in favor of agriculture and tourism--and against any more industrial sand mining--can give the BOA justification for denying a mine.
Towns are also allowed to adopt “village powers,” which can give them a great deal of say in what happens in the towns. Even though there can be a great deal of overlap in regulation of mining, village powers are NOT considered zoning (Wisconsin Supreme court Feb 2012 _ZWIEFELHOFER V. TOWN OF COOKS VALLEY)
Although Buffalo County has countywide zoning, a town which has adopted village powers might choose to set limits on the size of a mine, or the hours of operation. Currently, the Town of Belvidere is the only town in the county to have created a licensing ordinance under village powers.
So please contact your town supervisors, chair, or clerk. Ask them what procedure they will use during the 45-day application-review process. How will the residents of the town be notified and involved? When will the town board be meeting to discuss and adopt the Comprehensive Land-use Plan? Again, how will citizen input be provided? Pay attention. Let them know you are interested. We can make a huge difference by laying the groundwork to keep our townships strong and representative of our conservation and agricultural values. To find your township officials, go to the county website: buffalocounty.com, go to the left margin, and click on “municipalities.” And while you’re at it, contact your Buffalo County supervisors, and give them the same message.