The Village of Windsor’s Plan Commission voted Thursday, Oct. 8, to reject a rezoning application from Tri-County Paving for a new quarry.
“Looking at the location, that’s where it becomes more complex for me,” said Windsor Village President Bob Wipperfurth, who is also on the Plan Commission.
Kristine Schmidt, a member of the Plan Commission and the Windsor Village Board, said the location was also something she opposed. Schmidt also said she did not believe that the Tri-County Paving proposal met conditions of the village’s comprehensive plan.
“I believe it would not uphold the agricultural quality of the land,” said Schmidt.
A resolution denying the company’s rezoning application was passed by a 5-1 Plan Commission vote. William LeGore cast the lone no vote, with Wipperfurth, Schmidt, Dave Gaustad, Jeffrey Heisig and Tim Lange voting for the resolution to deny the rezoning request. Kay Hoffman recused herself from participating in the question. She and her husband own the property in question.
The Windsor Village Board will take up the rezoning application at its meeting on Oct. 15 and is expected to vote on the Plan Commission’s recommendation. Originally, a final decision from the village board was supposed to take place Nov. 5. Wipperfurth pushed for earlier action on the matter and indicated that if both bodies recommend denial of the application, the process would end and there would be no need for a public hearing on Tri-County’s request for a mining operator’s license.
“Given the anxiety among the public, and a lot of work being done by staff, I figured a decision needed to be made sooner,” said Wipperfurth.
Schmidt and other commission members had environmental concerns about the potential negative impact on the nearby Token Creek Watershed. There were other worries about the effect a quarry would have on home values in the area.
Tri-County Paving wants to establish the quarry on the Hoffman Farm property, located off of Highway C, about a quarter mile south of Vinburn Road, to mine aggregate used in road work. The company has said it needs the quarry to remain competitive and will bring jobs locally.
Wipperfurth said Tri-County Paving has been a good corporate citizen and has helped Windsor with its road projects.
Token Creek Conservancy impact
Jean Schneider, who chairs the Token Creek Conservancy Committee, spoke to the Plan Commission about the possible effects of the mine on the watershed. Schneider said that testing in the conservancy has shown a decline in water quality.
Schneider feels the proposed quarry planned for property within a mile of Token Creek Conservancy has the potential to make things worse.
“I see the quarry as a very big risk to the conservancy for water quality there,” said Schneider, who said decreased water quality is being seen throughout Dane County.
Dustin Gradel, vice president of Tri-County Paving, presented the case for the quarry.
“There are no facts to show that it would have a negative impact to Token Creek Conservancy, only worries,” said Gradel.
Gradel explained that the 40 to 50 feet of clean fill Tri-County Paving planned to install would clean contaminated water before it gets to groundwater. He also said that by lowering the existing slope of the land, that would reduce input into the existing creek.
Some Plan Commission members weren’t convinced.
Heisig said he could not support the proposed quarry because of its potential risk to the Token Creek Watershed, which spans 27 square miles of Dane County, with waters that drain into Token Creek. Situated between the DeForest-Windsor and Sun Prairie, the basin sends rainfall and snowmelt into Cherokee Marsh and then into Lake Mendota.
“It affects more than those within a one-mile radius,” said Heisig.
Wipperfurth also was concerned about the impact on Token Creek.
“If something were to happen to it, there would be no going back,” said Wipperfurth. “I’m not sure if we’re ready to take that risk, that gamble.”
Comprehensive plan conflicts
Some critics of the quarry proposal have opined that it conflicts with the village’s comprehensive plan. For that reason, some have said Windsor shouldn’t even consider the rezoning request.
William Cole, the attorney for the village, said that while it is up for reasonable debate whether or not a quarry runs contrary to stipulations in the comprehensive plan, preventing discussion of it is not appropriate.
“The applicant has a right to petition the government and the right to be heard, and the public is entitled to be heard about it,” said Cole.
At issue is that the 240-acre property, including the 84-acre mining area, being considered for the quarry is zoned exclusively for agriculture.
Schmidt said that she had witnessed blasting at another quarry and toured it, adding that she is impressed with Tri-County Paving and considers the company an “outstanding corporate citizen” of Windsor. She also said she liked how the company had invested extensively in the latest equipment and technology and appreciated that it planned to use electric crushes to cut down on noise, that it would use a lot of water to reduce dust and that it planned to make tarps mandatory for all trucks.
However, Schmidt also said the comprehensive plan protects prime agricultural land in the village “in one of the most productive agricultural areas in the state.” And she believes a quarry is not related to agriculture.
Gradel said that preserving farmland is a big part of the comprehensive plan, but also explained that Tri-County Paving plans allow for farm production on the property throughout the life of the quarry. Tri-County’s proposal calls for phasing in different parcels for mining in increments of 14 to 20 acres as a way to minimize the impact of the mine on the farmland.
Gradel also noted Tri-County plans for reclaiming the land for agriculture.
“We want to create equal or better farmland,” said Gradel.
Gradel also said that the Hoffman property is a unique piece of land holding materials to make aggregate that’s not available outside of the farmland preservation area.
“It is Tri-County’s goal to leave the land better than it was before,” said Gradel.
Gradel also talked about the possibility that Windsor and other communities will ultimately lose local control over mining decisions, if recent bills introduced in the State Legislature are any indication.
“Wouldn’t you rather have a quarry that conforms to Windsor ordinances?” asked Gradel.
LeGore said he thought that the quarry proposal was not inconsistent with the comprehensive plan, saying that he believes it doesn’t constitute permanent development for non-agricultural usage. He pointed to the company’s farmland reclamation plan as evidence.
Wipperfurth felt differently, noting the expected lifespan of the quarry.
“A temporary use of 60 to 80 years is not temporary,” said Wipperfurth.
The potential for declining home values in the area near the proposed quarry was another factor Plan Commission members considered.
In the past, Tri-County Paving has used the Mile Road Quarry as a comparison. Schmidt noted differences, as that quarry has been in operation since the 1980s, she said. Also, Schmidt talked about how nearby homes to that quarry had gone up across street, but that they had been built after the quarry was established.
On the other hand, homeowners who had built homes near the Hoffman property wanted to be near farmland, not a mining operation.
While Schmidt said she supported Tri-County’s need to protect itself against price-gouging, she couldn’t support putting a quarry at the planned location, but she also offered to work with Tri-County to help find an acceptable area for a new quarry.