Tri-County Paving’s plan to open a new quarry in the Village of Windsor has its detractors.
“No Quarry” signs have been popping up in the area near the proposed site on the Hoffman Farm property, which is accessible from Highway C, about a quarter mile south of Vinburn Road.
A group has created a Facebook page titled “Windsor Wisconsin Residents – ‘No to the Quarry’” that has 278 members, as of Monday, Sept. 28.
Additionally, a number of locals have offered their opinions – some in favor of the plan and others expressing opposition – on the matter to Windsor officials, whether through email or by speaking at village meetings.
One of the most outspoken critics is local attorney Alan J. Harvey, who sat on the Windsor Board and Plan Commission for more than 30 years.
In a memorandum recently submitted to the Windsor Village Board and Plan Commission, Harvey challenges the efficacy and legality of the proposal.
“Frankly, this application is generating a groundswell of public concern and opposition,” writes Harvey. “This may well be the issue of the decade for Windsor officials and I suspect you have only heard the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of citizen feedback.”
Tri-County Paving is looking to have the 240.9-acre parcel rezoned to a nonmetallic mining operation district, while also applying for a mining operator’s license. The property is currently zoned as an agricultural district exclusively, with its native wildlife and plant life, wetlands, and an intermittent stream.
A public hearing on the matter took place on Aug. 13. Another is due to be held Nov. 5, with the Village Board looking to make a decision on the rezoning and the mining operator’s license at its Nov. 15 meeting.
Tri-County Paving has argued that the quarry will help the company stay competitive, allowing it to make aggregate mineral products to be sold and hauled from the mining site. Additionally, the quarry would bring up to 20 new jobs to the area, company representatives have stated. They have also attempted to quell concerns over the potential for declining property values in the area, noise, light and dust problems, increased truck traffic on area roads and possible detrimental environmental impacts, especially to the Token Creek Watershed.
The plan is to phase in five different portions of the quarry in increments of 14 to 20 acres, each of which would have to be approved by the Village of Windsor. Tri-County Paving has contended that the land will eventually be reclaimed and restored as farmland. Depending on market conditions, the lifespan of the mining operation is expected to run through the year 2080.
Comprehensive plan quandary
Harvey is arguing that Tri-County’s rezoning request is not valid because it goes against Wisconsin statute requirements that such plans be consistent with local comprehensive plans.
Harvey writes in his memorandum that it “is wildly in conflict” with the Windsor Comprehensive Plan 2035.
“The present Windsor Comprehensive Plan 2035 would first have to be substantially amended to even properly consider a quarry use in this location, and the statutory amending procedure is lengthy with many required steps and hearings,” writes Harvey.
Harvey contends the comprehensive plan “does not sanction or imply acceptance of an industrial-type deep quarry at this location in the heart of Windsor’s protected Exclusive Agricultural Zone and Agricultural Enterprise (AEA) area.”
There is nothing in Windsor’s comprehensive plan that supports a conversion for quarry use or any other non-agricultural purposes, according to Harvey, except in several specific stated exceptions. Therefore, Harvey asserts that Windsor officials cannot approve the rezoning “without profoundly violating the statutory plan consistency mandate.”
Harvey cites parts of the comprehensive plan that identify agricultural and natural resources policies and objectives, including a goal to “maintain and protect the Village of Windsor’s rural character and agricultural base.”
Furthermore, Harvey cites the comprehensive plan’s objectives to protect continued agricultural uses for the area east of Highway 51 and north of Windsor Road.
Harvey also makes the claim that the applicants haven’t offered any reasons for how their proposal would satisfy the comprehensive plan.
Two past quarry proposals for the site have been rejected by Windsor. Harvey said precedent matters in such cases, and stipulations within the village’s comprehensive plan and zoning code related to land zoned for agricultural purposes strengthens the argument for denial, writes Harvey.
“Another important factor is that countless Windsor citizens have worked for decades to protect this irreplaceable farmland zone and we have many young farmers depending on this,” writes Harvey. “Homeowners live in Windsor for the quality of life provided by nearby open spaces and farmland. Windsor’s farmland protections and targeted balanced growth efforts, whether it be exclusive agricultural zoning, state AEA designation, fighting annexations and Windsor’s successful drive to incorporate, are at the very heart of Windsor’s land use planning and our identity as a community. The production of food and fiber is endlessly renewable, while a quarry is not.”
If the village grants the rezoning request, Harvey feels it would amount to an approval of a use not authorized by the village’s comprehensive plan or its zoning code.
That could open the floodgates for other non-agricultural use requests and subsequent approvals.
“Countless individuals and companies can assert that it would be ‘good for their business,’ just like Tri-County Paving, if they could convert some of Windsor’s farmland to non-farm use instead of conducting business at another location,” writes Harvey.
Harvey also opines that there is nothing special or unique about this plan that makes it different from past ones that have been turned down.
“It would be ‘death by a thousand cuts’ for Windsor’s priceless farmland areas and there would be no going back,” writes Harvey.
Also worried about the effect on the Token Creek Watershed, Harvey wonders why property value guarantees included in past quarry proposals to protect adjacent property owners weren’t included this time. He also thinks the notion of project phasing is flawed, arguing that approval of these “trial phases” would be tantamount to approving the entire project.
Harvey feels the rezoning review process has been flawed, suggesting that a violation of the Wisconsin Open Meeting Law may have occurred when some members of the Village Board and Plan Commission took part in an inspection of a Town of Vienna quarry operated by the rezoning applicants. Harvey takes issue with how the meeting was noticed.
Harvey said Tri-County Paving reached out to him and offered to meet one-on-one, but although he wrote that he appreciated the gesture, he refused.
“I think the public is troubled by the degree of secrecy which has occurred to date, however well-intentioned,” writes Harvey.
Harvey isn’t the only one who opposes the quarry.
Windsor officials have been gathering opinions from the community on the matter, with more than 80 pieces of correspondence included in the Sept. 3 village board meeting packet.
A letter from Rod and Luana Schneider, who live on Highway C, says, “We have seen what has been done on other reclaimed sites and it definitely is not restored to pristine farmland. How will this be any different when digging such a big hole in the ground?”
The Schneiders’ correspondence indicates that they are more comfortable with Tri-County than the previous applicant, but added, “However, do not assume that we are favor of such a site.”
Carol Miller, a Sun Prairie resident, noted she is a biology and chemistry major in her correspondence. She wrote, “Reclamation of this land after mining is not possible. When a farmer spreads their manure for fertilization all those layers of rock act as a natural filtration system to purify the rainwater so by the time the rain reaches the water table, it has been purified. Remove all those layers of rock and the water table will be contaminated.”
The Hoffman family disagrees. Its letter in support of the plan says, “We feel the cropland will be improved after reclamation, due to more topsoil and less rocks on the surface. Neighboring farmers that have worked with us on that hill agree.” It goes on to say that Tri-County Paving “will do everything in its power to minimize any impacts.”
Kou Pa wrote that he and his family moved to Windsor from Madison’s east side, where they lived near a rock quarry on East Buckeye Road and Milwaukee Street. “That experience has taught me that I didn’t want to live next to another rock quarry again.”
Pa writes that if this quarry is established, he and his family will look to relocate. Pa goes on saying, “I can tell you that history and science has proven that the true environmental impact of something like rezoning conservations could take decades to manifest itself and be irreparable for generations to come.”
Lee Kernen, a Windsor resident who is the retired Director of Fisheries for the Department of Natural Resources, has also offered his input, noting that the “project can only do harm, not good.” Kernen explained, “The groundwater that flows out of the Token Creek Springs comes from the north. If a huge hole is dug directly above that aquifer, it could disrupt that flow and jeopardize the cleanest source of water for Lake Mendota.”
Other letters mentioned potential increases in truck traffic and related safety issues, noise and vibrations from blasting and dirt and dust.
There were some letters of support, including one from Ryan and Kelly Bendixen, of DeForest. It took issue with some of the complaints directed against the project, even arguing that it could be good for local roads.
“More traffic will require better road quality further solidifying the need for the quarry and the gravel that it would produce,” they write.
Furthermore, the letter from the Bendixens says, “Tri-County has been a staple in this community for over 30 years. Many of its employees live in the Village and surrounding areas. The benefits of having a long standing and local company open this quarry far outweighs the negative.”