Tri-County Paving wants to open a new quarry on the east side of the Village of Windsor, close to the Town of Bristol and the City of Sun Prairie.
The company believes that it could add 20 to 25 jobs and help Tri-County Paving remain competitive in bidding for jobs in the area.
Others raised a myriad of objections during a public hearing on the matter Thursday, Aug. 13, before the Windsor Plan Commission.
“A quarry just doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the area,” said Robert Paske, of Sun Prairie, who lives near Egre Road within a mile of the proposed site. He is worried about property values for homes in the area decreasing if a mine is nearby.
Sitting adjacent to Highway C, south of Vinburn Road and north of Happy Valley Road, the property for the proposed nonmetallic mine spans more than 240 acres, although the actual mining site area is just over 84 acres. The rest of the 156 acres will provide a buffer to protect adjacent parcels from adverse impacts of the mining site operation, such as noise, dust, odors, blasting and other issues.
Currently, the land is zoned exclusively for agriculture production, and as far as future land use goes, it is an agricultural preservation area. Tri-County Paving is asking that it be rezoned to a nonmetallic mining operation district.
“This is very emotional both for and against,” said Windsor Plan Commission Chairperson Bob Wipperfurth, who also serves as the village president.
No action was taken by the plan commission. Wipperfurth indicated that six letters had been submitted opposing the plan.
The public hearing was intended solely to address whether the proposed quarry is compatible with the village’s comprehensive plan. Questions regarding such issues as light, noise and dust control, air and water quality, waste and hazardous materials, and blasting will be taken up at a later public hearing on the company’s application for an operator’s license.
Next, the Windsor Village Board will discuss the rezone and mining operator’s license applications at its Sept. 3 meeting. The board will take no action at that meeting, but will provide comments to the plan commission on the rezone application.
Then, on Oct. 8, the plan commission will meet again to make a recommendation to the village board on the rezone application only. The village board will next hold a public hearing on the rezone and mining operator’s license applications on Nov. 5, with no action being taken at that time either.
At its meeting on Nov. 15, the village board is expected to make its decision on the rezoning request and the mining operator’s license.
Before the Aug. 13 public hearing, Wipperfurth addressed plan commission member Kay Hoffman’s involvement. She had already recused herself from the discussion. The property in question is owned by Steve and Maureen Hoffman.
Wipperfurth said Hoffman, like any other citizen, has the right to bring forth such an application, whether they are on the commission or not.
Jamie Rybarczyk, the village’s deputy administrator and director of economic development, gave a presentation on the mine proposal, explaining that the Village of DeForest will not be reviewing it. Meanwhile, the City of Sun Prairie has the ability to review it, according to Rybarczyk, but can take no official action on it. Rybarczyk said Sun Prairie can provide comments to Windsor on the proposal.
Windsor Village Attorney William Cole talked about a notice regarding commission members attending an observation of blasting at the site. Cole said it was a private event on private land, and no public action was taken. He admitted the notice was “inartful” in how it was crafted, as Cole said it could have implied debate might take place at the event.
“In my view, it was noticed properly,” said Cole.
Regarding any ex parte communication that may have taken place, Cole said people are free to discuss with public officials about what they want. Cole said no discussion of the merits of the project took place, and there was no quorum.
Within the parcel area are residences, detached accessory structures and agricultural buildings, along with cropland for soybean, wheat, corn, oats and alfalfa, plus native wildlife, plant life and an intermittent stream to the west and wetlands to the southeast.
Access to the mining area would come from Highway C, approximately a quarter mile south of Vinburn Road. An intersection for Highway C and the access driveway will be constructed to Wisconsin Department of Transportation specifications requiring an acceleration, deceleration and bypass lane for a constant flow of traffic. The access driveway will be paved with asphalt.
Rybarczyk said no other traffic measures are expected and explained that most of the truck traffic will head south for Sun Prairie.
The mining site is expected to come together in five phases, with village approval required for each of them. The first is 17 acres, with Phase II comprising 16.9 acres. The third phase is 18.8 acres, followed by Phase IV’s 14.4 acres and Phase V’s 17.2 acres.
“We want them to prove they can be a good neighbor and operate without any negative effects in the surrounding areas,” said Rybarczyk.
Geologically speaking, the site consists of 2-12 inches of topsoil, plus 3-4 feet of clay and 65 feet of limestone.
The north end of the mining area will feature employee and equipment parking, the crushing area, and the portable scale and portable scale house. It will be screened and secured by a 6-foot security fence topped with barbed wire, along with a locking gate at the access drive entrance.
Buffer areas of 300 feet from bordering parcels and 500 feet from any structures occupied by humans or livestock will be in place in the mining area.
Regarding water samples taken at the site, Rybarczyk said they have shown lead and nitrates concentrations.
Terry Wenger, president of Tri-County Paving, spoke at the public hearing. The reason for opening the quarry is simple. “It’s to make money,” said Wenger. “That’s what we’re in business for.”
Wenger also said, however, the new quarry will save the company and its customers money, and provide more good-paying jobs for drivers and pavers, among others.
“These employees’ families will live and work here, and go to school in the area,” said Wenger.
Wenger also said that since 2008 two union asphalt companies in the area have shut down, and only three are left. Tri-County Paving also bids on 80 percent of the work put out by Windsor, said Wenger. He also said that the company has done $7 million in municipal work for DeForest, Windsor and Sun Prairie alone.
“These are not small dollars,” said Wenger. “These are large dollars that go toward roads that need fixing.”
Wenger said the company contacted all neighbors six months ago, inviting them to visit their operations and discuss their concerns.
Regarding the five phases, Wenger said that was different than what was presented initially in order to keep farming going around the quarry. It goes along with the idea of eventually reclaiming the land for agricultural purposes. The mining operation is expected to continue to year 2080, depending on the economic market. Over time, Wenger feels the reclaimed farmland will eventually be better than it is at the present.
“By no means are we taking farmland away,” said Wenger. “We’re borrowing the land.”
The mining operation, if approved, would have two to three employees and produce aggregate mineral products for building and road projects, but not limited to those kinds of jobs.
As for the location, Wenger said it was in the right location to help keep the company’s costs down. Meanwhile, Wenger reasoned that the new quarry would result in building infrastructure, adding housing and expanding the tax base of the community.
A number of area residents spoke in opposition to the mine.
Along with his concerns about future declining property values, Paske is worried about potentially harmful effects to the Token Creek watershed.
Paske also said that even if the village turns down the quarry, modifying the zoning for the property would lead to repeated requests for mines there.
“This will come up again in five years. This will come up again in 10 years. This will come up again in 15 years,” said Paske.
Daniel Hopkins, an agent at Atlas Capital on Egre Road in Sun Prairie, said, “I don’t see the risk versus reward here.”
Regarding comments about improved reclaimed farmland, Hopkins said, “Great. We’ll all be dead by then.”
While Hopkins appreciates Tri-County Paving’s attempts to save money with the quarry, he doesn’t like that they could adversely impact other nearby businesses.
Alan Harvey, a local attorney, is a vocal opponent of the proposed quarry.
“It doesn’t come close to meeting comprehensive plan requirements,” said Harvey.
Noting that the land is zoned for agriculture, Harvey said, “It should remain in production agriculture and not be converted for non-agricultural purposes.”
The overriding issue, Harvey said, is the bad precedent that would be set by granting the rezoning. Harvey said it would open the floodgates for non-agricultural uses in Windsor.
Harvey said there were 100 homes within a 1-mile radius of the site, with more going for approval.
As for the phases of the project, Harvey said he is troubled by the approach. He feels that approval of Phase I would be “de facto support” for the whole project.
Harvey appealed to commissioners’ respect for the public trust in them.
“Don’t throw aside our values over a quarry proposal that is nebulous,” said Harvey.
Tim Lange is a citizen representative on the plan commission. He said he is torn about the issue, noting that Tri-County needs the quarry and does a lot of work in the area. But, Lange also expressed concern about the reclamation of that farmland if it is run as a quarry.
Dave Gaustad, another citizen representative on the plan commission, was also concerned about taking the land out of agricultural zoning.
Wipperfurth was also conflicted, realizing that the company needs aggregate, but wonders if it should be at the expense of losing farmland.
“It’s an issue that tears at people’s heartstrings,” said Wipperfurth.