A number of northside Waunakee residents weighed in during the village board’s public hearing regarding blasting issues Monday, some reporting cracks in their foundations, others with concerns about property values and environmental impacts.
The board scheduled the public hearing, followed by presentations regarding two sites where blasting has taken place – Veridian’s Heritage Hills subdivision east of Division Street and the Quincy Ridge Quarry bounded by Easy Street to the north and Schumacher Farm to the east.
With a legal challenge pending surrounding the decision that the quarry expansion is a permitted use, the discussion focused on regulations for blasting and mining. The Heritage developers and the company conducting the blasting there also weighed in.
Danielle Johnson, who lives near Easy and North Division streets, stated her whole house shakes when blasting occurs, and said the major concern among residents is financial.
“What does the village of Waunakee want its town to look like in five to 10 years?” Johnson said. She noted while the Heritage Hills blasting may be temporary, the quarry can continue to operate for years to come. Johnson said she is considering moving from Waunakee, but when she does so, she will be required to disclose that her home is near a blasting site.
“Who pays to fix the cracks in the basement? Who pays for the depreciation of my house? When I sell my house, I have to disclose that there’s blasting… What’s that going to do to potential buyers?” she said, noting Veridian will also have to inform buyers of homes in that development of the quarry.
Chris Ehlers of Veridian addressed the history of blasting in the village as neighborhoods have developed since the 1970s. He noted that the current stone extraction is at the future park site at the top of the hill. The stone will be used for road base, Ehlers said, adding the village’s 20-inch of road base is one of the most stringent requirements among surrounding communities, which require nine to 12 inches.
Ehlers added by keeping the operation on site, carbon emissions, costs and wear and tear to the existing roads are reduced as materials such as soils removed in the process of digging basements and stone extracted do not have be trucked in.
DJ Dolphin of Olson Explosives said data collected from the blasting site has shown the “rock is transferring energy more than predicted” but is within the state’s safe limits.
“With that said, the K value, which is the ground constant, is five to six times that of similar limestone within the Wisconsin region,” Dolphin said.
Ehlers said steps are being taken to reduce the impact of the blasts, and the extraction should be completed at the end of March for the park site. Other blasting will occur as road connections are made. Originally, the plan was to extract enough material to construct all roads in Heritage Hills, extending the blasting schedule to June, but the plan changed after neighbors raised concerns, Ehlers said.
Addressing Johnson’s comment regarding disclosure of the quarry, Ehlers said Veridian has subdivisions near quarries in Sun Prairie and Madison.
“This is more common than I think people realize, that this practice takes place. You have to fully disclose that there is some quarrying activity nearby, but again, the way everything is constructed and regulated, it’s meant to protect houses that are nearby,”
Board members had several questions for Ehlers and Dolphin, as well.
Village President Chris Zellner said the downfall was the failure to discuss the blasting as public hearings were held prior to the development’s approval.
“One thing that needs to happen as part of the process is we need to make sure blasting is discussed,” Zellner said.
Asked how reports of foundation cracks are investigated, the developers noted that homeowners can file a claim with their insurance company. Village Attorney Bryan Kleinmaier noted that the village has a developers agreement with Veridian that indemnifies the developer if damage to a neighboring property occurs as a result of the activity.
Discussion also focused on notification to neighboring homes of blasting. These can be received by subscribing to the village’s Waunablog. Notification is also shared on Nextdoor and the village’s Facebook page.
Questions can also be directed to the village administrator via email, email@example.com, by calling (608) 850-8500, or on the village website “Ask Anything Waunakee” feature.
A separate agenda item focused on the regulations for nonmetallic mining operations, such as the Quincy Ridge Quarry’s. According to Attorney Kleinmaier, the village does not have the ability to further restrict operations beyond the state’s regulations.
Within its own zoning code, the village allows nonmetallic mining only in agricultural areas with a conditional use permit. The Quincy Ridge Quarry is located in the Town of Westport, where the village has extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction, but has adopted the county’s zoning code.