At the recent Waunakee village listening session, several neighbors of the Quincy Ridge Quarry spoke out against plans to expand that non-metallic mining operation on 30 acres to the south.
The existing quarry is at Easy Street and Schumacher Road, and the plan is to begin mining the adjoining parcel. Last year, Waunakee’s zoning administrator issued an opinion that the parcel lawfully could be used for non-metallic mining.
In late October, after a neighbor appealed that decision, Waunakee’s Board of Appeals affirmed that non-mineral extraction on the property contiguous to the existing quarry is a valid legal non-confirming use.
Unfortunately for the neighbors, that use is far from ideal. Their concerns include compromised water quality resulting the loss of limestone that filters groundwater, the release of radon, loss of property value, and the effects of the concussive blasting near their homes – some just 50 feet away.
More homes are slated to be built on land surrounding the quarry owned by Veridian in its Heritage Hill subdivision.
As one neighbor pointed out, just because the use is legal doesn’t make it right.
However, it is permitted under law, and unclear is what, if any, legal authority the village has to deny the property owners the ability to use the land as they intended when they purchased it.
The law allowing quarries to be grandfathered into the zoning code was enacted in the 1960s. Dane County adopted the code then, as towns fall under Dane County’s zoning code.
The Quincy Ridge Quarry is located in the Town of Westport, and though it lies in the village’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, the village has adopted the county’s zoning for those areas.
Disputes over quarries are not unique to Waunakee. Last year, the Town of Springfield also grappled with a conflict between neighbors and the operators of quarry there.
The Village of Windsor just denied a rezone for a quarry, as well, after a series of meetings.
The attorney representing the Quincy Ridge neighbors pointed out that this use is suitable for towns, which tend to be more rural.
The Tribune quoted Christa Westerberg during the appeal hearing as saying, “Now, it makes sense that the legislature would treat cities and villages differently because they are usually more densely populated than counties.”
But as townships grow more urban, the law seems antiquated.
That 1960s law seems due for an overhaul in our state Legislature, with more perhaps more specific criteria to apply when considering quarry expansions.
But even that line is delicate, as one property owner’s rights are weighed against another’s.
And in the end, we all agree that we need gravel from these quarries, and the shorter the distance away, the better.