(OnFocus) The Town of Rock Board of Supervisors held a meeting on Thursday, April 18 to consider action on the application by Coulee Frac Sand, LLC for a conditional use permit to conduct a frac sand mine on the corner of County Road V and MacArthur Drive.
Board members voted unanimously to accept the developer’s agreement with one member excused due to a conflict of interest regarding property value guarantee. The developer agreement includes regulations on hours of operation, well testing, property value guarantee, truck traffic, noise, air quality, road use, and more.
In a prepared statement, town board chairperson Pete Winistorfer said, “I applaud the work of the Ad Hoc committee, Zoning Commission, members of the Town Board both past and present, as well as the Citizens of Rock Township, Coulee Frac Sand and Carbo Ceramics for the extreme effort that has been provided to bring us to this point tonight.”
The mine application was first accepted by the board in August last year. Town zoning required that a vote must be made within 60 days, which Coulee allowed to be extended. The Frac Sand Mining Impact Assessment Committee (FSMIAC) recommended that the agreement be denied.
A reclamation plan approved by Wood County (available on the town website at www.town.rock.wi.us) will see the site turned into an 88-acre lake over the 12-20 year life expectancy of the mine. Wet sand will be sent to a Carbo dry-processing facility in Marshfield.
The denial or acceptance of the agreement ultimately depended on the authority of the Town Board subject to town ordinance.
“I’m not afraid to say this now that the town board has made its decision on this agreement – We had no authority to require Coulee to enter into the agreement that has now been passed by the town,” said attorney Larry Konopacki of Stafford Rosenbaum, LLC. “We couldn’t require them to go that route, and they did so voluntarily. We had very little leverage.”
Wisconsin Act 67 signed by Governor Walker in 2017 restricted municipal authority to deny a conditional use permit based on “personal preferences or speculation.” Formerly, towns could consider the effect of the permit on community public welfare and deny it if the permit did not meet these standards. Act 67 also requires that the permit must be granted if it meets requirements specified in town ordinance, reversing the burden of proof onto a town instead of the applicant.
“A conditional use permit can be granted anywhere in the town subject to the ordinance, which has a lot of holes in it,” said Konopacki. “As a result, we’re subject to the state law applicable to conditional use permits, which again as I said in the beginning of this portion of the meeting very significantly restricts the town’s discretion. It specifically says decisions can’t be based on things like whether we want it, or what our personal preferences are.”
The next priority for the town will be to fill in those holes in the zoning ordinance so it can leverage more authority for future conditional use permits.