Nineteen people spoke at a town of Union hearing Monday, March 18, regarding possible changes in the town’s comprehensive plan.
All of them spoke against the changes.
If approved, the revisions would remove barriers to plans to open a sand mine in Union. A key revision would decrease the mandatory distance between a non-metallic mining operation and a home from the current 2,000 foot setback to 200 feet.
Those who spoke at Monday’s hearing emphatically told the board they did not want the sand mine in their back yard.
At times, the comments became heated and acrimonious, targeting specific individuals. However, most of the discussion focused on three provisions (LU9, LU11 and LU13) in the comprehensive plan.
Provision LU9 currently prohibits conditional use permits for mineral extraction operations “within 2,000 feet of existing, non-farm residences.”
The town board is considering whether to reduce the limit to 200 feet.
John Ashby of Manawa questioned why the Waupaca County Planning and Zoning Committee was requesting clarification of the 2,000 feet provision.
“There is no need to clarify this because it is stated quite clearly, so where does this need for clarification arise?” Ashby said. “Now, regardless of the existing Union comprehensive plan, confusion has been introduced in an attempt to change to a more pro-mine favorable distance.”
Ramona Danke, who lives a half mile from the proposed mine site echoed those words.
“Considerable town of Union and Waupaca County taxpayer dollars were used to construct this plan,” Danke said. “Members of this board, the county and the professional advisors were participating authors. At the time it was written there was no outside influence or lobbying money or special interest that was plotting their vision.”
Angela Williamson-Emmert, a town of Union resident, said she was furious that the town of Union was being asked to clarify a plan it wrote to protect its residents.
“Instead of clarifying that, we have somebody coming in from the outside telling us to change our plan so that we can have a stinking mine. So suddenly now, instead of taking care of ourselves, taking care of each other, taking care of our neighbors, we are taking care of a few people who want to get rich,” Williamson-Emmert said.
Myrtle Kutchenriter, who lives 171 feet from the proposed site, questioned whether a change now would lead to another change in the future.
“The company asked for clarification of the 2,000 feet and did not ask for changes,” Kutchenriter said. “All members who worked on the comprehensive plan all read the plan, and all members signed the plan with the 2,000 feet in the plan. Therefore, it should remain at the 2,000 feet. If this is changed to 200 feet, what’s going to stop them in the future from deciding that maybe this should be changed to 100 feet or 50 feet.”
Clyde Tellock, town of Union resident, said the 2,000 feet in the comprehensive plan was not an error.
“When the plan was being developed, the planning commission took a lot of time, they put a lot of work into it and that land was treated as ag enterprise, the highest level of ag, to protect it. And now, the first thing that comes along, they are willing to throw it out.”
Brad Millikin, a Union property owner, said the DNR has stated Wisconsin has the best silica sand in the country.
“It’s going to be not just one property. Long-term it’s going to be a huge problem to everybody that owns property in this area,” Millikin said.
“This change in the plan will open the entire area to industrial scale sand mines,” Bob Phelan said. “The change is not an improvement. It’s a blatant handout to the sand miners and a completely insane idea.”
Concerns were also raised about the sand mine’s possible negative impact on local residents’ health, the environment and property values.
For a more detailed account of the hearing, read the March 28 County Post.