Walworth County to examine Darien odor issue

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Xavier Ward
Monday, August 7, 2017

DARIENFor years, residents of the village of Darien have smelled foul odors from either Walter & Son Waste Hauling or Birds Eye Vegetables, depending on which way the wind blows.

On July 17, the Darien Village Board decided it had had enough. It passed a resolution and sent a letter to Walworth County officials, asking them to review the permits for both businesses.

“We hope that the county zoning agency will take another look at the approved conditional-use permits,” Darien Village Administrator Rebecca LeMire said.

The difficulty for the village is that both businesses are located in the town of Darien.

In May, The Gazette obtained odor complaints from the village and town through an open records request. Ten complaints were filed in the town and village in 2014, 30 in 2015 and 11 in 2016 for a total of 51 complaints over three years, according to the records.

Since the beginning of June, 17 complaints have been filed in the town and the village, The Gazette discovered through a separate open records request.

LeMire suspects that the total number of complaints will be higher at the end of the summer because the odor issue has gotten more attention than in past years.

But with Darien's annual Cornfest coming up Sept. 8-10, it would be nice to have a plan in place to stem the odors, she said.

“Anything we can get done before Cornfest I'm sure would be wonderful for anybody who is going to attend,” she said.

Village board member Cheryl Kauffenberg has played a vocal role in the issue. She said bringing it to the county was necessary because no progress has been made with the village and town sorting it out.

“I'm hoping that something good will come out of it to make people (who) live here feel better,” she said.

“This has been under the auspices of the township since those parties went to getting conditional-use permits to be able to operate what they have,” Kauffenberg said.

The town is aware of the odor issue, and a few years ago it started a “stink patrol” led by town board Supervisor Dale Wheelock.

Wheelock said it's a difficult issue. He often doesn't receive complaints until a few days after they're filed, making it impossible to tell whether the smell is coming from Walter & Son or Birds Eye.

However, the town has decided to give Birds Eye and Walter & Son a deadline.

The companies have been asked to update the town board Sept. 5 on their odor-mitigation efforts, Wheelock said.

Meanwhile, the Walworth County Land Use and Resource Management Department likely will look into the issue in September, said Michael Cotter, Walworth County deputy corporation counsel.

“They may direct us to investigate it. We'll have to wait and see,” he said.

The most extreme measure the county could take is rescinding the conditional-use permits for the businesses, Cotter said.

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