Town of Spring Valley wrestling with dairy farm permit

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Neil Johnson
Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TOWN OF SPRING VALLEY—The Spring Valley Town Board on Monday hit the reset button on a dairy proposal, rescinding a conditional use permit it approved last month for a planned 400-cow dairy operation west of Orfordville.

Board members said they had learned from state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection officials that a conditional-use permit submitted by Doug Nifong and approved by the board Oct. 14 were incomplete based on state livestock-siting rules.

The town effectively threw the permit application out, leaving Nifong to re-apply for the permit and again go through a public hearing and review process through the town's planning and zoning committee before the board could vote on the proposed dairy again. 

Board members did not give exact details Monday on what was missing from Nifong's permit request, and attempts to reach DATCP officials who reviewed the application were unsuccessful.

However, residents who live near Nifong supplied The Gazette with a town conditional-use permit request form for the proposed dairy.

The permit did not include site drawings for the proposed dairy, nor did it contain details for a planned 5-million gallon waste-storage system or plans to handle runoff from adjacent farm fields the dairy would use to spread manure. Both are aspects of the proposed dairy, according to an Aug. 26 memo from town Planning and Zoning Clerk Kevin Kawula.

According to Kawula's memo, Nifong wants to add about 400 cattle to his existing cattle farm and gain highway access for milk trucks to enter off of Highway 11, which runs along the south end of his farm at 3516 S. Dickey Road.

Under state law, local governments whose ordinances incorporate state livestock-siting statute must use state application worksheets to determine if a proposed facility meets livestock-siting standards for dairy farms, including:

- Property line and road setbacks.

- Dairy management and training plans.

- Odor and nutrient management.

- Manure storage facilities.

- Runoff management.

Tom Sweeney, a conservationist with the Rock County Land Conservation Office, indicated Monday that the application forms the town supplied and Nifong completed apparently did not satisfy some of those concerns.

State law limits towns' and counties' abilities to deny dairy farm permits if applicants' plans satisfy state livestock-siting guidelines, although residents and applicants themselves can file complaints with the state Department of Agriculture's Livestock-Siting Review Board if they believe a town wrongly denied or approved a permit.

Several nearby residents oppose Nifong's proposal. One of them, Randy Gavin, lives on a property just west of the proposed dairy. He has filed a complaint with the state Livestock-Siting Review Board. 

Gavin said he opposes the dairy because it would sit on land within 1,000 feet of his own property line—and because its proposed location could fall within the floodplain of nearby Swan Creek, according to Rock County zoning and land-use maps.

Gavin told The Gazette he believes town officials “rushed” and “snuck through” the process of vetting the permit application and of notifying the public about it.

Gavin said minutes from the Oct. 14 town meeting don't include public comment from residents who spoke against the plan or questioned the way the public was notified about it.

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