Janesville76.1°

Town of Magnolia to spend up to $15,000 on case

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GINA R. HEINE
February 25, 2011
— The Magnolia Town Board voted 2-1 on Thursday to spend up to $15,000 to litigate the town's case over a permit at Larson Acres before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The board also accepted a $10,000 donation for the cause from board member Dave Olsen and his wife, Sheryl.


The Supreme Court decision is expected to set a precedent as to how permitting large farms interacts with local zoning authority, according to a news release from the court. The case revolves around conditions the town placed on the farm's permit in 2007 to protect groundwater—an action the farm claimed was micromanagement.


The board met in closed session last week with town attorney Glenn Reynolds to discuss what to do after the Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to hear the case. Nearly 20 residents gathered in the town hall Thursday night for the board's discussion over how to proceed.


Reynolds sent a letter dated Wednesday stating: "I am mindful of the town's effort to contain costs, and would offer to handle the entire case before the Supreme Court at our standard rate of $175 per hour, plus expenses, including oral argument, for a fee not to exceed $15,000."


Chairwoman Fern McCoy argued against spending more money on the case, saying it has gone on too long, and she didn't want to spend any more town money.


Board member Kurt Bartlett and Olsen argued the town budget includes $5,000 for legal fees.


"We might have other costs (besides this case)," McCoy said.


McCoy said two citizens called her asking her to end the case while one person called to say the town went this far and should go all the way.


"It's too bad we couldn't put it up to the citizens to vote, but I know they elected us to do the job," she said.


"Well, this is the homestretch," Bartlett said, "and it's going to be done in the summer."


Olsen said the court must "see something there" if it offered to hear the case.


"I think $5,000 is a small amount to find out the final answer," Bartlett said.


"You think $5,000 is a small amount?" McCoy said, shaking her head.


The town is only liable for up to $5,000, Bartlett said, and the cost could be less if the town raises more money.


Olsen questioned McCoy about whether an offer was made to repair a road dependent on her vote.


"No," she said, later adding she had talked to Ed Larson of Larson Acres months ago about fixing a road if the case didn't go to the Supreme Court.


"But nothing is on the table now," she said.


Olsen said his donation is meant only to help offset the town's legal fees during the Supreme Court hearings. He said he's been approached by other people who would like to donate. The board agreed donations could be earmarked for the case and deposited into the town's bank account.


Reynolds now must file a brief to the court by March 10. The state livestock siting review board and Larson Acres then have 20 days to file their briefs. Both parties would have 10 more days to file respective replies. Unscheduled oral arguments would follow, Bartlett said.



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