Milton OKs gravel pit permit application

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Neil Johnson
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

— When town officials confirmed Monday that a developer’s proposed gravel pit plan is “compatible with the public interest” and gives “substantial justice” to all township residents, several residents responded with a wave of jeering laughter.

But Marion Trescher, chairwoman of the town’s planning and zoning committee, quickly extinguished the laughter with a sharp rap of her gavel.

Trescher’s gavel was effectively the committee and the Milton Town Board’s final response to a contentious, 15-month debate about whether to approve a 137-acre gravel pit along North Klug Road.

On Monday, the committee and board approved a conditional-use permit for the pit that will allow landowner Scott Traynor to use a hilly farm property next to state wetlands for a gravel mining and crushing operation until 2018.

Traynor has planned to lease the land to Elkhorn gravel operator B.R. Amon & Sons. Owner Tom Amon has said he’d use the gravel to fuel local road projects.

The plan still requires zoning and regulatory approval from the Rock County Board and the state Department of Natural Resources.

Meanwhile, a group of Klug Road residents who oppose the pit say the plan clashes with the town’s comprehensive-use plan.

The group appeared poised Monday to appeal the decision to the town’s board of review. The group’s spokesperson, Klug Road resident Linda Schalk, said the group is prepared to file a lawsuit to block the plan’s conditional-use permit.

The town’s decision came after the board and planning and zoning committee last month drew a list of 30 conditions to place on the permit application Traynor and Amon entered last year. The conditions came after a consultant’s independent study of the plan last month turned up a handful of environmental concerns.

In the wake of the consultant’s review, the town board found the plan failed to meet almost all 12 criteria that town rules require a pit to meet before a permit can be approved.

But on Monday the town board found the 30 conditions it had placed on the permit application would satisfy all town criteria and mitigate environmental impacts consultants said the pit could have on Storr’s Lake Wildlife Area, a nearby wetland.

Amon & Sons’ operation plan includes digging gravel out of a glacial hillside west of the wetland, flattening and clear-cutting trees from the hillside and later filling the area with topsoil to turn it into farmland.

The town approved the gravel pit under conditions which include:

n Gravel extraction operations at the pit must be complete by Sept. 15, 2018.

n A planned access road between the pit site and County N must have a “permanent” bridge built over Otter Creek, a stream north of the pit site. That bridge would require DNR approval, officials said.

n The pit must have protective fencing to control erosion and migration of turtles between the mined hillside and Storr’s Lake Wildlife Area.

Schalk said the town has neglected to deal with the fact that its own comprehensive-use plan designates the proposed pit area as part of an “environmentally sensitive overlay.” She argues that under state law, special land designations in a town’s comprehensive-use plan outweigh all other town zoning and land use designations.

She also said residents who oppose the pit believe the “environmentally sensitive overlay” designation would bar a gravel pit being developed on the land.

“What they just did (issuing the conditional-use permit) was illegal,” Schalk said.

Schalk and other Klug Road neighbors oppose the gravel pit plan because they claim it would hamper property values and create dust, noise and erosion, which they argue would harm the environment.

Schalk said residents opposing the pit have retained a team of lawyers, and the group is now being backed by parties with “very deep pockets,” although she did not elaborate.

Last updated: 7:57 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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