By DAVID KRIER
A group of Richwood Township residents has collected enough signatures for a recall of township officials they hope to have on the August ballot. Concerned Citizens of Richwood Township believe they were shut out of the legislative process that resulted in comprehensive zoning being approved by the town board despite a petition signed by 199 residents seeking an up or down vote on a referendum on a zoning ordinance.
“The alternative to zoning would have been to use village powers to write an ordinance to regulate sand mining in the township, as has been done in Marietta Township and numerous other townships in the state of Wisconsin,” the group wrote in a press release. “the only means available to show the board that the residents of the township disagree with their heavy handedness is to recall them. We are currently in the recall process. This would give them a vacation from township governance to reflect on their decision. This is not about zoning, it is about the right to be heard and given a chance to exercise that right through a vote.”
Concerned Citizens of Richwood Township has selected former town chairman Jessie Zimpel to run against current chairman Ed Keller in a recall election.
“Zoning has been a contentious issue in Richwood Township for 40 years, with most people not wanting zoning unless it went to through the referendum process,” Zimpel said. Zimpel said he is not opposed to zoning, per se, but would have like to see Richwood Township “piggyback” on the zoning ordinance approved by Richland County.
The “Citizens” group filed an Intent to Recall with Richland County on April 21. On April 29 the Richland County Board of Supervisors approved the new Richwood Township zoning map.
“We have 60 days from the filing date to file our recall petition,” Zimpel said. “Our intent is to get on the Aug. 12 primary to avoid costs for a special election.”
In addition to Keller, the recall would also target incumbent supervisors Kyrie Kinney and Dan Hillberry. They would face Ron Georgeson and Jim Kratochwill, respectively. Supervisor David Dax was defeated by Greg Bailey by write-in vote in the April 1 election.
“Citizens” also claim they found names changed and minutes altered from they Saturday, Jan. 18 special meeting at which the zoning was approved. That meeting featured a presentation on frac sand mining from Connie Champnoise, co-chair of the Richland Stewardship Project.
“Maybe you’ve herd about the tremendous increase in Northwestern Wisconsin in industrial frac sand mining. Richland County has many areas with the same silica sand that is processed to become frac sand,” Champnoise wrote in a letter received by an estimated two dozen Richwood Township residents. “There is currently a moratorium passed by the County Board on industrial sand mining in Richland County that expires June 31, 2014. We are working on revamping the County’s current nonmetallic mining ordinance before the temporary protection of this moratorium ends.”
“Citizens” claim that the letter and Champnoise’s presentation influenced the town board’s vote to approve zoning. They are also upset that Richland County deputies were on hand at two recent town board meetings and that township officials refused to answer their questions after being asked to leave the board’s April 3 meeting after they went into closed session.
“This isn’t about zoning, it’s about local control,” Zimpel said. “I think many people would vote to zone if given a chance, but that hasn’t been an option offered to them.”