A three-hour meeting that saw the Town of Bridgeport Planning Commission recommend approval of a conditional use permit application by Pattison Sand Company for a non-metallic mine has left a number of township residents unhappy and discussing recourse to legal action.
The planning commission meeting was held on March 14 and did not include a period for public comment.
The planning commission was instructed the previous week at a March 6 meeting by town counsel Todd Infield that because the township had passed a non-metallic mining ordinance identifying it as a conditional use, they could not simply deny a mine on the basis of not wanting mining, but rather they would need to show that the proposed mine failed to comply with ordinance or state regulations.
“You can’t just say no to say no, or yes to say yes,” Infield reiterated at the March 14 meeting. “You’ve gotta have reasons for whatever decision you make.”
According to Township Clerk and planning commission member Linda Smrcina, the commission did attempt to address citizen concerns.
“We tried to answer questions as part of the process,” Smrcina said. “Sometimes, the same question was asked three different ways, so we tried to combine them rather than answer each one.”
The group called Bridgeport Concerned Citizens disagrees, saying the planning commission failed to address zoning conflicts and diminishment of adjacent property values, amongst other issues.
Crawford Stewardship Project, which has been working to support efforts by BCC to stop the introduction of frac sand mining to Bridgeport Township is now seeking hard copies of all electronic documents, letters, etc. that were supplied to the planning commission for delivery to the town board.
The Bridgeport Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor of granting the permit application with the addition that Pattison Sand supply an acceptable landscape plan.
If approved by the township board on Wednesday, March 27 at 6 p.m., Pattison will need to receive permit approval from the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board to begin frac sand mining on 305 acres leased from township board member Rodney Marfilius and his wide Sandra, Lee and Joan Pulda, and Earl and Amber Pulda.
Township Clerk Linda Smrcina was unsure, but believed public comment was not planned for the March 27 meeting.
Action from the LWSRB is not expected soon. According to LWSRB’s Executive Director, Mark Cupp, the earliest action might be expected is May or June, but no definitive deadline has been set.
The full statement released by the Bridgeport Concerned Citizens follows:
“It was about the saddest day in the history of Bridgeport Township, now likely doomed to 60 years of frac sand mining unless citizens take legal action against their own township. The final decision will be made at the Bridgeport Board meeting on March 27. This is the first mine of what will likely be many if the township stays on its present course.
“For over three hours, the Planning Commission hemmed and hawed around with township lawyer Todd Infield on the Pattison Sand Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application. There was more silence than talk, with the commission seemingly having done little in the way of research, relying on Kyle Pattison for many of their answers.
According to Irene Steele, of Bridgeport Concerned Citizens, “The most egregious and insulting was their decision to determine that ‘the CUP is not injurious to use of other property nor substantially diminishes and impairs the property values.’” The commission members diminished the effects on those citizens living across from the driveway, along the truck route, and in the neighborhood.
Rodney Fishler who lives across the road from the proposed driveway of the mine states, “The commission voted against their own citizens and their zoning in favor or three landowners and profits for an out-of -tate sand mining company. Why did they do that?” The account of a landowner whose home was turned down by a buyer because of the Bridgeport proposed mine was determined to be of little importance in their discussion on potential reduced property values.
“Citizens spoke out despite being told they could not. Comments on the support of Pattison Sand over the resident’s interests, the truck traffic, and the complete disregard for the citizens of the township peppered the evening while the commission had little content in their comments.
“Despite promises that there would be thorough review, the commission failed to answer the myriad of questions offered by the citizens,” according to Bridgeport citizen Sheila Linder. “The committee did not adequately address any of the issues and set no boundaries for Pattison Sand except to require that some trees get planted at the site. May as well plant tulips. No limits were made on hours, number of trucks, etc. The CUP uses non-regulatory terms like ‘plan to’ which hold no legal requirement. And without strict regulations, only DNR rules apply, which includes little monitoring. Discussion on air monitoring is likely to be meaningless, as Pattison will likely be applying for a waiver of air monitoring requirements from the DNR.”