MARIETTA TOWNSHIP - The Marietta Township CAFO Moratorium study group discussed the future of the moratorium and their group at their meeting on Monday, Nov. 11. At issue is what the study group’s recommendation to the town board would be regarding the future of the moratorium and the study group. The Marietta Town Board will meet on Monday, Nov. 18 to consider issues raised by DATCP representatives at the study group’s October meeting.
According to a phone interview with Marietta Town Clerk Clifford Monroe, the board’s agenda for the Nov. 18, 7 p.m., meeting, which will be finalized by the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 12, will contain two agenda items that pertain to the moratorium:
• Discuss/vote on whether to adopt livestock siting licensing at the Town level
• Discuss/vote on future of Ordinance 201901 Moratorium on Livestock Facilities
DATCP had explained to the group at their October meeting their viewpoint as administrators of the state’s livestock facility siting law and rule about the legality of the town’s moratorium. The rule used to administer the law is ATCP 51.
The DATCP staff pointed out that the town does not currently have regulatory authority because the town is not zoned, nor have they adopted a livestock facility siting ordinance of their own. Crawford County has adopted a livestock facility siting ordinance, based on ATCP 51, and locally they are currently the regulatory authority for permitting of livestock facilities.
Future of moratorium
All 12 of the study group’s members were present at the meeting on Nov. 11, and participated in the discussion about the future of the moratorium and the study group.
“As the working group which serves at the town board’s pleasure, we have an obligation to many stakeholders with our work,” study group facilitator Meredith Sime stated. “We have an obligation to the board, to the citizens of Marietta Township, and we also owe the Roths openness and objectivity.”
Seven members of the group have taken an adamant position that the moratorium and the study group should continue. Study group facilitator Meredith Sime chose not to cast a vote, but expressed that it is her personal point of view that the moratorium, if legal, should continue and that the study group should as well.
“The town’s attorney, Eileen Brownlee, has already said the moratorium enacted through village powers is legal,” Ken Cornish said. “If the town board votes to rescind the moratorium and disband the study group, that would constitute a dereliction of duty on their part.”
The four members of the study group who oppose the moratorium are AV Roth, his mother Karen, wife Christine and neighbor Bob Mitchell who takes manure from Roth Feeder Pigs. They argue that the information presented by DATCP clearly shows that the town’s moratorium is not legal. As a four-person minority on the 12-member board, they expressed support for the town board to rescind the moratorium and remove the town’s sanction for the fact-finding activities of the study group.
“According to DATCP, the board does not have the authority to regulate livestock facilities in the township,” Christine Roth said. “Whether or not to keep the moratorium and continue to empower the study group will be the board’s decision, and we need to respect their right to make that decision.”
Ken Cornish and Forest Jahnke pointed out that ATCP 51 and DNR WPDES permits do not govern many of the things that the town board is concerned about. Examples of those kinds of things include damage to and safety of town roads, and use of specific practices to spread manure such as dragline hose systems and aerial spraying of manure.
“Enacting a livestock facility siting ordinance or zoning are not the town board’s only options,” Crawford Stewardship Project’s Forest Jahnke said. “There are many things the town board could choose to do that don’t involve zoning or livestock facility permitting.”
Christine Roth adamantly asserted that the town board did not have the legal authority to enact the moratorium. She stated that she is not in agreement with a recommendation to the board not to rescind the moratorium. She further stated that if the moratorium is rescinded, then the study group could not continue to operate under the authority of the town board.
“The moratorium was enacted prematurely before a study was done to indicate that there was a reason to enact it,” AV Roth said. “I’ve spoken to attorneys who tell me that state statute says that a local government must identify that a problem exists before enacting a moratorium.”
Study group member Janet Widder requested that AV Roth supply the study group with a citation for the state statute, which requires what AV asserts. AV responded that he would supply that citation, but did not have it available right then and there.
“The study group serves at the pleasure of the town board, and we have no power to make decisions but only to provide the board with facts,” Bob Mitchell said. “I don’t think the town board has the stomach to take on a legal battle about the moratorium, and they need to clarify how far they are willing to go in defending the moratorium.”
Ken Cornish responded to Mitchell’s comments, saying “that sounded like a threat.”
“I’m just saying that if the town board is not willing to go all the way, up to and including defending the moratorium in court, then the study group would probably be best served to redirect their efforts to providing information to the county instead where it might make a difference,” Mitchell explained. “I didn’t intend my comments as a threat. Let me reframe it to say that no one in this room is an attorney, and I don’t believe that the town board is willing to take on the expense of pursuing this matter in court.”
Study group member Doug Spany made the point that “lawyers advise, but courts would determine the legality of the moratorium.”
AV Roth requested that the record of the meeting should reflect that less than 10 percent of Crawford County’s farmland is covered under a nutrient management plan (NMP). He said that because a minimum of at least 50 percent of the farmland is not operating under a NMP, it is therefore impossible for the county to determine whether the current rules in place are sufficient to protect water quality in the county.
Study group facilitator Meredith Sime, in recognition that the majority of study group members supported keeping the moratorium and study group in place, said she would make the following recommendations to the board in her written update following the meeting:
• if the moratorium is legal, then it should continue, as should the study group
• the board needs to come to their meeting on October 18 with an opinion from their attorney, preferably in writing, about whether the moratorium is legal
• the board should come to their next meeting prepared to decide if the working group will continue its activities under the town board’s auspices
Sime went on to say that if the town board decides to keep the moratorium in place, then she is recommending that an education panel discussion should be planned for January. Members of the panel would be drawn from DATCP, DNR, the Crawford County Land Conservation Department, AV Roth, a member of the study group, and county board supervisors. The purpose of this meeting, according to Sime, would be education of the town board, study group members, and the citizens of Marietta Township.
Sime also pointed out that the Crawford County Land Conservation Department Soil and Water Concerns Committee would hold a meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 10 a.m., at the County Administration Building in Prairie du Chien. At that meeting, according to Sime, the committee would discuss the situation with CAFOs and livestock facility siting in the county.
“I will not be able to be present at the town board meeting on November 18 because of prior work commitments,” Sime said. “As study group facilitator, I am asking for all members of the study group to protect the board and help to reduce the contentiousness of that meeting.”
Letter to editor
A letter to the editor, published in the Nov. 7 issue of the Crawford County Independent was also an issue discussed by the study group. The letter, signed by six members of the study group – Susan Robinson, Ken Cornish, Kat Tigerman, Carl Schlecht, Sandy Collins and Janet Widder – as well as “Workgroup advisor Forest Jahnke, called on the town board not to rescind the moratorium or disband the study group.
At issue was the manner in which the letter to the editor was signed, and also the headline supplied by reporter Gillian Pomplun. The letter was signed from ‘the workgroup members named’ and the ‘workgroup advisor.’
“The members of this study group agreed that before any announcements were made to the public or the media, it would first go to the board for approval,” Christine Roth said. “I believe that every member of the study group who signed that letter should resign.”
Ken Cornish took issue with Roth’s position.
“One of the main impetuses for some members of the study group writing that letter to the editor was you [Christine Roth] staying for the town board meeting after the study group’s last meeting and giving the board your personal opinion that the moratorium should be rescinded and the study group disbanded,” Ken Cornish said.
Crawford County Independent reporter Gillian Pomplun explained that it was her opinion that the headline she wrote and placed on the page, “Study group urges town not to give up,” was part of the confusion, and that she regrets the wording used in the headline.
“We apologize for giving the impression that we were speaking for the entire study group,” Ken Cornish said. “However, in all fairness, it is the case that the six members of the study group who signed the letter do represent the voting majority of the study group.”
Facilitator Meredith Sime had not seen the letter to the editor prior to the meeting. She stated that she believes that the group had previously agreed that each individual member of the study group has the right to write a letter to the editor of one of the local newspapers. Nor are study group members prohibited from expressing their individual opinions to others outside the study group.
“Our group is not empowered by the board to make any decisions, though the language of the moratorium makes clear that we may make recommendations to the board about specific actions they might take to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Town of Marietta,” Sime said. “However, no one member or group of members of the study group should ever give the impression that they are speaking for the study group, or divulge information to the public or press before that information is presented to the town board.”If the moratorium is not rescinded and the study group dissolved at the town board meeting to be held on Monday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m., at the Marietta Town Hall, then the group’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 16, from 5-6:30 p.m.