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County Executive's Office

New County Ordinance Looks to give Residents a Say in Mining Operations Near Neighborhoods, Recreational Areas

April 25, 2014
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823 or cell, 608.843.8858
County Executive

Many Unaware That They Live Next to Sites That Could Be Opened to Mining
With Little to No Public Input or Notice


Dane County policymakers are continuing their efforts to eliminate an antiquated law that could allow a quiet farm field or green space to be turned into an operational quarry overnight with little public input or public notice, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


The county can prevent this scenario with an ordinance that would protect the ability of local governments and county residents to have a say in how mines operate – what time of day rock blasting can occur, how much dust can be created from mine operations, or how much truck traffic can enter and leave a mine and its surrounding neighborhood. 


The ordinance is authored by Supervisor Patrick Miles and could be considered by the Zoning and Land Regulation Committee of the Dane County Board in May.


“Dane County’s residents deserve more say in what goes on in their neighborhoods, not less,” said Parisi. “This common sense change will not only correct an archaic law, it will protect the public’s right to have their voices heard and level the playing field for businesses that are playing by the rules.”


In 1969, the Dane County Board passed a law exempting nearly 100 locations across the county from permitting rules that apply to other new proposed mines or quarries.  The proposed ordinance would level the playing field, requiring 34 of the 100 grandfathered sites  to go through the same permitting process a new mine is required to go through.


“Residents live, work, or play by these grandfathered mining sites – many have no idea that the field down the street could be turned into a quarry so easily with little public notice or input,” said Parisi.


One notable example in the Town of Springfield, near the site of Friday’s announcement, is located next to the Pheasant Branch Conservancy and close to a neighborhood in the City of Middleton.


The Pheasant Branch Conservancy is a regional recreational and ecological gem, home to acres of pristine prairie and oak savannah, unique fresh water springs, and miles of stream that connect to Lake Mendota.


Opening a mine immediately next to the property could pose a significant environmental risk. Residents of the neighborhood near the conservancy could also be negatively affected by the noise and traffic of a fully operating mine.


“Dane County has been a great partner in efforts to restore and protect Pheasant Branch Conservancy,” said local resident Bruce Froehlke. “This ordinance is another example of the County's commitment to environmental quality."


The county’s original ordinance, introduced in February, was amended this month to accommodate concerns by some Dane County towns and aggregate producers who opposed the original version of the legislation.


County officials hope the change is enough to gain support for the ordinance, which cannot become law if a majority of towns formally vote against it.


"I ask the towns to vote for this amendment because a vote against this amendment is a vote against local control and providing their residents a voice in the process,” said Dane County Supervisor Patrick Miles, authored of the amended ordinance.


Once the ordinance receives approval by the Dane County Board the county’s towns will have 40 days to review and act on the amended law. The County Board could vote on the proposal as early as June.

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