Board Determines Quarry Parcel Falls Under Conforming Use

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Michelle Phillips

TOWN OF BERRY–In a Dec. 2 meeting that last just over 15 minutes, the Dane County Board of Adjustments (BOA) made a decision on a parcel of land slated for quarry expansion by Yahara Materials. The board found that the 40-acre piece of land, known as the Meinholz property, was conforming status and did fall under the Town of Springfield ordinance jurisdiction, which would require a conditional use permit from the town for mineral extraction.

The decision upheld a determination by the Town of Springfield Zoning Administrator, Kory Anderson, which stated that the property was not continuous use, a requirement for non-conforming status. 

According to documents submitted into evidence, the property was sold by Meinholz with the intent of becoming a residential area. Yahara purchased the land in 2017 and claim that because the land had been zoned for mineral extraction in 1969, and the status reviewed and confirmed by the Dane County Zoning Board in 2002, it should maintain non-conforming status and be allowed to expand. 

The board spent their time going over a written draft of its findings that had been distributed by BOA Chair Tony Varda two weeks earlier. They made minor changes to the document including removing duplicate text and misspellings. A corrected and signed version of the document will be distributed later in the week.

The proposed expansion of the quarry, which butts up against the City of Middleton, Town of Springfield and Town of Westport, was opposed by neighboring homeowners and the City of Middleton, both of which had attorneys representing them in the matter. 

Varda, Town of Berry, said the decision had been made based on the law and case precedence. “We didn’t do this because we are not in favor of the quarry,” he told the crowd of two dozen people that had come out to hear the decision at the Berry Town Hall.

BOA member Tom Wilson, Town of Westport, praised the attorneys handling the case, “We have had three attorneys here and they are all outstanding,” he said. 

The BOA took time to sift through hundreds of pages of documents before making their decision. Lyle Updike, Town of Sun Prairie, called in to the meeting on the telephone, and told the crowd that although the subject was emotionally charged, “This was an excellent exercise in democracy.”

The draft of the summary on the board’s decision is as follows:

ORDER

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED:

1. Because the “Unregistered Parcel” was not registered by the County, Meinholz’s arguments about the nonconforming status of the Subject Parcel fail and the zoning administrator’s decision must be upheld. 

2. Meinholz’s position relies on the mistaken argument that the Unregistered Parcel was, in fact, registered by the County, as follows: Meinholz currently holds the Subject Parcel and two other parcels in common ownership.  One of these other two parcels is a tiny, 1/10 of an acre parcel in the southeast corner of the Unregistered Parcel (depicted in yellow as “Meinholz Addl. Parcel 1” on Exhibit B).  Meinholz argues that this sliver of land has always had nonconforming status because it is part of the larger Unregistered Parcel which it incorrectly concludes was registered, and that the Subject Parcel is also nonconforming because it is and has remained contiguous with this parcel.  Because the Unregistered Parcel was clearly never registered, Meinholz Addl. Parcel 1 was never registered.  Because Meinholz Addl. Parcel 1 was not registered, no nonconforming rights exist that could flow from this parcel to the other two.

3. Meinholz, LLC, has not met its burden to prove that it has the legal authority to use the Subject Parcel for nonmetallic mining purposes under the doctrine of nonconforming use, for the reasons provided above.

4. Meinholz, LLC, has also failed to meet its burden to prove the requisite and coinciding intent and ownership of the property, coupled with the unique use of extraction necessary to apply the diminishing assets rule, as it has advocated.

5. To conduct nonmetallic mining activities on the Subject Parcel, Meinholz LLC must apply for and receive authorization to do so under a conditional use permit issued by the Town. 

6. The August 20, 2019 decision of the Town of Springfield Zoning Administrator is hereby affirmed, for the reasons included in that decision and for the additional reasons outlined in the above findings of fact and conclusions of law.

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