Court Dismisses Quarry Case

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

DANE COUNTY–Meinholz Quarry LLC, (owned by Yahara Materials), filed a writ of certiorari seeking to have the Dane County Circuit Court reverse the Dane Town Board of Zoning and Appeals (BZA) decision, which affirmed the Springfield Zoning Administrator’s finding that the non-conforming use status of the quarry was invalid. Meinholz also filed a declaratory relief against the Town of Springfield. On Dec. 23, two years after the Town of Springfield Board of directors initially approved the quarry’s proposed expansion, both filings were dismissed by Judge Frank D. Remington.

At a Dec. 2, 2019 meeting the BZA made a decision on a piece of land slated for quarry expansion by Yahara Materials. The board found that the 40-acre parcel, 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. 

In his findings, Remington agreed that the quarry was conforming use and that the parcel in question had never originally been registered for mining use before 1969 after the county adopted an ordinance allowing those registered before 1969 as non-conforming use. The land had been zoned as agricultural.

At the time that Meinholz asked the Springfield board to approve the expansion (December 2018), they failed to produce documents pertaining to the registered use then sale of the property by Aloysius Meinholz. Homeowners in the area brought the missing information to the attention of the board, which reversed its decision on May 21, 2019. It then sought the opinion of Anderson regarding the non-conforming status.

In the case summary, Remington found that the board did not have the jurisdiction to make the decision regarding non-conforming used based on its own ordinances, which state that the decision lies in the hands of the town’s Zoning Administrator. Remington upheld the BZA decision in the matter, dismissing the writ of certiorari, which determined that the BZA acted under the “correct theory of the law” in their decision.

In the declaratory relief filing, Meinholz claimed that the town was inconsistent in its decision to allow the expansion and then reverse it. The filing was based on estoppel theory, which prevents a person, or in this case government body, from making assertation or going back on their word of decision.

Since the Town of Springfield Board did not have the authority to make the decision in the first place, Remington found the estoppel theory did not apply and dismissed this filing as well. 

In his conclusion Remington wrote the following:

“It is not necessary to resolve the legal issues in this case that this court must find fault in how the matter was presented. It does not appear that Meinholz intended to route its request through a process designed to escape detection. Indeed, subject to the open meetings law, the Town provided a public forum for considering the request. But for the ordinances, it would also have been reasonable to make the request to the Town Board, who in the organization of government sits above the employed zoning administrator. It is not necessary to delve into the fog of motive to search for some nefarious intent.

Meinholz chose the wrong persons to answer the question and the right process was never undertaken. The problem was not in what was said, but what was not said. It would appear that the Town Board accepted the invitation to intrude upon the prerogative the ordinances gave to the administrator and acted on less than complete information through an informal process. Had the correct person been asked the same question, the correct process would have been undertaken, the correct information would have been gathered. When that process had been made complete, the opposite conclusion was made. In the end, the correct decision was made by the person(s) who had the jurisdiction to decide, and they proceeded on accurate information and a correct theory of law. The final decision to deny the request was neither arbitrary nor unreasonable. Finally, and most importantly, the final decision was supported by the substantial evidence made part of the record by the zoning administrator and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

For the foregoing reasons, the petition for writ of certiorari is DENIED and the Town’s motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.”

Meinholz can appeal the court’s decision, but a press time no such appeal had been filed.

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