Franklin sand mine met with more opposition

2012-11-20T14:53:00Z Franklin sand mine met with more oppositionby Cassandra Colson | Reporter La Crosse Tribune
November 20, 2012 2:53 pm  • 

An embattled proposed frac sand mine in the town of Franklin has been met with opposition for the fourth time.

The fate of Coulee Frac LLC’s plan for its 130-acre operation now will lie with the Jackson County Board of Supervisors next month after the zoning committee on Thursday upheld its original decision to deny the company’s zoning change request.

“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think we should reconsider,” said committee member and county board Supervisor Norm Stoker.

A group of nearly 50 people wearing red shirts attended the meeting to show opposition to the mine, which already was the subject of a 240-signature petition of residents who want to see it halted.

Coulee Frac’s attorney, John Wagman, said the company was denied its “due process” when it wasn’t allowed to speak at a Franklin Town Board meeting in August, which was the first of two times the town board voted against the proposal.

“First of all, my clients were denied due process the first time this matter came through,” Wagman said. “We request the ability to have our due process.”

Wagman also noted a threat that was made against Franklin Supervisor LeRoy Young on the eve of the town’s second vote on Coulee Frac, saying it influenced Young, whose vote was one of two against the mine.

However, Franklin resident Thomas Clark, who spoke on behalf of the opposition, said he didn’t believe the threat affected Young’s decision.

He also said the petition, whose signatures represent a majority of town residents, shows strong public opinion against the proposal.

“I think the public opinion — I think it’s important you realize that,” said Clark, who received applause from the crowd after concluding his comments. “We simply do not think this is a good idea for a sand mine.

“We have the numbers.”

The Western Wisconsin region has become a hotbed for highly sought-after frac sand, which is used to extract natural gas from underground wells. Coulee Frac’s zoning change request to allow for its 130-acre dig-and-haul operation off Highway N is the first in the town since the sand boom began.

The town board’s 2-1 vote in September had again halted Coulee Frac’s proposal, and the threat to Young subsequently prompted the Jackson County Board of Supervisors to hold off on its final decision until the sheriff’s department could conduct its investigation.

The zoning committee voted 4-1 to not reconsider its original decision against Coulee Frac at Thursday’s meeting. Committee member and board Supervisor Gaylord Olson cast the dissenting vote.

Representatives from Coulee Frac declined comment on the zoning committee’s decision Thursday.

No word was immediately available on the status of the threat investigation in which the sheriff’s department last reported it had identified a person of interest.

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors will vote on Coulee Frac’s zoning change petition at its meeting scheduled for Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m.

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