BLACK RIVER FALLS — A group of landowners has officially launched its effort to halt frac sand mining in Jackson County.
A petition filed in Jackson County Circuit Court last month says county officials haven’t followed proper procedures for appealing zoning decisions and should re-consider a challenge of a rail spur for sand transportation in the town of Adams.
Attorney Tom Lister, who filed the court action, said the interested landowners wanted to begin with the rail spur because overturning its approval likely would help halt its associated mining operation in the town of Alma.
“We believe that the rail spur will, upon a full hearing, through the (court action), be avoided, and if there is no rail spur, there’s far less likelihood of a mine,” said Lister, who filed the action on behalf of Adams residents Ronald and Susan Kloss.
Land in Adams was rezoned to allow for the rail spur, the property for which is adjacent to the Kloss property. The couple gave notice of an appeal of the rezoning decision within 30 days, but the notice didn’t prompt a hearing in front of the county’s Board of Adjustment, which Jackson County established years ago to provide an avenue to challenge zoning and land conservation decisions.
Last week’s filing in circuit court asks a judge to rule that the county follow its own procedures for the Board of Adjustment. Jackson County Judge Anna Becker already has recused herself from the civil case, and there will be no court dates until a new judge is assigned.
The court filing alleges the county has “repeatedly misrepresented” the procedure for appeals to those interested in them, instead suggesting that their only recourse was another type of challenge in circuit court.
“The county has intentionally failed to do that because they didn’t want people appealing the decisions they were making and they were instead telling people that their only remedy was to go to court,” said Lister, a former Jackson County judge. “(Going to circuit court) offers a very limited review and a strong presumption in favor of the agency decision, whereas the Board of Adjustment has to provide a full, recorded evidentiary hearing where we intend to show that there was and has been substantial misconduct by county and town officials and their attorneys.”
Zoning and land conservation officials couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time Monday.
The court filing will be the first of several landowners plan to file to halt in-progress mines, which they argue are unnecessary public nuisances. The group is considering taking action against sand mines, including those in the towns of Alma, Curran and Hixton, and the work also has involved working with environmental advocacy groups in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., in efforts to hold public officials accountable, Lister said.
“We’re trying to clean up government,” he said.