Ledgeview residents say manure pit idea stinks
LEDGEVIEW - They moved to custom homes in rural Brown County for the peace, quiet and wide-open spaces.
They did not expect that a manure pit serving hundreds of cattle could be part of the bargain.
Residents of a development off Lime Kiln Road are scrambling to find ways to keep a nearby dairy farm from building a manure-storage facility near their neighborhood of custom homes valued from $440,000 to more than $600,000.
Neighbors fear the farm could be allowed to store millions of gallons of manure and leachate at the site. Those concerns have galvanized a group that includes doctors, lawyers and the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Some barely knew each other mere months ago.
They're worried that a structure for storing animal waste threatens water quality, endangers children, and will harm the values of the homes on Beachmont Road, Meadow Sound Drive and other streets constructed in recent years on land that formerly was agricultural.
"We all chose to live near a farm," said Melissa Cheslock, a resident. "But we didn't choose to live near this. We're not saying that the farmer shouldn't be able to do his job. We're just saying don't put it near our houses."
The permit is being sought by Ledgeview Farms LLC, a site at Dickinson and Lime Kiln roads that the Pansier family of Ledgeview has farmed for decades.
Because the farm's owners have yet to file a completed permit application for the storage facility, a state Department of Natural Resources official couldn't say how much manure it would store. But she said it's possible for such a facility to store 10 million gallons of manure and leachate.
Farmer Jason "Jake" Pansier declined Monday night to discuss the proposal but said his family plans "to follow the rules" regarding permits and storage.
One issue now challenging Ledgeview residents, and the elected officials who serve them: A limited knowledge of regulations governing issues over who can regulate a manure-storage facility, and how close one can be built to a residential area.
County officials said local ordinance now allows a manure-storage facility as close as 250 feet to a neighboring property.
Heidi Schmitt Marquez, a Howard-based agricultural runoff management specialist for the DNR, said large farms are known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, must have storage for 180 days worth of animal manure and leachate from feed piles. She said the Pansier farm is a CAFO.
Once Ledgeview Farms files a complete application, she said, DNR will conduct a review that includes a site visit and hold a public-comment session. Because every farm is different, she said, she could not predict how long the process would take.
"It's a complex process, and I know it can be frustrating for people," she said. "But it's still pretty early in the permitting process."
The challenge of balancing rural and suburban concerns was less of an issue in Brown County before housing developments began swallowing large swaths of agricultural land.
That's what's been happening lately in northern Ledgeview. Figures show the town in the past decade has seen the total value of its property grow by a best-in-the-county 47 percent, from $551 million to $809 million, thanks in part to streets like Beachmont Road.
One of those residents is Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, an area resident who said he worries about potential health effects associated with storing large quantities of manure.
"I don't think this is an agricultural-residential issue," he said Monday afternoon as he chatted with neighbors in a cul-de-sac that abuts the farm. "I'm not sure Mr. Pansier is acting in the best interest of being a good neighbor."
Among other things, the farm's neighbors worry about water quality. Manure from farm runoff has contaminated certain wells in parts of Kewaunee County. Ledgeview residents also have expressed fears about gases from the manure pits, and about pit walls potentially failing.
A number of residents on Monday took pains to say they aren't trying to prevent the Pansiers from addressing manure issues or to be anti-farming.
But several said any storage facility that is built needs to be a part of the farm that is far from houses.
Town Board President Phil Danen said officials have been "gathering as much information as we can" about the farm proposal, in part because such issues were rare in the past when Ledgeview was almost entirely rural. Now, though, a significant portion has become a bedroom community for Green Bay.
"Practically speaking," Danen said, "I have two Ledgeviews now."
Ledgeview officials expect they'll need to address the issue in the future, Danen said, which is why they're researching it.
More than 20 town residents jammed a county supervisors' subcommittee meeting Monday night seeking to halt or slow the process by which the farm could get its permit.
"If this goes through, you're not only going to destroy millions and millions of dollars (in property value), you’re going to affect the tax base," said Mark Forman of Marble Rock Circle. "It will stop development on the ledge."
Supervisors on the Land Conservation sub-committee considered recommending a temporary hold on projects like the proposed manure facility but decided that doing so could harm farmers elsewhere.
Officials discussed possibly changing rules governing how close a storage facility can be to a neighboring property, though their attorney, Deputy Corporation Counsel Greg Gerbers, said any changes would not affect applications that had already been filed.
And not all committee members agreed that a facility at the Pansier farm would have much impact on neighbors.
"It bothers me when people move to the country and expect not have to deal with country issues," said Dave Landwehr, a Hobart supervisor. "I'd ask you to reach out to the farmer and see if you can reach a resolution. Nobody likes change, nobody likes the potential threat, but don’t think that it’s going to ruin your neighborhood."
They ultimately decided the county should review ordinances governing how close a waste-storage facility can be to a residential neighborhood.