Ledgeview residents fighting manure pit must wait for answers; town board delays vote

Doug Schneider

LEDGEVIEW - Town residents who want to keep a proposed manure pit away from their properties will have to wait — and might need to look to the state or federal government for answers.

After nearly 20 residents spoke at a public hearing Monday, Aug. 7, the town board decided to delay a vote on a measure that might have brought some slight relief to neighbors of Ledgeview Farms LLC. The dairy business wants to install a pit to hold manure and agricultural runoff on land at Lime Kiln and Dickinson roads.

Town supervisors said they understand the concerns of residents of a high-end housing development that abuts the farm, as well as those of the operators of the business. But they said they need more information on the issue, in part so they don't accidentally make things worse or affect other people who live near the farm.

Ledgeview residents concerned about a dairy farm's proposal to build a manure-storage facility jam a public hearing at town hall on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

"We’re pushing this as much as we can to make sure (Ledgeview and its residents) have the most voice," Town Board Chairman Phil Danen said. "But it might even make things worse … restrictions might actually put (the pit) closer to the neighborhood."

The town is considering increasing the distance such a pit would have to be from a residential neighborhood from 300 feet to 350, which officials said is the maximum distance the town can require. The regulation would affect all future manure pits built in the town.

Officials said they hope that such a change would give neighbors some relief from their worries about odors, safety and potential water contamination. But they acknowledge that moving the proposed pit by 50 feet or so would likely make little difference.

They also recognize that the ability to regulate operations like Ledgeview Farms lies more with agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"The town, unfortunately, is the tail of this dog. We are not driving the situation; we have very little to say about it," Danen said. "If it was up to me, I would try to find a way to stop this. I would try to find a way to not have it in my backyard … but I don't know that there is a lot we can do about it."

That brought little comfort to residents of the neighborhood of $440,000 to $700,000 custom houses just north of part of the farm.

Farmland where construction of a manure pit is being proposed is shown from the back deck of Charity Schneider's Ledgeview house.

Voss said the town, the farm owners, their neighbors and government agencies involved in the process could devise a win-win-win-win solution. Danen said representatives of those groups have begun meeting.

Per Wisconsin law, "concentrated animal feeding operations" — farms with a certain number of animals — must construct holding areas to contain 180 days worth of animal waste and other runoff until it can be hauled off-site.

Jason "Jake" Pansier, whose family owns Ledgeview Farms, said he "is willing to work with the people" who are concerned about the pit, but cautioned, "If you put in place these ordinances, some houses (the pit) is going to move father away from, but for some it’s going to move closer," he said. "You may want to watch out what you're pushing for."

It is unclear how much manure and runoff would be stored at the Pansier farm. Jason Pansier declined on Monday to say, though he said manure would comprise only about 60 percent of the material in the pit. The farm's owners have yet to file a completed permit application for the storage facility with the state DNR.

Once the farm files a complete application, DNR will conduct a review that includes a site visit and hold a public-comment session. A DNR official could not predict how long the process would take.

More than 50 people attended Monday's meeting.