Ledgeview vote may stop manure pit near homes
LEDGEVIEW - A farm in rural Brown County may not be allowed to install a controversial manure pit under a new rule adopted Aug. 22 by the town board.
The Ledgeview Town Board voted 4 to 1 to require that the manure pit proposed by Ledgeview Farms must be located at least a quarter-mile from any adjoining properties.
The ordinance change effectively means the pit is not allowed on the farm's land because it is not big enough to accommodate the larger setback, said Jason Pansier, whose family owns Ledgeview Farms.
Pansier said in an interview that he believes the action is part of an effort by the town to get rid of the farm.
"There’s nobody sticking up for us," he said. "All we’re trying to do is run a business and make a living."
Town officials earlier this month had considered increasing the setback distance from 300 feet to 350, but at the Tuesday, Aug. 22 meeting, they upped it to 1,320 feet. The requirement — now the longest such setback in Brown County — applies to all future manure storage facilities and livestock structures built in the town.
Officials chose the larger buffer partly because it is in the ballpark of what other towns in Wisconsin have approved, Ledgeview Administrator Sarah Burdette said.
The town also considered the fact that the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is proposing a plan to expand the statewide standard for livestock setbacks, which applied to Ledgeview Farms would be at 1,000 feet, according to department spokesman Bill Cosh.
Town Board Chairman Phil Danen said state law gives the town authority to increase the setback distance. Asked whether the move was fair, Danen said, "I think everyone in the situation had their voice heard."
Pansier sought the pit, which would hold manure and other liquids, because he is seeking to add 170 head to the farm's herd of 1,680 cows. State rules regulating large farms require Pansier to increase the farm's capacity to store manure.
Underlying the uproar over the pit is the changing face of the town. Ledgeview has traditionally been an agricultural community, but it has become one of the fastest growing areas of Brown County and a destination for upscale residential developments.
People who live in a high-end development near the farm raised concerns with town officials about the proposed pit, including fears that it might harm public health, generate odors and decrease property values.
Town Board member Cullen Peltier, who voted to extend the setback on Tuesday, echoed those concerns, and said he thought the proposed pit would be too close to nearby homes.
"There’s hundreds of residents within a mile of that location and for safety and health reasons and everything else — nuisance, public order, all that — we didn’t think it was a good idea to have that type of structure adjacent to residential properties," Peltier said in an interview.
Still, Peltier said, the town is committed to working with the farm to find a solution that makes everyone happy.
Town Board member Andy Schlag cast the sole dissenting vote. While he said he understands residents' fears, he believes the farm should have the opportunity to expand so it can remain viable.
"I feel that any business in our town needs to be able to expand and continue growth in our community to provide jobs," Schlag said.
He added: "I feel as though we may have shut down the growth of farms in Ledgeview with last night’s vote."