High court to decide Saratoga mega-dairy fate
MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court may decide the future of a proposed mega-dairy farm Saratoga.
The Golden Sands Dairy farm, which would hold about 4,000 cows and have about 6,000 acres of crops where the company will spread the manure from the cows, has been the subject of controversy since it was proposed by the Wysocki Family of Companies in 2012.
In April, an appeals court ruled that Wysocki's building permits for the project did not allow it to plant crops on the land, a ruling that a Wysocki executive said endangered the future of the project.
A citizens advocacy group called Protect Wood County and Its Neighbors opposes the dairy because of concerns it will contaminate the area's water or lower the town's water table. Saratoga officials have tried to stop the dairy using zoning, which was put in place only after Wysocki announced its plans.
Now the Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide whether the company has the right to farm the land. The court issued a notice Sept. 12 stating it would hear the case.
"Golden Sands is gratified, but not surprised, that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has taken this case," said Jim Wysocki, the company's chief financial officer. "It will provide the court the opportunity to clarify the law of vested rights in Wisconsin for all businesses that create jobs in the state and to rectify the unfair process by which the town of Saratoga sought to deprive Golden Sands of its vested rights."
Numerous agricultural and real estate groups filed motions with the Supreme Court that supported the court taking the case. Those groups were concerned that other communities could change the rules after property is purchased, Wysocki said.
Rhonda Carrell, a member of Protect Wood County and Its Neighbors, said she was not shocked the Supreme Court would hear case.
But "it is disappointing, as it would be great if we could end this matter," Carrell said.
Protect Wood County and Its Neighbors is also preparing to participate in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permitting process, Carrell said. Those permitting process and court challenges could go on for years regardless of the state Supreme Court's decision in this case, she said.