Company to begin dumping fill at former Richfield pit next week

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

May 15, 2015

RICHFIELD - Despite actions by Richfield officials to deliver the project a knockout punch, Scenic Pit LLC has notified the village the company intends to begin filling a former sand and gravel pit at 609 Scenic Road and end efforts to gain village approval for the work.

“We’ve received approval from the Department of Natural Resources and we’ll start hauling clean fill into the site next week,” company managing partner Danah Zoulek said. “We’ve made preparations to move ahead.”

The closed sand and gravel pit has been the center of controversy in Richfield for several months. Earlier this year, the village changed the zoning of the property and its designation on the village’s land use map in an attempt to prevent the project. Village meetings on the issue have seen large turnouts of Richfield residents opposed filling the pit.

Wednesday the attorney for the company, Bruce McIlnay, notified the village’s counsel of Scenic Pit’s intentions.

Village Administrator Jim Healy said he received an email from the DNR Thursday that he interpreted as saying local approval is still needed for the pit to be used to dump clean fill — despite what Zoulek or her attorney claim.

“This permit does not convey any property rights of any sorts or any exclusive privilege. ... This permit does not exempt the property owner from any local permits and requirements,” said DNR Storm Water Specialist Maureen McBroom in an email.

Healy said he only learned of the DNR action and the company’s plans just before 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“I was able to inform all of the board of the developments by about 10 p.m.,” Healy said. He could not offer a formal statement Wednesday because he hadn’t had time to discuss the news fully with the village’s attorney.

McIlnay said the decision comes after repeated attempts to work with the village since the fall of 2014 have been rebuffed.

“Through open records requests, Scenic Pit has recently learned village staff was working behind the scenes to influence potential stake holders in the project from cooperating with Scenic Pit,” McIlnay said.

In his notification to the village McIlnay cited the case of DeRosso Landfill Co. v. City of Oak Creek, which held that Oak Creek could not prevent operation of a clean fill facility.

“There, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that the regulatory scheme in the Wisconsin statutes delegating authority to the DNR to exempt certain operations from licensing preempted local control over a matter of statewide concern,” said McIlnay.

Zoulek said the DNR on Wednesday issued a permit allowing the company to fill the site with clean fill exempt from licensing under DNR regulations dealing with solid waste facilities.

She said the decision to proceed under the authority of the DeRosso case was deemed necessary in order to restore the site to a state where it could be developed under the existing R-1 zoning adopted by the village in March of this year.

“The actions of the village, some of which we only learned about last week, left us no choice as to how to proceed,” Zoulek said. “I am absolutely flabbergasted after reading some of the emails obtained through an open records request that show the efforts village officials used to try to prevent our project from happening.”

Zoulek said Scenic Pit is committed to follow the DNR guidelines and to attempt to address the concerns of neighboring residents.

One option being explored is the use of a private road that had been used when the pit was an active mine.

“This was one of the areas we believe the village worked behind the scenes to derail us. We hope the decision to proceed under the DeRosso authority will allow us to get our discussions back on track with the owner of the private road,” Zoulek said.

Zoulek said once the pit is filled residential development can begin.

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