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
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
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