Richfield seeks trial in fight over Scenic Pit landfill
Village asks judge to schedule a conference over remaining issues

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

Dec. 7, 2017

A sign placed outside the pit on the property of Danah Zoulek is seen
Oct. 11 off of Scenic Drive in Richfield.

John Ehlke/Daily News

Despite their legal arguments being rejected by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the state’s Supreme Court, village of Richfield officials are seeking a scheduling conference with Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Gonring in their long legal fight over the opening of a clean-fill landfill at the site of a former gravel pit in the village.

In a letter dated Tuesday and sent to Gonring, Attorney Joseph Wirth, on behalf of the village, in light of the courts ordering a partial summary judgement in favor of Scenic Pit LLC and owner manager Danah Zoulek, “the next logical step is to set dates and deadlines for discovery and trial on the two remaining issues in the lawsuit. The partial summary judgement granted to the plaintiff (Scenic Pit) does not dispose of all issues in this matter.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court announced in October that it was denying the village’s appeal of a State Court of Appeals ruling in June that rejected Richfield’s efforts to halt Zoulek’s landfill. It also ordered the case remanded back to Washington County Circuit Court to enforce the high court’s ruling and to handle any remaining issues. The Appeals Court said the ruling announced in June that the Legislature has given the DNR discretion to exempt certain low-hazard waste facilities, like the proposed clean-fill facility. The judges ruled that state statutes preempt municipal authority to enforce “local approval” requirements for such facilities so the village could not halt the facility from operating.

Wirth said in his letter to Gonring, “the plaintiff’s complaint also seeks a determination that it need not obtain driveway and culvert permits from the village. Second, there has not yet been a determination of whether the proposed landfill can be operated in an ‘aesthetic and nuisance-free manner’ — an issue the court of appeals specifically noted was not part of its instruction when summary judgment was granted to the plaintiff.” Zoulek said Scenic Pit believes the village’s latest legal move is another attempt by Richfield to delay the business’s operation.

“Scenic Pit has been in operation for two months and we have received zero complaints,” Zoulek said. “Driveway and culvert permits are local approvals and the Court of Appeals has determined no local approvals apply. If Richfield has a complaint they can petition the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.”

She said the village has spent more $170,000 in tax money on the Scenic Pit case and restoration of abandoned quarries is a positive thing.

“Richfield supported restoration of the Jacklin Pit (now part of Timberstone),” Zoulek said. “Just Google non-metallic mine reclamation to see why reclamation is now required by law for mines in operation after 2001.

Zoulek believes Scenic Pit is being treated differently than other similarly situated properties.

“The Jacklin Pit, which was zoned M-5 and then rezoned residential to allow restoration of the abandoned quarry is one example,” Zoulek said. “Clean fill was used to restore that site. There is currently a clean fill facility to restore the quarry on Highway 175 which is zoned M-5.”

In October after the Wisconsin Supreme Court announced it was rejecting the village’s arguments, Village Administrator Jim Healy said the the case was not over yet.

“Our insurance company will continue to fight the case on the village’s behalf,” Healy said then. “She (Zoulek) also has to demonstrate that she can operate the landfill in a nuisance free manner.”

Zoulek said earlier, “basically we just had roadblocks and politics from day one and they were not willing to work with us at all.” The village told Zoulek earlier in the controversy that zoning prevented the property from being used as a clean-fill landfill. Zoulek and Scenic Pit LLC disagreed, and argued the zoning allowed quarry restoration, which included using the property for clean fill.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website states reclamation of non-metallic mines protects the environment through reduced erosion and wildlife habitat, allows productive end land uses and has the potential to increase land values and tax revenues.

In a Wednesday afternoon email, Healy said he could not comment.

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