Richfield village officials react to comments about Scenic Pit case

Daily News Staff

Dec. 11, 2017

Danah Zoulek looks over the edge to the pit on her property near a new pile of clean fill that was dropped off Oct. 11 at the quarry off of Scenic Drive in Richfield.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Richfield officials are responding to comments made by the managing partner of Scenic Pit LLC, Danah Zoulek, in an article in Thursday’s Daily News.

Village officials claimed in a Friday news release that Zoulek is violating an agreement made in front of Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Gonring.

The Daily News story detailed how village officials are seeking a hearing and trial on “unresolved issues” in the case where they have been fighting to prevent Zoulek from opening a clean-fill landfill in the village.

“The Daily News published an article in which Zoulek admits she has been taking construction spoil on her property for the last two months,” said the village release. “This is in direct violation of the stipulated agreement verbally agreed to in front of the Hon. Judge Andrew Gonring.

“Zoulek was quoted as saying ‘Driveway and culvert permits are local approvals and the Court of Appeals has determined no local approvals apply,’” the release said. “Zoulek’s perversion of the Court of Appeals’ decision underscores the troubling way she is now interpreting the decision and why further declaratory judgments by the circuit court are needed.

“What would happen if 90 percent of the village’s properties (those that are not located in the FEMA Flood plain per the Court of Appeals), including those in subdivisions, declared their property as a ‘clean fill site’ like Zoulek has?” asked Village Administrator Jim Healy. “Would that similarly exempt them from every ordinance in our municipal code? It defies logic and common sense.”

Healy said Zoulek repeatedly brings up comparisons with “The Jacklin Pit” and Lannon Stone on Highway 175, but her comparisons “are fundamentally incorrect. Neither of these properties are classified as clean fill sites. The Jacklin Pit was not abandoned, it was actively operated until it was purchased as a part of the Timberstone Subdivision development.”

Existing virgin soil material that was left over from developing the subdivision was, Healy said, was placed in “The Jacklin Pit” and/or was re-graded and redistributed throughout the development.

“Lannon Stone on Highway 175 is an active quarry and the material being brought on to the property is regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and is a part of an approved restoration plan overseen by Washington County,” Healy said.

The village release said, “The irony is Zoulek’s partner, Jeff Gonyo, almost a decade ago was concerned about dumping in this same area, on the Old Wissota Gravel Pit on Scenic Road where the Bark River flows through the property and empties into nearby Bark Lake — a highly populated residential area. Now he is arguing that his client should be allowed to operate a clean fill site without any regulations thereby jeopardizing the drinking water in the Village of Richfield.”

Zoulek said the village was incorrect in saying Gonyo, an attorney, is partner.

“He is not my partner and he is not my attorney,” Zoulek said.

The release said the Village Board continues to fight for village taxpayers and to protect the village’s groundwater.

“Zoulek’s property is not regulated by the DNR,” the release said. “She has no reporting requirements and the DNR is wholly unaware of where these types of operations take place. We all know that if any contamination gets into the groundwater from an unclean load the Village’s groundwater will be forever destroyed.”

The release also said village officials dispute other comments attributed to Zoulek in the story. “The article also quotes Zoulek as saying this is ‘another attempt by Richfield to delay the business’s operation.’ This could not be more untrue,” the release said. “We are attempting to continue through the civil procedure process. This case was remanded back to the Circuit Court by the Court of Appeals and the judgment for Scenic Pit LLC was only ‘in part.’ Other, more critical elements of the case have yet to be decided.”

In a telephone interview Friday afternoon, Zoulek said the village’s news release contained many incorrect statements and misinformation.

“They are thumbing their nose at our justice system — completely,” Zoulek said. “There never was a stipulation agreement. The village was supposed to draft one but they never did. They never submitted it to the court. The stipulation was to be that we would abide by village ordinance until the Supreme Court made the decision whether or not to take the case. If they would read their own ordinances RS-1 allows me to take up to two acres of clean-fill on my site. I haven’t done that. We’ve taken maybe 40 truck loads.”

Zoulek said the village needs to stop fighting people and instead “work with the people and village residents.”

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