Large dairy operation could come to Town of Erin PrairieLocal dairy farmers are considering a major change for their operations.
By: Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
Local dairy farmers are considering a major change for their operations.
John and Georgine Schottler, who operate a large dairy complex south of Somerset, are researching the possibility of constructing a confined animal feeding facility on land they own in the Town of Erin Prairie.
“We’re thinking about it, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” John Schottler said. “There are so many uncertainties. There’s nothing set in stone yet.”
The Schottlers brought their concept proposal to a recent township meeting and invited neighbors to ask questions and provide input.
He said the idea has received both positive and negative feedback from area residents.
“We want to know what the neighbors think,” he said.
If they continue to move ahead with their idea, Schottler said it could take at least two years to get all of the permits and approvals in place.
The facility will require township, county and state permits in order to be accomplished.
“We’re just getting started,” Schottler said.
Preliminary plans call for a dairy operation with a maximum of 3,800 head of cows. The facility would be located near the intersection of 140th Avenue and 160th Street in Erin Prairie Township.
According to Ellen Denzer, senior planner with the St. Croix County Planning & Zoning Department, there has not yet been an official application presented to the county.
The recent meeting was held to let town officials and residents know that the Schottlers are thinking about moving part or all of their dairy operation from the Town of St. Joseph to their land in Erin Prairie.
If the Schottlers eventually pursue the plan, they will have to follow regulations outlined in the county zoning ordinance and the animal waste management ordinance.
New facilities may also have to comply with Wisconsin codes related to animal feed operations, runoff management and nutrient management, depending on type of operation and location.
Within the past couple years, Denzer said, the state and county have approved new measures to make it easier for livestock operations to be located in appropriate areas.
Land in the Town of Erin Prairie, including the Schottlers’ land, is zoned agricultural (sometimes referred to as exclusive ag.) Livestock operations in these areas are more likely to get the approvals they need.
“This district is one of two that the county designated, in response to the siting law, where livestock operations are permitted as long as they meet state code,” Denzer explained. “An application will be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Department, it will be reviewed by our staff and by the staff at the Land and Water Conservation Department in Baldwin. Then it will be either approved or denied administratively. There are specific criteria for approval or denial and either decision must comply with the state code. “
Denzer said a public hearing in the matter is not required by the county for farming projects in the exclusive ag district.
If there are more than 1,000 animal units involved in the proposal, the application will also be submitted to the state for approval. The state would require a public hearing as part of its review.
The county has received several calls from neighbors of the proposed facility expressing their concerns, Denzer said. Those opposing the idea were either residents of a nearby housing subdivision or people thinking of moving into the development. The Schottler land borders the Town of Richmond, which is not zoned “exclusive agriculture.”
There are appeal options for persons opposed to any proposed livestock facility, Denzer said. The appeal goes to the State Livestock Facility Siting Review Board.
Any appeals through that process are difficult to win, Denzer said.
“It is a very limited appeal process,” she said. “The fact that it’s not exclusive ag next door is just the way it is.”
The county ordinances for the siting of livestock facilities are posted on the St. Croix County Web site. Visit http://www.co.saint-croix.wi.us/county_ordinances.htm for more information.