WHITEHALL, Wis. (WEAU) – The booming sand mine industry is sweeping Wisconsin. But on Wednesday, one local town got one step closer to slamming the brakes.
Property owners in the Town of Hale near Strum in Trempealeau County requested a hearing to rezone their land from residential to exclusive agricultural to allow frac sand mining.
"This is my homestead, my husband's homestead and he’s owned that for how many years,” said property owner Debra Erickson. “I feel that we have the right to do with our property as we like.”
Erickson mentioned other factors in an exclusive agricultural setting like being able to have a chicken barn aside from the issue of sand mining.
The company hoping to build the sand mine was also there.
“There are regulations within the state, within the Department of Natural resources, down to the county level and down to the townships that need to be followed,” said Matthew Segerstrom who told the crowd that contrary to popular belief, he’s not from a big corporation.
“I am the son of a third generation farmer from Mondovi, Wisconsin. I grew up in Mondovi all my life, lived on a farm that backed up to a big sand mining plant,” Segerstrom said, mentioning how he and his family grew up healthy.
After hearing from supporters and the opposition in a meeting that lasted more than three hours, the Environment and Land Use Committee voted the request down 4-3.
“The Town of Hale has been laid out as a residential township, almost the entire township,” said chair of the Environment and Land Use Committee in the county Tom Bice.
That means there are certain protections under the unique residential zoning, like keeping sand mines away.
“This happened so quickly, the rezoning here; people were just so caught off guard. None of us ever dreamed there'd ever be a silica sand mind in our backyards,” said Jeanne Nutter who spoke out during the public hearing. Nutter lives just a couple of miles from the Erickson’s site.
The opposing committee formed a group of their own, calling themselves “Hale No” stemming off from the name of the town.
Bice said the decision to motion to deny the zoning change application was a tough one.
“We're in a situation here where we're caught in the middle between someone who wants to do something and someone who doesn't want them to do that and they both have rights and weighing those rights are very difficult to do fairly,” said Bice.
On Monday, the county board will vote on the committee’s recommendation.
Bice said the Erickson’s can come back to the committee if they make changes to the plan, otherwise they’ll have to wait 6 months to come back to suggest the same approval.