Chronology: Four Permit Applications Over 4 Years
March 1, 2002 – Larson Acres Inc. submits first application for conditional use permit to build 1,500 animal unit cow confinement facility on County Highway B in the Town of Magnolia. Local ordinance limits livestock confinement operations to 400 animal units.
March 21, April 18, May 16, 2002 – Planning and Zoning Committee members hold first hearings on first permit application. Area residents testify against the facility, citing strong odors, groundwater contamination, traffic and loss in property values. Larson’s attorney, David Crass of Michael, Best and Friedrich LLP, faults committee on procedural grounds and offers in letters to refrain from suing the town if the committee grants a permit with certain conditions agreeable to Larson Acres. The committee considers provisions of its ordinance, purpose and intent and votes 3-2 to recommend the town deny the permit.
June 11, 2002 – Magnolia Town Board of Supervisors hold a public hearing on the planning and zoning committee recommendation and vote 2 to 1 to refuse the permit.
July 30, 2002 – Larson files a formal appeal of the town board’s decision to Magnolia’s Board of Adjustment., asking that it “supplant its judgment for the (Town) Board’s” and grant the permit because the planning and zoning committee was “tainted,” “poisoned” and insidiously biased,” and because the town Board’s acceptance of the committee’s recommendation tainted its decision, as well.
Aug. 28, 2002 – Board of Adjustment hears the appeal and votes to refer a decision back to the Magnolia Town Board.
Sept. 10, 2002 – Town board members vote 2 to 1 to send a proposed agreement amending terms of the permit application back to the Board of Adjustment.
Oct. 2, 2002 – Board of Adjustment members vote 2 to 1 to deny permit.
Oct. 20, 2002 – Larson Acres experiences 30,000 to 40,000 gallon manure spill when a clamp fails on a hose connector at its dairy facility on Highway 59.
Dec. 2, 2002 – Board of Adjustment members hold a second hearing because its first meeting was not properly noticed, with the board this time voting to accept the permit application.
Feb. 6, 2003 – Residents in vicinity of the proposed Larson Acres heifer facility file a petition in Rock County Circuit Court, alleging that the board of adjustment failed to act within its jurisdiction when it issued the conditional use permit.
September 2003 – Ed Larson sits on state task force holding public hearings around Wisconsin for Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to develop a new Livestock Facility Siting law that supercedes local ordinances with uniform technical guidelines.
Oct. 13, 2003 – Rock County Circuit Court rules citizens’ request for restraining order and temporary injunction to halt Larson Acres’ construction of large-scale livestock facility is “premature” after Larson Acres maintains facility will not be completed before decision on the case is rendered and proceeds with building “at its own risk,” according to citizens.
Nov. 18, 2003 – American Public Health Association, the oldest (1872) and largest (50,000 professional members) health organization in the United States calls on all local, state and federal government authorities to issue a moratorium on construction of new confined animal feeding operations and urges support for research and protections against documented hazards from CAFOs.
Feb. 23, 2004 – Joint session of state Assembly and Senate holds one public hearing to consider AB868, a livestock facility siting bill patterned after a 1996 Illinois law, imposing state guidelines for permitting operations and restricting local governments from refusing permits to proposed large-scale facilities.
March 2004 – In Iowa City, the Institute for Rural and Environmental Health convenes a public conference on Environmental and Health Impacts of Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Authorities on medicine, microbiology, veterinary science, occupational health, hydrology, virology, epidemiology, social medicine and infectious diseases – from around the nation and other parts of the world – make presentations. They share scientific observations, statistics, findings and direct experience related to research of confined animal feeding operations in 9 panels during a day-long conference.
April 13, 2004 – Gov. Jim Doyle signs the Livestock Siting Bill into law for Wisconsin, prohibiting towns and counties from denying permits for large confined animal feeding operations in areas zoned for agriculture, excepting when negative health and safety impacts can be proven on basis of scientific fact. The law provides that DATCP will develop administrative rules to enforce the new law with guidelines that a technical advisory committee will compile.
April 15, 2004 – Judge Michael J. Byron sides with citizens in their appeal against the permit and orders the Town of Magnolia to declare the Larson Acres Conditional Use Permit null and void.
May 4, 2004 – Larson Acres asks Circuit Court for a stay of its ruling to allow nearly 1,000 cows to remain in its new livestock facility pending appeal of the voided permit to a higher court. Judge Byron denies the stay and orders cows above ordinance limitation (400) removed on June 29. Larson Acres later seeks a stay of the judge’s ruling a second time, but Judge Byron denies that request, too, and orders cows removed. Larson Acres does not remove the cows form the County Highway B heifer barn, which has no permit.
June 15, 2004 – Larson Acres files appeal of circuit court ruling to state Court of Appeals District IV. Larson Acres also asks for a stay of the lower court’s ruling so that it can keep twice the number of cows local ordinance allows in its new cattle barn until the appeals court renders its decision. The state appeals court later denies this stay of the lower court ruling, but Larson Acres does not remove its cattle from the facility.
May 12, 2005 – Court of Appeals upholds Circuit Court ruling against Larson Acres.
June 13, 2005 – Larson Acres files a petition with the state Supreme Court to review the appeals court denial of the ruling that voided its first conditional use permit.
Aug. 4, 2005 – Larson Acres and Town of Magnolia board members meet in mediation session in Madison to attempt resolution of each other’s legal actions over CUP denial and refusal to draw down livestock numbers from between 800 and 900 heifers to the ordinance limitation of 400 animals.
Nov. 15, 2005 – Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices rule 5 to 2 to deny Larson Acres’ a hearing on its appeal of the original Rock County Circuit Court ruling voiding their conditional use permit.
Dec. 9, 2005 – Planning and Zoning Committee members table Larson’s third conditional use permit application, 4-0, pending outcome of Larson Acres’ lawsuit against the Town of Magnolia alleging bias for refusing his second conditional use permit. They also announced that they would petition Rock County Circuit Court for fines against Larson Acres for repeated refusal to draw down livestock numbers at his County Highway B heifer facility, for which permits were voided in April 2004, and stays of the court order denied.
Dec. 10, 2005 – Ed Larson is member of state technical advisory committee at a public hearing in the DATCP building in Madison to help determine guidelines and administrative rules that will be used to implement Wisconsin’s new Livestock Facility Siting Law.
Jan. 6, 2006 – Town Board members hold meeting to consider Larson Acres’ attempts to reach a compromise, but vote 3-0 instead instructing attorney Glenn Reynolds to hire a technical expert to counsel the town on legal and appropriate responses to large-scale confinement operation applications under the new state law and to address citizen concerns about health and public safety.
May 2006 – Larson Acres submits its fourth conditional use permit application for a 1500-animal unit confined animal feeding operation under the new state Livestock Facility Siting Law.
May 2006 – Town of Magnolia officials adopt a new water safety ordinance on advice from Dr. Byron Shaw, an emeritus professor of soil and water with the UW Stevens Point for more than 30 years.
October 2006 – Larson Acres agrees to pay $72,500 fine for failing to remove livestock from County Hwy B heifer facility, in exchange for temporary permission to keep approximately 900 cows there pending his fourth conditional use permit application to the Town of Magnolia.
Oct. 20, 2006 – Larson Acres refuses to respond to a long, detailed list of questions from the Town of Magnolia regarding its 4th conditional use permit application under the new state law. Instead, it appeals to a new state Livestock Facility Siting Law Review Board at the DATCP building in Madison. The board, however, notes that statutes under the new law describe its function as taking appeals from applicants that have been refused permits under the new law, or hearing appeals from residents regarding permits to applicants. It votes 7 to 0 to send Larson Acres back to the town to work through the questions and arrive at acceptance or denial of a permit within 60 days of filing. Board members note that Larson Acres replied to none of the local town board’s questions regarding its nutrient management plan.
Oct. 25 – 2006 – Town of Magnolia officials file for a warrant of inspection with Rock County Circuit Court, after they are first given permission from Ed Larson by phone to take water samples on Larson Acres’ County Hwy B property, then barred from going onto the property by a Sheriff’s Deputy threatening the officials with trespass. The judge gave the town a warrant of inspection and sent town staff back to the property with the Sheriff’s Deputy and a court order that Larson Acres permit the town to take water samples.
Nov. 9, 2006 – Following a 4-hour meeting and lengthy presentation on the new law from a DATCP engineer, Town of Magnolia Planning and Zoning Board members vote 5 to 0 to recommend to its town board that Larson Acres’ 26-page checklist as “complete” in a fourth conditional use permit for a 1500-animal unit dry cow operation at its County Hwy B facility under the new state Livestock Facility Siting law and DATCP administrative rules. At this meeting, Larson Acres’ attorney refuses to recognize the Town of Magnolia’s right to subpoena Larson Acres for information on its manure management plans, soil test records, crop records or land base for application of manure at the new heifer facility, yet he says Larson Acres is willing to cooperate with the town as it seeks more information on its permit request for the 1500 animal unit facility.
Nov. 14, 2006 – Town Board members vote 3 to 0 to accept the recommendation of their planning and zoning board (from last week) that Larson Acres Inc.’s application for a conditional use permit to expand its heifer operation to 1500 animal units is complete. DATCP considers “completeness” as compliance, but also recognizes that state law specifically states that this determination does not constitute award of a permit. The 3 town supervisors took this vote with two notations: (1) that Larson Acres could have moved to quash subpoenas the town issued in early November for more information and which Larson Acres has ignored, but Larson Acres did not do so, and (2) that the date of acceptance of the new state 26-page checklist from Larson Acres will be listed as complete is Oct. 25, on which date Larson Acres inserted 2 maps and substituted several pages from its original application to the town.
Dec. 14, 2006 – Town holds public hearing nearly 4 hours long on Larson Acres 4th permit application for the County Hwy B 1500 –animal unit operation. No decision is made since Larson Acres did not submit numerous folders, documents, maps and supportive evidence variously until days and hours before the meeting and at the meeting itself. Next hearing is set for the fourth Thursday in January at 6 p.m., to allow zoning board and consultants to review material.