By Rapids City Times staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The Wisconsin Supreme Court has overruled an appeals court and granted the owners of a proposed dairy operation in the town of Saratoga the right to use over 6,300 acres of land despite a town zoning ordinance.
The case of Golden Sands Dairy versus the Town of Saratoga was announced on June 5. At stake was whether the Wysocki family could expand its operation to cover 6,388 acres, allowing for over 5,000 head of cattle and supporting crops.
Governor Scott Walker says it’s clear the decision is final.
“We certainly will live with the decisions of the court going forward, and we want to make sure that as we do that, dairy farmers big and small alike can be accounted for,” he said.
Walker says large dairy outfits are generally good about being environmentally-friendly.
“Water quality and other issues are very stringent at larger operations,” he added. “Frankly, most of the challenges in terms of run-off are smaller, mid-size operations that don’t have to live under those regulations.”
Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson both dissented. Abrahamson wrote that the decision creates uncertainty in the building permit process.
A previous Appeals Court ruling in 2014 determined that the family was legal in obtaining a permit for seven buildings on the land.
The current issue was with the acres outside the area where the buildings will be constructed. At the time of the application, that land was zoned as unrestricted, meaning it could be used for any lawful purpose. The town re-zoned that property shortly after the initial permit application was submitted in a way that prohibited Golden Sands’ planned agricultural use. The issue has been tied up in the court system ever since.
Walker says helping farmers operate in an environmentally-friendly way remains a top priority of his administration.
The Supreme Court decision allows Golden Sands to move forward with its planned expansion. The Wysocki family says it still plans to work with the town of Saratoga to alleviate any concerns.