HUDSON -- The impact on property values and the level of traffic created by a proposed biodigester appears to have the project headed for rejection with a key St. Croix County panel.
In a split informal vote Friday, Aug. 23, St. Croix County Board of Adjustment members signaled opposition to a conditional-use permit for the Western Wisconsin Biogas and Nutrient Recovery Project.
The project calls for building a $55 million facility in the town of Pleasant Valley that — using Jennie-O turkey litter and manure from area dairy farms — would convert the waste into natural gas. Plans call for the natural gas to be piped to Baldwin, while byproducts produced from processed cow manure would be sold as fertilizer products.
Two unofficial votes, both at 3-2, indicated opposition to approving the permit.
Board of Adjustment Chairman Buck Malick said county staff will generate language to articulate the objections — that the project would have a significant adverse effect on the neighborhood’s property values and that the volume of truck traffic associated with the plant would be detrimental to the public’s health and safety.
“That’s the general framework of the decision,” Malick said.
St. Croix County Land Use Administrator Kevin Grabau said staff will present formal findings and conclusions at the board’s Sept. 26 that will be the basis for a formal vote on the project. Until that language is prepared, “it’s really hard to say what that vote will be,” he said.
Requests denied by the Board of Adjustment are often appealed in the circuit court system. Applicant Ray Davy, president of Agri-Waste Energy Inc., did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
Malick, who signaled support of the permit, said he spoke with Davy after the meeting.
“He was vastly disappointed,” Malick said.
The project, first presented to the board in January, has seen strong opposition from Pleasant Valley and individual neighbors who, in addition to property value and traffic issues, have voiced concerns over odors from the plant and environmental concerns. Project supporters countered that odor control systems at the plant would minimize concerns over the smell.
The board requested a property value study at its May meeting. The project applicants footed the bill for the $20,000 study.
That report, completed Aug. 9 by Steigerwaldt Land Services, concluded that properties within a half-mile of the project would see a 2% property value decline. Properties from a half-mile to a mile from the project would see a 1% decline. The study found an overall “minimal to negligible” impact on property values beyond a mile from the project.
“The authors believe this is a measure of ‘worse case’ diminishment and that a strong argument can be made that there is negligible impact to surrounding property values,” the report states.
Malick said the report “was a big factor” in his decision to support the permit.
In forming a decision, board members must apply the law in establishing what represents the affected neighborhood and what is considered “significant,” Malick explained.
He said at least one board member signaling opposition to the permit described how a 2%property value impact on a $300,000 home would be “major.”
He said he saw otherwise.
“I would have said that was not a significant impact,” he said, adding that the volume of trucks going in and out of the proposed facility did not strike him as a public safety concern.
The next Board of Adjustment meeting is 8:30 a.m. Sept. 26, in the Government Center boardroom.