Prairie River Junction’s request for heavy industrial use approved

Despite objections of residents and Town of Merrill recommendation to deny, Committee approves request, bound by Wisconsin Act 67


In response to concerns from area residents, the Town of Merrill amended its position and recommended the Lincoln County Land Services Committee deny Prairie River Junction LLC’s request to allow heavy industrial use in a general industrial zoning district, in conjunction with the LLC’s proposed development of a rail spur on property north of Mill St. in Merrill, bordered on two sides by Duginski Rd. in the Town of Merrill.
Residents raised concerns over how the land was rezoned to general industrial use years ago and objected to the property being rezoned to heavy industrial use now, without knowing specifically what Prairie River Junction plans to do on the property.
Nonetheless, at their Aug. 10 meeting, the Lincoln County Land Services Committee (LSC) approved the request.
During the Public Hearing portion of the meeting, District 15 Supervisor Marty Lemke asked if there was an update to the Staff Report. Land Services Administrator Mike Huth informed the Committee that the Town of Merrill submitted a recommendation to deny this request and that a citizen petition was submitted to the department/committee, however, he said there was no change to his report and he was still recommending approval with the conditions as stated in his original report.
Huth and Corporation Counsel Karry Johnson cited the Committee’s responsibility based on 2017 Wisconsin Act 67, essentially requiring the Committee to grant the conditional use permit as long as Prairie River Junction complies with their conditions.
While there was no new testimony from proponents of the request, Jeff Heller had been present at the previous meeting and agreed to all proposed conditions, and those conditions remain the same.
Opponents of the request, Nathan Miller (legal representative of Ann and Jerry Badeau), Kerrie Kanda, Joshua Fenske, Beth Mikle, Ken Sutton, and Mike Hass expressed multiple concerns about noise, road quality, property values, environmental effect, traffic, hours of operation, and the rezone process from 2003-2005. Nathan Miller and Joshua Fenske proposed conditions to be added to the conditional use permit. However, following discussion, the Public Hearing was closed and a motion to approve the Conditional Use request by Prairie River Junction LLC with the seven recommended conditions listed on the original staff report was carried on a voice vote.

Conditions include:

  1. Erosion Control and Stormwater Management standards located in 17.5.08 shall be met upon approval of plans by WIDNR.
  2. A “landscaped bufferyard” meeting the Screening and Landscaping standards of 17.5.05(2)(a) and (b) shall be maintained to a depth of fifteen (15) feet from the current north and west property lines with exception for the driveway/rail/access points.
  3. Signage shall comply with Chapter 17.6 of Lincoln County Ordinance.
  4. Exterior Lighting shall comply with Chapter 17.5.04 of Lincoln County Ordinance.
  5. All buildings, trucks, and activity areas shall be set back from all streets and residential zoning district boundaries a distance equal to the required principal building setbacks and shall not be located within any required landscaped bufferyard.
  6. All parking, loading, and vehicle circulation areas shall be surfaced with a hard-surface, all-weather material such as pavement or concrete.
  7. One parking space per each employee on the largest work shift.
    Some area residents had earlier indicated they would bring a lawsuit if the conditional use permit was approved. It is not known whether they plan to pursue any legal action at this time.

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