Gravel pit rules move forward
IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP - The Ironwood Township Planning Commission approved the text for a sand and gravel pit ordinance and forwarded it to the township board Thursday.
The township board will hold a meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. As of Thursday night, it was not known if the ordinance or date of a future public hearing would be on the agenda.
At a public hearing Thursday, the planning commission listened to comments and read letters from the public.
Many people attending the hearing commented on the hours of operation for pits, with some opposing extended hours and others asking for longer hours.
Within the ordinance, hours of operation for pits are listed as 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, without no operations on Sundays and holidays.
Some pit owners said if the hours were to be limited, they would need more days of operation to make up the difference because of the short seasonal window.
"The seasonal limitations should not be a concern of the township in developing ordinances," Phil Kucera, of Ironwood Township, said in a letter to the commission. "Is there another seasonal occupation in our area that brings individuals so often to the regulator to ease ordinances in favor of their occupation? Locally, ski hill workers and owners have a very short season to make their money. Loggers, timber haulers and others have their down time period when they're unable to work.
"Do they ask the township to assist with their perceived hardship? They, too, need to bide by regulations," Kucera wrote.
The commission briefly discussed changing the hours, but it was informed the proposed hours are the same as the current ordinance pit owners are operating under.
A motion was made by commission member Joe Rohde to change hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the week, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. The motion failed without a second, and it was decided to keep the hours as printed.
Angelo Luppino, owner and operator of Angelo Luppino, Inc., of Iron Belt, Wis., spoke about giving pit owners 90 days to come up with an ordinance to be looked at.
"Let us talk among ourselves, and come up with something like what you have," Luppino said. "Maybe you'll even like it better. We want to be good neighbors, because without you being good neighbors, we have no business. You have a product in the ground, and if you can't get to it, you go somewhere else."
Pat Steiger, pit owner in Ironwood Township, questioned how expanding pits would be handled in the ordinance. Steiger owns a 120-acre pit in the township. He would like to expand the pit from 40 acres onto two other 40-acre plots, within the 120 total acres.
"Would that be grandfathered in under the old ordinance, or the new ordinance?" Steiger said. "Where does one end and the other begin?"
With the ordinance, each of the pit owners is required to give a legal description of the pit to township offices. Steiger was told his entire 120 acres would be considered as an "existing pit" under the legal description, even though only 40 acres are developed.
Commission chair Faith Newberry said pit owners need to get the full legal description of their pits turned in, and as of Thursday night, clerk Gayla Salmi said only two descriptions had been received.
After the public hearing closed, the commission discussed the comments by gravel pit owners and residents, and the motion to recommend the ordinance for approval to the township board was passed.
Some residents were not happy.
"I would like to know how you (the commission) are going to address complaints from residents regarding dust, noise and hours of operation," Sandy Lahtinen said.
Lahtinen was informed she could submit complaints in writing, contact the zoning administrator or start a civil suit.
"That's just great," Lahtinen said.
Mark McDonald, township attorney, addressed the ordinance as simply as he could.
"You are going to make some people mad, and you are going to make some people happy," McDonald said. " ...The township is trying to be flexible."