JEFFERSON — Members of the Jefferson County Zoning Board of Adjustment struggled at times Wednesday with 1,104 pages of written record from a Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Committee decision to permit We Energies to build a proposed liquified natural gas processing and storage facility in Ixonia.
Zoning board of adjustment members Dale Weis, Aari Roberts and Janet Sayre-Hoeft, with guidance from attorneys for the county, waded through the massive document Wednesday in their attempts to understand and evaluate the thought processes used by planning and zoning committee members when they determined the LNG facility could legally be built at the proposed rural Ixonia location.
No input from the public was accepted at the meeting.
The appeal was filed with the county’s zoning board of adjustment in late 2020. It alleges members of the planning and zoning committee made a number of errors Nov. 11, 2020 when they granted We Energies the conditional use permit.
Among those errors, according to the appeal, was a misinterpretation of the definition of a “utility” in the county zoning ordinance, which allowed the proposed facility to qualify as a conditional use in an agricultural preservation zone; failure to consider more appropriately zoned areas, such as industrial districts, as a site for the plant; and incorrectly concluding that all criteria in state statutes required to allow a “utility” use in a farmland preservation district had been satisfied.
The appeal also claims the committee’s decision to permit the facility is inconsistent with Jefferson County’s Agricultural Preservation and Land Use Plan.
As board of adjustment worked its way through these questions Wednesday, it managed to affirm that most of the decisions made by the planning and zoning committee were worthy of being upheld. Among the larger of these was the appeals board determining that the proposed LNG facility, is in fact, a utility.
At one point, Roberts expressed his disappointment that We Energies did not accept more input from the public on where the proposed LNG facility would go. Among other locations considered by We Energies, as they were discussed at Wednesday’s hearing, were one on Jefferson County Highway P, and another near the Concord Generating Station along the Rock River and County Highway E south of Watertown.
The proposed We Energies facility would include a 15-story, 150-foot-diameter tank to store 12 million gallons of liquified natural gas. The plant also would have equipment to process vaporized natural gas into a liquid and back again, a section of pipeline connecting to a main natural gas pipeline plus an electric substation.
The purpose of the proposed facility is to store natural gas until it is needed, at which time it would be put back into the pipeline. It would be built on a 24-acre site, now farmland, near the intersection of North and Triangle roads.
The Ixonia residents who filed the appeal allege, among other impacts, that the proposed large industrial-type facility would reduce their property values, as well as the use and enjoyment of their properties; change the rural character of the area and cause noise, odors, light pollution and increased truck traffic.
They also claim the facility would endanger their safety, due to the possibility of a leak, fire, explosion or other event at the plant.
The residents who filed the appeal, through their lawyer, are Jessica and Bill Rupnow and Sandra Schaeffer, who own homes overlooking the proposed We Energies site, and Tiffany Carey, who owns a home and farm immediately north of the land We Energies would buy for the project.
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission still must grant We Energies’ application to construct the Ixonia facility before it can be built.
A decision on that application is expected in late spring or early summer.
Another meeting of the zoning board of adjustment to further deliberate on the We Energies matter is tentatively set for the end of April.
“If the board of adjustment overturns the decision, the landowner and Wisconsin Gas (We Energies) will need to decide if they will re-petition the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Committee for a conditional use permit addressing any errors found by the board of adjustment in issuing the original permit,” Jefferson County Corporation Counsel J. Blair Ward said. “Any party also has the option of appealing the board of adjustment’s decision to circuit court.”