Property Owner’s Rights/Environment/State vs. Local Control

Yesterday, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a property owner seeking to reclaim an abandoned quarry over the objection of the Village of Richfield, Wisconsin.  See, Scenic Pit LLC v. Village of Richfield.  The Court held that Wisconsin’s comprehensive statute and DNR regulation regarding the siting of solid waste facilities preempts the Village’s local ordinances, following the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s reasoning on DeRosso Landfill Co. v. City of Oak Creek, 200 Wis. 2d 642, 547 N.W.2d 770 (1996), and declining the Village’s invitation to limit the scope of the DeRosso decision. This was a victory for the landowners as well as for the environment.

The first paragraph of the Court’s opinion succinctly frames the issue:

The siting of landfills is, understandably, often fraught with controversy. In response, the State of Wisconsin has seen fit to preempt local neighborly battles for the common good by establishing a statewide landfill regulatory scheme. This case concerns the scope of that statewide scheme for solid waste facilities exempt from regulation under WIS. STAT. § 289.43(8) (2015-16)1—clean fill facilities—vis-à-vis a municipality’s zoning powers and certain other local construction permitting requirements.

The Court also noted that “[t]he legislature saw fit to add an unusually extensive list of legislative findings motivating the statewide regulatory scheme here. Among the highlights, the legislature notes that solid and hazardous waste is unavoidable and used by everyone, WIS. STAT. § 289.33(1)(a), (b), but that it often raises legitimate concerns by neighbors, § 289.33(1)(e); siting of these facilities should include the views of local authorities, § 289.33(1)(f); and current processes were “not adequate to resolve many of the conflicts which arise during the process of establishing such facilities,” § 289.33(1)(g). See § 289.33(1).”

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