Dec 28, 2017

Wisconsin Supreme Court Case on Vested Property Rights and Zoning Powers Set for Oral Argument, Jan. 11

Proposed Golden Sands factory farm in central
Wisconsin could turn rural paradise into an
industrial wasteland. Don Ystad of Adams County
who has been promoting tourism
and recreation
for years writes:
"Take a step back from the politics of this
situation and ask yourself, 'what is best
for the state of Wisconsin? Another CAFO sited, or the
preservation and growth of an existing, vibrant area,
poised to be the 'golf mecca of the Midwest?'
Unfortunately, the Wysocki CAFO has the
political support of local State Rep. Scott Krug,
(R-Nekoosa, Wisconsin) and State Sen.
Testin, (R-Stevens Point). These pols
have already chosen Big Ag over everything else,
including a new Sand Valley Golf Resort,
multi-generational families and entire communities.
The Wisconsin Republican Party's attempt to transform the legal scope of property rights on behalf of major financial donors is behind a case that could prevent the operation of a massive factory farm, sited in the town of Saratoga in central Wisconsin.

The case is Golden Sands Dairy LLC v. Town of Saratoga. The high court will hear oral arguments on Jan 11, 2018. [Note: For legal updates on the case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, enter 15ap1258 in the Appeal Number field, leave the rest of fields blank and hit search at bottom-left of the linked Wisconsin Supreme Court page.]

The Wisconsin Supreme Court no longer functions as an independent judicial body as its members have become corrupted and beholden to the Republican-linked special interests that fund some of the Court members' campaigns. Judicial ethics are decided by Republican justices who rejected proposed rules that would mandate justices recuse from cases involving their mega-donors to their campaigns, (Beck, Wisconsin State Journal, Mal Contends, The New Yorker).

Communities and private citizens want an April 2017 state appellate decision to stand because the ruling restricts a massive factory farm from beginning operations, as Republicans and Big Ag work to impose onto Wisconsin a radical, new conception of corporate vested property rights.

The predictable consequences of operation of the proposed Golden Sands factory farm are the pollution and depletion of water and air, devastating parts of four counties in this region.

The April 2017 Golden Sands Dairy LLC appellate ruling effectively kills the operation of the massive factory farm by disallowing use of a 4,660-acre manure dumping field on which millions of gallons of liquid cow waste would be vectored every year. The unanimous appellate ruling recognizes the town of Saratoga used its zoning power in accordance with state law and decades of legal precedent.

Concludes an amicus brief in part filed on behalf of local businesses in December 2017:

Over 1.7 million Wisconsin citizens more than 30% of the state’s population reside in towns like the Town of Saratoga. In this case, the Town reasonably evaluated local conditions and zoned its land to prevent harm to property values and businesses, drinking water quality, and local character. By seeking a 6,000-acre exception to this rule, GSD [Golden Sands Dairy] cannot credibly state that expanding the vested rights doctrine does 'no violence' to the Town’s ability to regulate land use. (GSD Br. at 26.)

The Court should affirm the court of appeals’ decision upholding the Town’s lawful exercise of its zoning authority in this case, and reject GSD’s requested expansion of the vested rights doctrine. 

Bottom line: Will the Wisconsin Supreme Court issue yet another corrupt decision on behalf of Republican interests? There is hope.

Two citizen groups, Protect Wood County (Wisconsin) and Its Neighbors and Concerned Rome (Wisconsin) Citizens are urging central Wisconsin residents to await the decision from the Court expected sometime in the Spring 2018.

From Protect Wood County:

Friends and Neighbors,

The date is set, January 11th, 2018, at which time our case against Wysocki will be heard in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Although this news broke quite a while back, there was the chance for extension requests and/or other delays, therefore, we kept silent on the news until we were positive the date would stick.  It officially appears that January 11th will be our day in court.

Cases in front of the Supreme Court follow a very formal and structured format.  Due to this, Saratoga’s legal team has asked that citizen supporters NOT attend the oral argument proceedings.  We ask all our followers please adhere to the legal teams request and continue to wait patiently for the outcome and judgment decision to be handed down later this spring.  Most likely we will not hear a deciding judgment until March or April of this year. Once again, we have more waiting ahead.

It is important to clarify the basis of the Supreme Court case as we continue to hear many residents misunderstanding what our current case is about.  The case before the Supreme Court is about vested rights to the thousands of acres of land Wysocki purchased in Saratoga.  In a very simplistic nutshell, the court will be deciding if Wysocki can clear-cut and crop the thousands of acres of land he purchased after Saratoga’s zoning was in place.  The court is not determining if Wysocki has the right to build the buildings and/or the CAFO, simply if he has the right to use the land for his identified purpose which is in conflict with Saratoga's zoning.  This battle has been a very complicated web of twist and turns, surely one for the record books.  

We will keep everyone informed as we continue through the next few months.

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