For nearly three years prior to 2012, the Mining Committee met regarding the leasing of the Lynne Site, a vast wetland area on county forest lands in western Oneida County. During that time, public concerns were rarely any meaningful public involvement in committee discussion or decision making because of how the meetings were run. A call for hearings was repeatedly rejected and at a single public information meeting, the committee heard no support for the leasing plan.
Despite the lack of public support and the clear historical record of problems with constructing a mine at the site, the committee decided to spend public monies on a mining lease.
Through August of 2012, members of the public began raising concerns before the full board. As a result, the Mining/Forestry Committee and their leasing plan were turned back on three occassions. The committee was directed to look into having hearings and to seek public input but the committee was defiant. The hearings never took place and public input was never sought. Ultimately, the board voted to end the leasing plan and the entire leasing policy was rejected. Mining was “no longer a policy goal” and was to be “stricken from the agendas.”
Even though several of the proponents of the leasing said it was soon clear that a faction on the board were going to keep at it. The Planning and Development Committee contains many members of the former Mining Committee and are trying to resurrect the leasing by retaliating against the town of Lynne because of their opposition to any rezoning of the area for a mine.
The committee is trying to change a major provision of the mining ordinance without posting this on their agendas. The ordinance requires that mining only be allowed in areas zoned “manufacturing and industrial.” This would require the Lynne site to be rezoned to have a mine there. This requirement is an acknowledgement of the profound change in land use that a mine would require and it offers protection to the people living in the impacted area. If the change in the land use is determined to be acceptable by the folks living there, the area will be rezoned. The committee is trying to change this through the back door by changing what is allowed in the various zoning districts. They are proposing to allow mining in “Forestry 1A,” effectively changing the mining ordinance so that the Lynne site would not have to be rezoned.
A recent news article suggests that Planning and Development is proposing to increase mining opportunities in the county while easing the permitting process. This is completely at odds with the decisions made by the full board and is a betrayal of the public trust. This is not being driven by the taxpayers but by a rogue band of supervisors pursuing their own agendas. Why were committee appointments made to assure that something stopped by the board would continue to be pursued by this committee? It is unacceptable to have a committee chair running the county’s business in this manner. It is up to the leadership in the courthouse to put an end to this conniving behavior.
Karl A. Fate, Rhinelander