Almost a month to the day after the Oneida County Board voted against continuing to pursue mining as a policy goal, the issue crept back into the forefront for a brief moment as an agenda item for Wednesday's Planning and Development Committee meeting.
On Aug. 21, the board voted 12-9 to abandon plans to pursue mining. As a result, Oneida County Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond said the issue will be stricken from the agendas of the Forestry Committee.
One month later, however, Planning and Development Committee Chairman Scott Holewinski has suggested the Planning and Development Committee clean up some of the county ordinances surrounding metallic mining.
Specifically, Holewinski said he doesn't understand why mining is only allowed in manufacturing and industrial zoning districts, while exploration is allowed in zoning districts such as forestry 1A, residential and farming, and general use.
"We have some things in the ordinance that don't match up," Holewinski said. "Why do we allow exploration in residential and farming when we don't allow mining in those districts? I feel we need to clear this ordinance up. Are we only going to allow (mining) in manufacturing areas or are we going to allow it in forestry areas? I believe there is enough protection in the permitting process that, if it goes that far and we have the public hearings, that if a township doesn't want mining in the township, I believe the county board will vote it down. I believe in the coordination process. I believe the town knows what's best for it."
Holewinski wanted to discuss whether the county should change its ordinances to allow for mining in districts other than just manufacturing and industrial, but other supervisors were opposed based on last month's directive that mining is not to be pursued.
This touched off a debate over the exact parameters of the county board directive.
"The county board voted and it was mostly over the Lynne mine," Holewinski said. "Is that to say that we don't want mining anywhere in Oneida County? Did the county board say that? I didn't get that out of the county board meeting. I saw it as specifically for the mine in Lynne."
Supervisor Bob Martini said he thought the county board vote covered the entire county, not just Lynne.
"I don't think the resolution a few weeks ago even had the word Lynne in the resolution," Martini said. "At best, this is unfortunate timing to be talking about this because it looks like you're trying to start the next round."
Other committee members agreed now is not the time for such a conversation.
"If this was next summer, I would certainly go along with it," said Supervisor Jack Sorensen. "I'm one of the biggest supporters of mining on the county board. That's no secret. I think mining ought to be allowed in (districts zoned) forestry ... but I think the timing is wrong."
Fellow committee member Dave Hintz concurred with Sorensen and the committee voted unanimously to table the issue indefinitely.
More mining talk in the future?
During the discussion, Committee member Gary Baier mentioned he would like a referendum to be in place for the April elections to gauge how the entire county feels about the mining issue.
"I will be, if nobody else does, I will be coming forward with a referendum for next April for all of the taxpayers in Oneida County to speak on behalf of whether Oneida County should consider mining or not," Baier said. "I think that's important for us all to know. Then, we get the true numbers. 39,000 people, not 60 or 70 people, 39,000 people."
Marcus Nesemann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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