Conditional use permit clears the way for familyâ€™s plan to increase dairy herd to as many as 1,200 cows
The Fredonia Town Board unanimously approved a conditional-use permit last week for a large dairy operation on the farm operated by Mike and Lori Paulus, W2828 Meadowlark Rd.
At a previous meeting, Town Chairman Richard Mueller said the permit request was more of a procedural matter because the Paulus property is already zoned for agricultural use.
Still, more than 50 people crowded into the Fredonia Government Center meeting room on Wednesday for a public hearing on the plan.
Earlier this year, Mike Paulus spelled out the long-term expansion plans, which include the construction of two 62,000-square-foot freestall barns, a 30,000-square-foot special-needs barn and a milking parlor.
Within the next five to seven years, Paulus said, he would like to increase his dairy herd toÂ 1,200 cows. The farm now milks more than 400 animals on the 420-acre farm.
The town permits spells out more than a dozen operational conditions that the farm must adhere to, including restrictions on such things as noise, odors, lighting and aesthetics.
The permit also notes that the town defers to the countyâ€™s Planning, Resources and Land Management Office on water runoff and manure management, and state wastewater regulations.
The two-page permit went through several refinements, which immediately drew the attention of neighbor David Ware, who has been critical of the expansion.
â€śIt strikes me as odd that we are just being given copies of this permit tonight,â€ť Ware said.
During the hour-long hearing, comments were pretty evenly divided in favor and in opposition to the expansion.
Supr. Jim Stemper said the permit process is a way for the town to get some assurances that the expansion takes place in a manner acceptable to the town.
â€śThe conditional-use permit is for our benefit. They can expand their farm to 1,000 animal units (each cow is the equivalent of 1.4 animal units) and we canâ€™t do anything about it,â€ť Stemper said.
Once the herd exceeds 1,000 animal units, the farm falls under the regulation of the state, town officials repeatedly said.
That concept concerned Phil Steinke, who owns land near the Paulus property.
â€śAre you saying you canâ€™t put any kind of restriction on the operation even if he has 10,000 animal units?â€ť Steinke asked.
Town Chairman Rich Mueller said the state keeps a close eye on large dairy operations, but the handling of animal waste would be critical in determining how large such a farm could grow.
â€śWhere the limits will come in is his need to provide enough acreage for the spreading of that much manure,â€ť Mueller said.
Saukville Town Chairman Barb Jobs challenged the hearing process, saying other large farms operate without conditional-use permits.
â€śThere is something very wrong here, folks,â€ť Jobs said.
Attorney Robert Feind, lawyer for the Paulus family, said the permit was requested because of the anticipated size of the farm.
â€śWhen you are talking about a conditional-use permit for a business like a convenience store, you set the requirements before it is built,â€ť Feind said.
â€śIt is the same situation here. You know a farm isnâ€™t going to expand to 1,000 cows in the middle of the night.â€ť
Much of hearing was dominated by testimonials from members of the farming community, who praised the Paulus dairy operation.
â€śThe Paulus family has been farming in Ozaukee County for generations,â€ť said county Supr. Rose Hass Leider.
â€śThese people didnâ€™t go out and build without getting a conditional-use permit. They went to the Plan Commission.
What else can they do? If you donâ€™t think preserving farmland is important, why is the Department of Natural
Resources pushing so hard to buy development rights? Their plan is going to protect farmland in Ozaukee County.â€ť
Meadowlark Road neighbor Frank Byrne supported the permit in a letter to Mueller.
â€śItâ€™s great to see a couple of hard-working folks go for the gold and grow at a time when the economy is shaking,â€ť Byrne wrote.
â€śTheir growth will benefit all of us through increased tax revenue.â€ť
Grafton Town Chairman Lester Bartel also spoke in favor of the Paulus permit.
Bartel said development pressure is strong in Ozaukee County, and tightly regulated waste-management plans for farms are better for the environment than urban growth.
â€śI have yet to read about a dairy farm dumping millions of gallons of waste into the river when it rains,â€ť he said. â€śYou have deemed to make agriculture the business of the 21st century in this community.â€ť