Owners of the Wysocki Family of Companies announced Monday they have filed a lawsuit against Saratoga and its Town Board members. In a news release issued Monday evening, company officials said a moratorium the town issued against new construction was specifically targeting the proposed Golden Sands Dairy.
"We are disappointed that we had to take legal action, but the town's actions, violating both state and federal law, are a blatant attempt to deprive us of our rights," said owner Jim Wysocki in the news release. "After carefully reviewing our options, we felt we had no choice but to ask the court to intervene in the matter."
On June 6, Wysocki announced the company's plans to build a 3,500-cow, 6,000-acre dairy in the southeast portion of Saratoga. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources documents recently showed the proposed dairy would have 4,000 milking and dry cows, 300 heifers and 1,000 calves, for a total of 5,300 animals.
The same day the company made its announcement, its officials filed permit applications with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for 49 high-capacity wells, as well as an application for a building permit in Saratoga.
On July 19, the Town Board met and approved a moratorium prohibiting the town from issuing building permits, if the use of the land was inconsistent with the existing land use adopted by the town. The moratorium is in effect until Dec. 31. At the time, officials said the moratorium was to give the town time to finish and approve its zoning plan.
The same night, more than 800 people filled the Performing Arts Center in Wisconsin Rapids to hear dairy officials speak about the project. People expressed concern that the high-capacity wells would lower water tables and the operation would contaminate local wells with nitrates from manure. Tempers flared and law enforcement authorities removed one person from the auditorium. During the meeting, company officials said the farm would employ 35 people with wages of $30,00 and up.
On Wednesday, Protect Wood County and its Neighbors, a group formed to oppose the dairy, met at the town hall. Organizers encouraged people to sign up for committees doing research on various aspects of the dairy's impact on the community. They also encouraged residents to attend one of two public hearings being held by the DNR Aug. 23. The meetings are set to run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Saratoga Town Hall.
It's clear the town adopted the moratorium with the sole purpose of hindering the Golden Sands project, Wysocki said in the news release. The project complies with all zoning and other local requirements, he said.
"We are following the laws and trying to bring a good project and jobs to the area, but the town is taking illegal actions that we cannot stand by and let happen," Wysocki said.
The company filed the lawsuit Friday on the grounds that it is entitled to rely on the zoning status of the property at the time it expended significant resources to acquire property for the project, the news release said. Among other claims, the lawsuit asserts that the town unlawfully deprived Golden Sands of its vested right to locate the dairy within the town.
If the lawsuit is successful, the town faces monetary damages and might be required to pay for the companies' legal fees, the release said.
Company officials had conversations with those responsible for issuing the permit, Wysocki said in the release. The company met all requirements, but officials were told the town chairman instructed that the permit not be issued.
"When we follow the law and meet all requirements, yet are faced with those types of actions from government leaders, we feel we have no choice but to involve the courts," Wysocki said in the release.
Members of the Town Board could not be reached for comment Monday evening after the news release was issued.
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