The Eau Claire County Board on Tuesday, after a lengthy debate, approved a six-month moratorium on large-scale livestock facilities that will have 1,000 or more animal units.
The moratorium also applies to the expansion of of existing livestock facilities if the number of animal units kept at the expanded facility will be 1,000 or more.
The moratorium, approved by a 23-5 vote, can be extended for up to six months by a majority vote of the board.
Supervisors Carl Anton, Steve Chilson, Gary Gibson, Ray Henning and Pat LaVelle cast the dissenting votes. Supervisor Joe Knight didn’t attend the meeting.
Livestock facilities are defined as a feedlot, dairy farm or other operation where livestock are or will be fed, confined, maintained or stabled for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period. Per the ordinance approved by the board, 1,000 beef cattle, 715 milking cows or 20,000 chickens are each equivalent to 1,000 animal units.
In a fact sheet presented to the board, Greg Leonard, land conservation manager, explained how the moratorium, originally proposed to be 12 months with the possibility of a 12-month extension, came about.
Members of the public presented Planning and Development Department staff with a proposed large-scale livestock facilities moratorium. Staff reviewed it, made revisions that clarified definitions to create consistency with existing state codes and returned it to the people who proposed it.
“The purposes of this ordinances are to allow Eau Claire County (time) to investigate the impacts of large-scale livestock facilities on groundwater, surface water and air quality, specifically as those issues apply in Eau Claire County, and allow Eau Claire County adequate time to review current ordinances, to study and determine whether amendment of existing ordinances and/or creation and adoption of other ordinances … is appropriate,” Leonard wrote.
A motion before the Land Conservation Commission to adopt the moratorium failed on a 6-2 vote. However, a similar motion was approved by the Planning and Development Committee.
Supervisor Stella Pagonis Tuesday proposed the shorter moratorium, saying, “One of the things I’ve heard is it’s too long.”
Her proposal to shorten the moratorium to six months with the provision for the board to extend it for another six months was approved by an 18-10 vote.
Earlier in the meeting, the majority of citizens addressing the board on the issue spoke in favor of the moratorium.
“It’s important, I think, to take a pause,” said Will Fantle, a former supervisor.
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