MINOCQUA – The Minocqua town board will hold a special meeting next week on a proposed metallic mining licensing ordinance to ensure Minocqua’s concerns are heard before a nonferrous mining operation would ever impact the town.
The town board decided Tuesday to model its ordinance after a 21-page sample ordinance prepared by the Wisconsin Towns Association.
Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim said the license ordinance adds another layer of protection for the town despite no evidence there is any economically viable deposits of copper ore and other nonferrous minerals in the town. “The odds of someone of filing an attempt-to-mine (notice) in Minocqua in our lifetime, I think, is very, very remote,” said Hartzheim. “But I don’t want to be the guy standing there explaining why we didn’t do anything when we had an opportunity to do something. “This is certainly not with the idea that we want to ban mining in our town or put up unnecessary roadblocks. What it is is we want to have a seat at the (negotiating) table (with the mining company) to be able to consider local impacts potentially on infrastructure and the water. And sorta have standing with whoever is proposing to do business here.”
Supervisor Billy Fried, who also sits on the Oneida County board, said some of the language of the proposed town ordinance could be redundant to tht in the county’s mining ordinance, which also is being drafted. Fried also wondered if the town would want to get involved in legal challenges by mining companies who might see such a town ordinance as too restrictive and unenforceable in court. “I don’t want to stick our neck out too far. The state and the county require us to be at the table,” he added. “Let the state and county go to court.”
Answering those concerns, surprisingly, was Larry Konopacki, of the law firm Stafford Rosenbaum, who now represents mining interests in the state. The former attorney for the Wisconsin Legislature Council says mining companies know they can’t get a mining permit unless the local government is on board with it. “What this is is an effort to put into place something that will bring bargaining and negotiating authority for the town when it comes time to sit down and do a local agreement for the things that (are) town specific,” said Konopacki. “The county will be negotiating for the things that are for the county. The town needs to be there to be negotiating for the things for the town. That’s a pretty good ordinance. We would soften it a little bit. (Penalties were excessive, he explained.) But it’s a good ordinance.”
As for the county protecting the town’s interests, Konopacki said that could change in a heartbeat. “They say the town gets a seat at the table. But the county can waive that. There’s no legal requirement to maintain that agreement. They can say in three seconds, that’s gone when they are at the seat of the negotiating table. Not that they would, but you’re trusting them that they would.” Supervisor John Thompson agreed, saying, “The county doesn’t always represent our interests.” Town attorney Greg Harrold said the town could always make amendments to the ordinance. “Adoption is not the end to the chapter,” he said. “It’s important for the town to have something to protect itself.”
The state legislature, at the urging of Sen. Tom Tiffany, passed legislation that lifted the so-called mining moratorium. Signed by Gov. Scott Walker, the new mining legislation goes into effect this July 1. Harrold will now make changes to the document for the first of two required readings next week before adoption. He didn’t foresee any major change to the model ordinance.