By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved a special exception for a sawmill and kiln drying operation in the Town of Hay River.
The BOA held a public hearing on the application July 25.
Kyle and Casey Sutliff, 350th Street, Boyceville, currently operate a portable sawmill on their property in Section 20 of the Town of Hay River.
The special exception will allow them to use the sawmill for an unlimited number of days during the year as well as add a kiln for drying lumber.
The 27-foot by 17-foot kiln building will be heated with a woodstove that burns sawdust and slab wood.
The portable sawmill currently can be used for up to five days at a time for up to 90 days.
The Sutliffs said they were planning to add one employee for the operation.
Local residents purchase slab wood from the sawmill operation to burn in outdoor wood furnaces; farmers purchase the sawdust as animal bedding and the wood for building projects, Casey Sutliff told the Board of Adjustment.
Karen Lee, a neighbor directly to the east of the Sutliffs who owns a horse boarding and training facility, said she was concerned about additional noise from the sawmill and also concerned about copious amounts of black smoke coming from the Sutliff place six or eight times last fall and winter that made her wonder if someone’s house was on fire.
Lee, a member of the Hay River planning commission, and Ned Hahn, a supervisor on the Hay River Town Board and also a member of the planning commission, noted that the Sutliffs had not brought their plan to the planning commission or to the town board.
Kyle Sutliff told the Board of Adjustment that sometimes wet wood will produce a darker smoke but that he does not burn any wood that has been chemically treated.
BOA member Tim Lienau wondered if some type of catalytic converter might help reduce the smoke that is produced.
Hahn told the Board of Adjustment that the two town supervisors knew nothing of the Sutliffs’ plans, although Stan Andrews, town chair, may have known.
Hahn said he has served on the town board for seven years and that the Sutliffs should have come to the plan commission and the town board first.
Casey Sutliff said they did not intentionally skip the town board, and that according to the county’s zoning ordinance, they did not have to go through the town board or planning commission first for their sawmill operation.
Juliet Fox, chair of the BOA, noted that while it might not be required to go to the Hay River plan commission and town board first for such a proposal, “it would be a good idea.”
Hahn wondered about size limitations for the sawmill and kiln drying operation.
The Sutliffs requested the special exception for 25 acres.
Cleo Herrick, Dunn County zoning administrator, noted that the special exception allowing the Sutliffs to go from a portable sawmill to a permanent sawmill does not limit the size of the operation.
The portable sawmill was limited to 90 days of operation; there is no limit on operation for a permanent sawmill, she said.
Kyle Sutliff noted that three-phase electricity is three-quarters of a mile away and would be expensive to bring to his property for a large expansion and that road bans in the spring also would limit the amount of expansion.
The Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the special exception for a sawmill and kiln drying operation with the conditions that a line of trees be planted in the low spot along a north/south line to help mitigate noise from the mill and that the Sutliffs investigate and report back to the zoning office on the cost and feasibility of a smoke abatement system.
According to state law, a plan commission’s job is to thoroughly review plans for development to make sure the plans are consistent with the Smart Growth comprehensive plan, zoning codes and local ordinances and to make recommendations to approve or deny.
State law also requires that any zoning changes approved by a town board, county board, village board or city council must be consistent with the comprehensive plan.