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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Village of Colfax has denied renewing a permit for a natural lawn because the area where the natural lawn is located has invasive species growing there.
Northwest LLC, which applied for a natural lawn permit previously for the parcel behind the apartments on the south side of University Avenue between the apartments and Eighteen Mile Creek, has submitted an application to renew the natural lawn permit, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, at the Colfax Village Board’s May 22 meeting.
The village’s ordinance governing a natural lawn states that there will be no noxious weeds growing in the natural lawn, she said.
Niggemann said she had asked Mark Mosey, retired Colfax High School biology teacher, to assess the plants growing in the natural lawn area.
Mosey submitted a report listing the forbes (flowering plants), grasses and woody plants (trees and shrubs) that were growing and noted that two invasive species, buckthorn and honeysuckle, are growing in the natural lawn area, Niggemann said.
The flowering plants growing in the natural lawn area include common dandelion, yarrow, hoary alyssum, common cinquefoil, wild strawberry, orange hawkweed, silvery cinquefoil, sheep sorrel, common mullein, spotted jewelweed, curly dock, wild bergamot, violet and early meadow rue.
The grasses include nutsedge, quack grass, June grass, bluegrass and Indian grass.
The woody plants include, besides buckthorn and honeysuckle, Siberian elm, quaking aspen, black cherry, black walnut, red raspberry and boxelder.
Mosey’s report notes that these were the plants growing as of May 13, 2023, and that additional species will appear as the growing season continues into summer and fall.
The village’s noxious weed list does not include buckthorn or honeysuckle, although both are identified by the state Department of Natural Resources as invasive species.
There are two species of honeysuckle that grow in Wisconsin.
Fly honeysuckle, which is native to Wisconsin, is listed as an endangered plant. It is found in cold, wet, old-growth tamarack swamps, alder thickets and cold, moist woods, and is a shrub with yellow, tubular or cup-shaped flowers with a red base.
Bush honeysuckle is invasive in Wisconsin and produces white, pink or red flowers that have five stamens.
The village’s noxious weed list also includes curly dock, which is native to Europe and Western Asia and is toxic to horses, cattle and sheep, and the seeds are poisonous to poultry.
Mosey found curly dock growing in the natural lawn.
The village’s noxious weed list includes dandelion over eight inches in height as well, and dandelions are listed on the flowering plant list of what is growing in the natural lawn area.
Milkweed over eight inches in height is included on the noxious weed list, too, in the ordinance available on the village’s website for natural lawns in Chapter 8.
In July of 2015, however, the Colfax Village Board approved updating the noxious weed ordinance to remove milkweed from the ordinance. Milkweed is essential to the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, and monarch butterfly populations are declining because milkweed is disappearing from the landscape.
The updated ordinance 2015-06 that removes milkweed from the noxious weed list is included at the bottom of the village’s ordinances under the section of ordinances adopted in 2015.
Northwest LLC sent the application to renew the natural lawn permit in February, along with the natural lawn management plan.
The village sent a letter May 15, 2023, noting that the application had been processed, that Mosey had assessed the plants growing there, that the application notes the management plan and indicates the parcel would be in compliance with the village’s noxious weed ordinance, that the parcel contains two invasive species, and that because of the non-compliance concerns, the permit will not be renewed and the existing permit will expire June 22, 2023.
The application requires notifying landowners within 300 feet of the parcel, Niggemann said.
According to the ordinance, adjoining landowners can revoke the waiver for a natural lawn.
If the waiver is revoked, the owner of the natural lawn must remove the 10-foot section that abuts the adjoining property.
Northwest LLC applied for the natural lawn permit several years ago after the company that had been hired to mow the lawns around the apartment buildings repeatedly failed to mow the section behind the apartment buildings, Niggemann said.
Niggemann noted that she had received complaints about the area not being mowed from surrounding neighbors.
The buckthorn and honeysuckle would have to be removed from the parcel before the natural lawn permit would be renewed, and since the permit has not been renewed, the parcel will have to be mowed, she said.
Northwest LLC has not yet responded to the letter sent by the village, so Niggemann said if she had not heard from the representative for Northwest LLC by the end of the following week, she would contact him about his intended timeline for clearing the parcel.
The parcel must be managed better, she said.