June 24, 2010Client Alert

Local Family Farm Prevails Against Town That Overstepped Its Authority

Larson Acres, Inc., a fourth-generation family farm in Evansville, Wisconsin, achieved a complete victory in its battle with the Town of Magnolia in Rock County over Larson’s livestock facility siting permit. In deciding the first case to address a municipality’s authority under the state’s Livestock Facility Siting Law, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals agreed with Larson and held that the Siting Law preempts local authority to impose wide-ranging conditions on livestock siting permits. The Court also confirmed that the state Livestock Facility Siting Review Board properly reversed individual conditions imposed by the Town. Michael Best assisted Larson through every step of this proceeding, from the preparation of its initial siting application through the Court of Appeals. This decision is an important victory for agricultural operators across the state, as it confirms that the purpose of the Siting Law is to provide statewide, uniform siting standards and that the Siting Review Board is authorized to correct improper local decisions.

In Larson’s case, the Town attempted to impose additional siting standards by approving Larson’s conditional use permit and including conditions unrelated to the uniform state siting standards. Larson challenged those additional conditions to the Siting Review Board, which found that the Town should have granted the conditional use permit without the additional conditions. The Town appealed the Siting Review Board’s decision, arguing first that the Town was authorized to impose all of the conditions and, alternatively, that the Siting Review Board lacked the authority to reverse individual conditions. According to the Town, the Siting Review Board’s only two options were to uphold the conditional use permit in total or to reverse the conditional use permit and send the matter back to the Town Board.

Larson disagreed and argued to the Court that the Town overstepped its authority by imposing conditions not allowed by the Siting Law. Larson also defended the Siting Review Board’s decision to reverse individual improper conditions, noting that to confine the Siting Review Board to only two options – wholesale approval or wholesale reversal of the conditional use permit – would frustrate the very purpose of the Siting Law.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Larson and summed up its decision this way: “Larson and the [Siting Review] Board argue that the Board correctly determined that the conditions imposed by the Town violate the livestock facility siting law . . . . We agree. We further agree with Larson and the Board that the Board properly reversed the improper conditions without reversing the permit in whole.”

The Court of Appeals’ decision in Adams v. Livestock Facilities Siting Review Board was released June 24, 2010 and marks the latest step in Larson's lengthy effort to obtain local siting approval. We have been honored to be able to assist Larson through every step of this process.

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