A dance hall and reception venue got a boost Tuesday with the Chippewa County Board’s approval of a town of Wheaton rezoning property from agriculture to local commercial.

The board approved the change on an 11-2 vote, with Supervisors Kari Ives and Annette Hunt voting no.

Elizabeth and Kevin DeCook sought the change for a 6.5 acre parcel.

“As this is a lovely rural community, our vision is to bridge the gap between a rustic venue and a modern banquet facility,” the couple wrote to the Chippewa County Department of Planning and Zoning on May 15.

“Our vision for this project is to provide opportunities for the local community to participate in public events such as historical dances, seasonal dinners, etc., as well as to offer a venue for private gatherings including weddings, graduations, reunions and more.”

Wheaton Town Chairman Mark Blaskowski in a July 12 email to the county said he favored the facility for the location at 6485 County N, but disagreed with the zoning approved by the Wheaton Town Board on a 3-1 vote.

“I vehemently oppose this decision, as it strips the town of Wheaton of any ability to stop any kind of development anywhere by anyone,” Blaskowski wrote.

He said two correct ways to make the change would have to amend Wheaton’s Comprehensive Plan to allow the development, or have county zoning change to allow having the facility in an agriculture area with a conditional use permit.

“The two options I listed are the only ways of preserving the town’s right to planning for the health, safety and welfare of the public. That is now gone,” he wrote.

Groundwater report

The board was briefed by Kevin Masarik of the UW-Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science and Education on a 2016 Chippewa County groundwater quality inventory. Masarik also works as a groundwater specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

The center and county sampled 744 wells in the Chippewa County and found:

“Elevated manganese and iron concentrations were associated in areas of glacial sediments found primarily in northeastern Chippewa county. Wells located along the western and southern shore of Lake Wissota were also more likely to contain elevated manganese and iron,” the survey said.

“Low pH, hardness and alkalinity indicative of corrosive water were commonly found in western and southern Chippewa County. Corrosive water can increase levels of lead, copper or zinc if these metals occur in household plumbing systems.” There were samples from the wells that found elevated lead. But allowing water to run before using it greatly lowered the level of lead.

A total of 19 percent of the wells tested had a level greater than the 10 mg per liter nitrate drinking water standard. “Nitrate concentrations increased as the percentage of agricultural land within a half-mile of the well increased. There was also evidence that development density contribute to elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater... The percentage of wells above the drinking water standards for nitrate increased from 12.3 percent in 2007 to 18.3 percent in 2016.” In general, the levels were low in northeastern Chippewa County.

Phosphorus levels in groundwater were generally low. Western and parts of south-central Chippewa County have elevated levels from the groundwater, Masarik said.

Masarik said there was good news in that none of the wells tested in Chippewa County exceeded standards for the level of arsenic in the water.

“Chippewa is unique in that you have done these benchmark surveys over time,” he said. The first survey was done in 1985.

The hope is that the county can use these results to better target future problem areas, Masarik said.

Supervisor Buck Steele said he was alarmed about the finding of the rise of nitrates. Marasik said different agriculture procedures are probably not able to overcome increased fertilizer use.

A public session on the groundwater study will be presented on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at the Chippewa Falls Middle School, 750 Tropicana Blvd. The session will start with an open house at 6 p.m. and there will be presentation at 7 p.m.

Pay grid

The board also approved on a 8-5 vote a resolution to increase salaries on a county salary grid under the county’s Pay for Performance plan for county employees back to the 2017 level. The move raises the salary increases by one-half of 1 percent, an increase of $20,000.

“This amendment is being proposed to continue the pay increases at the current levels since the county’s equalized value was higher than expected,” a county resolution said. The county’s equalized value increased by 3.7 percent, which the county said would cover the added $20,000.

Voting no on the resolution were Supervisors Annette Hunt, Tom Thornton, Kari Ives, Matt Hartman and Leigh Darrow.

The board on a 13-0 vote also approved a temporary easement for a construction project on Highway 124/High Street in Chippewa Falls. The easement will allow access for construction equipment. The land is off the corner of Spruce and High streets.

Supervisors Larry Willkom and Jared Zwiefelhofer were absent from the meeting.

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