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LONGTIME COLBY TOWN CHAIR HOPES PLAN PASSES
Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 -- 2:12 pm
Posted by Riley Hebert-News Director


A longtime northeastern Clark County town chairman has his fingers crossed that the Board of Supervisors will approve a comprehensive plan.

Colby Town Chairman Larry Oehmichen has been frustrated as he’s watched the plan’s passage delayed all summer.

Colby and four neighboring towns in northeastern Clark County have formed a 60,000-acre Ag Enterprise Area, or AEA.

"Which is the largest one in Wisconsin, so we're kind of proud about that," Oehmichen says. "Part of the requirements for having an Agriculture Enterprise Area is that the county that it's in have a comprehensive plan."

In an effort to keep farmland from development, AEAs provide $5, $7.50 or $10-per-acre tax credits to farmers. Because the Town of Colby is zoned “Exclusive Agriculture,” Oehmichen expects farmers enrolled will get the full $10-per acre.

"In return, the farmer has to have a nutrient management plan, they have to have in place erosion control and some use planning that they're not going to turn their land into one-acre parcels," he explains, calling the AEA agreement a good "trade off."

Oehmichen says it’s “up in the air” if farmers in the area will get any tax credit if the comprehensive plan isn't approved.

Plan supporters have watched in frustration as its prospects of passage have gone from a sure thing back in May, when the first reading was approved 19-9 to a bit murky in June, when the board approved the second reading on a vote of 16-11 and shot down the customary motion to waive the rules to include the third reading.

The final reading was set for July, but the board voted 15-14 to delay the vote until their October 3rd meeting.

Then, in early August, Chili supervisor and plan supporter Steve Okonek lost a recall election to Bryl Dahl, who opposes it.

"I've been extremely frustrated," Oehmichen laments, "I don't even know what (the board) is exactly even looking for."

Oehmichen says his town alone has 15,000 acres enrolled in the AEA and could stand to lose $150,000 in tax credits if the plan is not approved.

"I would think that, because agriculture is the number one industry in Clark County, that's the one thing they'd be willing to support, yet, we can't seem to gain that support."



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