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Oneida County Rejects Proposed Waste Facility Near Airport

Ben Meyer/WXPR

An Oneida County committee has shot down a company’s plan to build a waste transfer facility near Rhinelander’s airport.

The Planning and Development committee denied a conditional use permit on Wednesday.

The decision comes after months of debate and strong opposition from neighbors and the airport itself.

JBM Howard Companies was proposing to build a waste transfer facility on Highway 47 near its intersection with Highway 8. It would not have been a landfill, but a place for people to bring trash and recycling for transport elsewhere. Its capacity would have been 50 tons of material per day.

Supervisor Jack Sorensen was the strongest voice on the committee in opposition of the plan.

“[My vote is] based on the overwhelming preponderance of public opinion which is absolutely opposed to this,” he said.

Credit Ryan Hanson/Lakeland Realty
A sketch of the location of the proposed waste transfer facility.

Strong opposition had come from neighbors and from the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport.

The facility would have been about 4,000 feet from the main runway.

That’s far closer than advised by the FAA. Trash facilities tend to attract birds that create a hazard for airplanes, explained Airport Director Matthew Leitner at a previous meeting.

“The first time a hapless bird makes contact with an airplane, the FAA is going to say, ‘why is there a putrescible waste transfer facility within 10,000 feet of your primary runways?’” Leitner said to the committee.

Leitner was worried the airport could lose millions of dollars in grant funding if the plan went forward.

Yet the proposal was on the Planning and Development Committee agenda for the 11th straight meeting on Wednesday.

Its chief proponent was realtor Ryan Hanson, who represents the waste company.

“I think people are just grasping at, trying to find little, tiny things and somehow twist it into something it’s not. It’s just not a very big deal,” he previously told WXPR.

Credit Ben Meyer/WXPR
The site of the proposed waste transfer facility, on Highway 47 between Highways 8 and K. The transfer building would be behind a tree buffer.

Hanson said Chicago, New York, and Eagle River had similar facilities just as close to airports.

Committee chair Scott Holewinski showed the most support for the plan.

“The applicant has done everything he could to move everything further away [from the road]. Nobody is going to see the business from the road, I don’t think. I think he’s, based on the proposed conditions, that he has tried to maintain everything possible not to affect the neighboring properties,” Holewinski said.

Nonetheless, enough committee members agreed the use wouldn’t be compatible with adjacent land.

The waste company can appeal the decision to the Board of Adjustment. Hanson said he wasn’t sure whether the company would take that step.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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