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Court: Green Bay improperly revoked plant permit

  • Associated Press
  • March 25, 2014 - 7:17 PM

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The city of Green Bay overstepped its authority when it revoked a conditional use permit for an alternative energy plant backed by a company the Oneida Tribe owned, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Oneida Seven Generations Corp. and its subsidiary, Green Bay Renewable Energy, received a permit for a waste-to-energy facility. The Green Bay City Council voted in March 2011 to approve a Plan Commission recommendation to grant a permit to Seven Generations and granted it a building permit that August.

But after opposition to the plant grew, the city revoked the conditional use permit on Oct. 16, 2012, based on supposed misrepresentations opponents alleged Seven Generations made about the plant's potential environmental impact.

A circuit court agreed with the city's decision. Seven Generations appealed, and the appeals court agreed with the tribal company, WLUK-TV reported.

"Fickle and inconstant fairly describe the City's action here," the appeals court wrote in its decision. "We are disappointed the City did not so much as mention the Plan Commission's conclusions in its decisions."

The appeals court ruled the city failed to show proof of any misrepresentation on the corporation's part, Press-Gazette Media reported.

"Nowhere in its decision did the City actually identify the alleged misrepresentations," the appeals court said. "We cannot help but believe the City's decision was based not on a rational analysis of the statements Seven Generations made to the Plan Commission, but the public pressure brought to bear on the Common Council."

In a statement Tuesday, the Oneida Tribe said it was pleased with the ruling.

"Oneida Seven Generations Corp. assured the Oneida Tribe that it had followed all permitting processes outlined by local, state and federal agencies," the tribe said. "The corporation also assured the Oneida Tribe all along that they obtained the conditional use permit in accordance with the city of Green Bay."

Green Bay is "reviewing its options," City Attorney Tony Wachewicz said in statement.

City Council president Tom De Wane, who voted against the plant, said Tuesday he was surprised by the appeals court ruling.

"I don't think the city did anything wrong," De Wane told the newspaper. "This is common practice. We voted as a council that we felt we were given misinformation. If we have to go to the next step, I'm not certain."

While the ruling overturns a decision by Brown County Circuit Judge Marc Hammer, what happens next is unclear.

The tribe voted late last year to dissolve the corporation after it proposed to build its plant on Oneida land instead. However, an Oneida spokesman said Tuesday that the corporation still exists and that the tribe hired a company to work to stabilize relationships between the corporation and the tribe. The corporation's president and spokesman at the time, Kevin Cornelius, has since resigned.

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