The Oak Creek Common Council will hear a proposal for Green Man Wood Services, 9000 S. Nicholson Road, to conduct composting operations, but it will not be without controversy.
Neighboring residents say they are upset over the sight and smell, while another Oak Creek business owner said at a recent Plan Commission meeting that restrictions put on his operation are unfair compared to Green Man.
Green Man is a landscaping company that offers services such as tree installation and removal, flower and shrub planting, as well as yard maintenance, like pruning and lawn mowing. Owner Dan Gustin made his case to the Plan Commission last month in an effort to gain composting rights for the company.
Former alderman and current School Board member Mark Verhalen owns 70 acres of land, on which he hopes will someday develop into a residential subdivision, across the street from Green Man. His primary fear was that this composting operation would impact those who one day might be living next to bad smells and within eyeshot of compost piles.
Gustin said the business has been working with the state Department of Natural Resources on properly conducting composting operations. In an attempt to alleviate smell concerns, he passed a compost sample down the line of Plan Commissioners, each taking a whiff from the small bag.
According to Verhalen and Bruce Lepine, owner of Lepine Enterprises – a company similar to Green Man – food and animal waste (with some from the Milwaukee County Zoo) have already been accepted at Green Man and has caused issues with smell.
Adding to the concern was the only neighbor to the Green Man property, Catherine Roseke, who said "the stench is so bad we can’t breathe at our house."
Gustin said the compost doesn't and won't smell because of carbon that's added through the use of woodchips. Woodchips are proven effective because the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District had received compost smell complaints, but Green Man brought in woodchips and the problem was solved, Gustin said.
Lepine, meanwhile, said it took him five years to get a composting permit and he has many more restrictions on his business, 9540 S Pennsylvania Ave., which is not near a residential area.
Berms, large walls erected to hide compost, was another point of contention.
“I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on 30 foot berms,” said Lepine, who was worried about being able to compete with Green Man, whose berms would only be six feet tall.
The council will hold a formal public hearing, likely in December, before voting on the issue.