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Some Object to Oak Creek Business' Composting Plans

Common Council will make final decision on Green Man Wood Services' proposal.

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 will hold a formal public hearing, likely in December, before voting on the issue.

Donna Marhal November 27, 2011 at 12:24 AM
If done properly, there should be no odors from composting. I think it's a great idea if done correctly. We need more recycling efforts and less waste. Let's not give this business man an unnecessarily hard time about this. We need successful businesses in Oak Creek. Let's do what we can to move forward.
Resident of O.C. Paul November 28, 2011 at 05:31 AM
I am with Donna Marhal.
Jim December 18, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Why do news papers leave out so many details? I was at this council meeting and heard many points that Green Man brought up that they should be applauded for. This composting idea with the zoo will save milwaukee tax payers about 50K per year in disposal costs, and a portion of the savings will allow many local schools to go to the zoo for free!!! I live near the Green Man property and I can tell you,Mark VerHalen is the last person who should be giving them a hard time...his place has looked like a landfill for 20 years. The last thing Oak Creek needs is another land developer smothering a local green business. I'm with you Donna, Green Man and Growing Power are the kind of innovative companies we need to incourage in our community.

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