Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 5, 2017

WI Appeals Court Finds Processing of Grease and Used Cooking Oil was Not “Waste” Processing Under the Zoning Ordinance

Sanimax operated a recycling plant in the Village of DeForest, and obtains grease and used cooking oil from restaurants’ grease traps in the restaurants’ drains leading to the municipal sewer system. Sanimax does not pay for the grease, but the restaurants retain the cooking oil and sell it to Sanimax. Following a fire in 2014, Sanimax sought approval from the Village zoning administrator for reconstruction and expansion of its grease and oil processing operation, but was denied. Sanimax then filed an appeal of the zoning administrator’s denial of approvals with the Village of DeForest Board of Zoning Appeals, which affirmed the zoning administrator’s application of the “waste material … processing … as a principal use” language to Sanimax and the administrator’s corresponding denial of approvals sought by Sanimax. Sanimax then sought review in the circuit court, which vacated the Board’s decision and directed the Board to enter an order finding that Sanimax’s grease and oil processing was a permitted use in the M-2 district where Sanimax was located.
In this appeal, Sanimax argued that the plain meaning of “waste material … processing … as a principal use” did not cover its processing of grease and used cooking oil. The court analysed whether the words “waste material … processing …as a principal use” covered Sanimax’s processing of the grease and cooking oil from restaurants into an ingredient in animal feed. According to the Village, the relevant dictionary definitions of “waste” were “unused,” “unusable,” and “unwanted.” Under this definition, the court agreed with Sanimax’s central point that, like wood pulp and other unprocessed raw materials, the grease and oil here had current value because they were raw materials that could be profitably processed into a salable product. Additionally, the limitation on “waste material … processing” appeared under the “Utility/Government Related Uses” subheading. Thus, the court held that “waste” in this context referred to the sort of waste that did not interest a private business like Sanimax. The court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s holding in favor of Sanimax.
Sanimax USA, LLC  v Village of Deforest Board of Zoning Appeals,  2017 WL 129928 (WI App. 1/12/2017)

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