Trashing the Earth. Black Earth Creek, That Is

Below is a letter I recently received from a great, fairly new group seeking to preserve Dane County’s countryside.

Apparently yet another developer, thinking most selfishly (as per usual), is trying to develop on fragile lands. Worst of all, it is planned in a way that dictates automobile use for every move.

Thus, the Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment could use your help.

The letter is long & involved, so here is the Cliff Notes version:

1. Write/email to the addresses at the end of the letter (Co. Exec., Mayor, CARPC, +your county sup, etc.), SOON–like, today. (The meeting is in early June, but we need to build momentum now.)

2. CC: Steffi Harris (email below)

3. Tell them that you oppose the sprawl development proposed on sensitive lands in the Black Earth Creek Valley near Mazomanie and that you support the CARPC original decision to deny the development.

In a subsequent post I’ll be sending out the DNR letters–which were astonishing in their ignorance of natural processes. But don’t get wrapped up in the details (the DNR letters are quite obfuscatory), just write your letter!

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Dear Friends 5-12-09

This is an appeal to all of you who are alarmed by the speed at which thousands of acres of Dane County’s farmland have been paved and shingled over, its previously wild and natural areas despoiled, its many creeks and wetlands turned into drainage ditches for cookie-cutter suburbs that emerged in the wake of seemingly unstoppable destruction. We have a fair chance to control this insidious process here in Dane County by stopping an approval for a single, but important, request for an urban service area (USA) to the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) for a large development proposal near the Village of Mazomanie. We need you to write letters to appropriate agencies; and even more significant, we need you to attend CARPC’s public hearing next month.

Some of you might be aware that a year ago, the Village of Mazomanie applied to CARPC for an USA extension on 187 acres of farmland, located at the junction of US Hwy 14 and State Hwy 78, approximately 1.5 miles east of the village. What distinguishes this USA request from all the others is that it is the first time that CARPC had refused to recommend a USA request for the approval to DNR. As a result of the refusal, the village – goaded on by their developer — then appealed to DNR to grant its own approval for the development without the benefit of CARPC support. Instead of making a decision, DNR sent Mazomanie’s USA request back to CARPC for reconsideration along with a thinly veiled directive to approve the request this second time.

The direction in which Dane County will turn in regard to sprawl, environmental protection and smart sustainable growth hinges on the outcome of Mazomanie case. If CARPC caves into pressure from the developer, the village and their allies, and approves the Village of Mazomanie USA request on the second round, that agency will never be able again to say “no” to any other proposal for sprawl, no matter how destructive such a proposal might be from environmental and smart growth perspective. The agency will render itself ineffective as a protector of the county’s water quality, open spaces and farmland. Smart and sustainable growth will become a dead letter before it even is given a chance to work.

Although most of us do not live near the proposed development, this case is relevant to all of us who live in this county. Just remember, as Mazomanie goes so does the rest of Dane County.

Description of the Proposed Development

The developer, Hawthorne and Stone LLC proposes to build 488 housing units, a supermarket, a liquor store and a strip mall in the amendment area. What is proposed here is a self-contained suburban island, separated from the mother village by about 1.5 miles and surrounded by cornfields and marshlands. This development was not planned in response to any community needs. It was superimposed on both the Village of Mazomanie and the Town of Mazomanie by the developer who apparently saw it as an opportunity to buy cheap land for easily accessible low cost financing widely available to developers prior to recent mortgage industry fiasco.

Ironically the Village of Mazomanie seeks the USA extension for an area where the most essential urban services are either insufficient or non-existent. For example, the wastewater treatment plant built in 2000 lacks capacity to absorb usage of additional development of the magnitude cited in Mazomanie’s USA request. Likewise, State Hwy 14, which is to serve the proposed development’s as the main arterial connector to the village and to Madison, is already congested during peak traffic hours. The Village of Mazomanie has no stormwater management utility, or any kind of public transportation for disabled or senior citizens.

Environmental Impact

The proposed development would affect three natural coldwater streams and several wetland areas located in or adjacent to the amendment area: Black Earth Creek, Halfway Prairie Creek and Wendt Creek. The affected segment of Black Earth Creek supports both warm and coldwater aquatic communities. Halfway Prairie and Wendt Creeks were degraded over the years and are now classified as forage fisheries. The wetlands present in the area are remnants of once more extensive wetland network located along the creeks in the low lying areas. Up to this day nearby residents of rural homes report seeing sand hill cranes wading through swampy terrain. All three creeks and surrounding wetlands retain their restorative potential.

History of Mazomanie’s USA application Process

In May 2008, the Village of Mazomanie applied to CARPC for the USA extension. In August 2008, after two public hearings, CARPC turned down Mazomanie’s USA amendment request on 7 to 4 vote.

In October 2008, the village went directly to DNR to ask for the USA extension approval.

In March 2009 DNR sent Mazomanie’s USA request back to CARPC for second consideration, along with a sharply worded admonishment for CARPC to approve the request upon the second review. In addition DNR stated that CARPC criteria for USA and LSA (limited service area) reviews, which were adopted 2-28-08 after the completion of a full public hearing process and approved by DNR 12-13-08, were not to be applied any longer. Instead DNR letter insists, only narrowly defined water quality criteria should be used on review of Mazomanie’s USA application. (Those who wish to see the original material relating to this DNR created problem, should examine the attached files.)

What needs to be done at this time

The CARPC hearing on Mazomanie’s USA request is tentatively scheduled for June 11, 2009. At this time the developer and their law firm, which is also the legal representative of the village, are working very hard to get the majority of the CARPC votes. We need to work even harder. So please, help us.

Spread the word about the intended urban sprawl project in the cornfields and wetlands east of Mazomanie. Tell your like-minded friends about this outrage. Contact us if you want more information. E-mail a letter to CARPC, Kathleen Falk, Mayor of Madison, Dane County Towns Association. If you are in town on the day of the hearing, please do not miss it. Please speak up or just be there in solidarity for this worthy cause.

Thank you for anything you might be able to do to help us.

Respectfully

Stefi Harris, Dennis Franke, Arnold Harris
Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment
3427 County Rd P
Mt Horeb WI 53572
(608) 798-4833
stefiharris@tds.net

E-mail addresses of:

CARPC
info@CapitalAreaRPC.org

Dane County Executive
falk@co.dane.wi.us

Mayor of Madison
mayor@cityofmadison.com

Dane County Towns Association
mhazel@tds.net

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