Posts Tagged ‘Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment’

City of Verona Set to Destroy Class II Trout Fishery

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Once again, the Western Dane County Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment has an excellent analysis of how yet another new sprawl development will harm our water resources.


To: Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) Members

From: Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment (WDC/SGE)

Re: City of Verona Urban Service Area (USA) amendment request

The CARPC staff report on the City of Verona USA amendment request issued on June 11, 2009 concludes with eleven specific recommendations to be imposed on Verona as conditions for the requested approval. These recommendations were put in place in order to minimize water quality impacts of the proposed development on the extremely sensitive exceptional Upper Sugar River and Group 1 wetlands located in the State Natural Area, coldwater Badger Mill Creek and other minor wetlands present in the area. Because the City of Verona deemed some of the CARPC staff recommendations as “unreasonable restrictions”, the decision on the request was postponed and the case was sent to the Environmental Resources Technical Advisory Committee (ERTAC or TAC) to be resolved.

The newly-emerged set of recommendations (CARPC staff report 4-8-10), resultant from TAC’s involvement, represent a weakened version of what was originally offered by the CARPC staff in June 2009. These new recommendations if approved, undoubtedly will have an additional negative water quality impact on the affected resources.

Here is a description of how the two sets of recommendations differ and what is missing in recommendations.

Control of runoff volumes and peak rates

Although both versions of recommendations offer control of peak rates of runoff to pre-settlement levels in all storms, they largely differ in volume control standard. While the old version insists on maintaining the pre-development runoff volumes, which is the same as 100% volume control to pre-development levels, the new version calls for the post-development volume control of only 90%. This particular difference in runoff volume control is significant.

According to the CARPC staff report of 6-11-09 (p 37), even if peak runoff rates from sites are controlled, increases in runoff volume from a site can lead to increases in flood peaks at downstream locations. Increased runoff volumes lead to other unwanted consequences, such as stream bank erosion, stream bank destabilization, sedimentation, increased water temperatures and degradation of biotic communities. The report goes on to say that even relatively small amounts of urban land use in a watershed can lead to major changes in biotic communities and that there is a relatively low threshold point for these changes to take root, beyond which there is no recovery of lost water quality (p 40).

A 10% difference in volume control standard between the two sets of recommendations might appear as unimportant at the first glance. Nevertheless it is significant. The event based modeling for Shady Woods Residential Development  (CARPC 12-15-09) demonstrates that 90% volume control standard will lead to runoff volume increase anywhere, between 38% to 156%, depending on the type of vegetation and soil conditions present at the pre-development level. At any rate, the CARPC staff report of 6-11-09 (p 48), expresses the opinion that all new development in Badger Mill Creek and Sugar River sub-watersheds should uphold no increase in runoff volume standard. It calls it “the only practicable approach that would prevent further degradation of these sensitive cold fisheries.”

And the following statement is what the same CARPC staff report (p 41) had to say in reference to Verona’s proposal to recommend for 90% runoff volume control to predevelopment level, 100% peak runoff rate control to pre-settlement level and 80% reduction of suspended sediments – all three measures now a part of the current proposed recommendations:

Although these measures and standards are above current minimum standards, and will reduce the likely impact of the proposed development, they do not completely address the current state of the receiving waters. To address the potential adverse impact of increased runoff volumes in the Badger Mill Creek and the Sugar River downstream of the confluence, it is important to maintain post-development runoff volumes equal to predevelopment volumes up to the 100-year storm event for all new development (100% pre-development stay-on volume). This will promote the goal of maintaining existing hydrology, which is critically important to maintaining the health of Badger Mill Creek, Sugar River, and the biological communities that they support.”

TAC recognized the benefits of runoff volume control to 100% of pre-development volumes. However, it has decided that concerns over additional costs are more important than the full water quality benefit such measure would produce. But this is an unacceptable argument when proposed by a committee serving a regional planning commission responsible for protecting the environmental quality of the county’s land and water resources.

Caps on the extent of the infiltration areas

The original CARPC staff recommendations ask for maintaining the pre-development recharge rates with no caps on the extent of infiltration areas. The 4-8-10 CARPC Executive Summary (p 4) continues to support this position in the body of the text:

“Allowing a cap has the potential for reducing the volume control and recharge required to well below the recommended standard and could result in inconsistency in the effectiveness of the standard between amendments.”

It views pre-development recharge rate caps as “a large loophole, where the developer is allowed to maximize the development beyond the carrying capacity of the site and insists on limited mitigation because of their development choices.” (pp 4 & 5).

However, the specific new recommendations omit all reference to the “no-cap” rule. Therefore in spite  of what is stated elsewhere in the document, the lack of reference to “no cap” rule in recommendations reserves the option for the City of Verona to use the much weaker Dane County ordinance, which allows such caps on 1% or 2% of the total site area to be used for infiltration, dependant on type of proposed development.

Limitation of the size of the infiltration area affects the amount of water that gets infiltrated and eventually recharged to groundwater. It is especially important in this case because of the sensitivity of the water resources involved, and because of very difficult soil and terrain conditions which do not lend themselves to easy infiltration.

Water temperature control

Both the original and new sets of recommendations require thermal impact mitigation. Nowhere in any CARPC reports is there any mention of how this goal would be met. Both Badger Mill Creek and the Sugar River are classified as coldwater communities. In an earlier CARPC case involving a proposed USA amendment affecting Black Earth Creek, lack of demonstrable assurance that coldwater temperatures in that creek would be protected against the proposed development, played a role in CARPC denying that application. By contrast, in the case of the City of Verona, a proposed development affecting two coldwater creeks, one of them exceptional water resources, absence of any concern about how thermal impact mitigation would be met noticeably stands out.

An excellent recommendation, of total runoff peak control rate to pre-settlement levels in all storms, should be followed by an explanation of how it is expected to work in conjunction with thermal mitigation. The standard in peak flow rate control is extended detention for 1-year, 24-hour storm to be gradually released over 12 hours in cold watersheds (CARPC staff report 6-11-09, p 42), and over 24 hours in warm watersheds. But what will happen with larger volumes of water in larger water storms? Is the runoff allowed to warm up during longer retention, in order to control peak flow? Or will it be released quicker in larger volumes in order to avoid warming? These are the types of questions that any reasonably coherent, although not necessarily complete stormwater management plan should have been able to provide the answers for.

What is the enforceability in Wisconsin of Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources 2006 criteria?

One of the more curious new recommendations is that the criteria for maintenance of wetland water levels provided by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources 2006 be used by Verona. Although these criteria might be the best ones in existence, it is highly questionable how either CARPC or DNR would ever be able to legally compel a Wisconsin municipality that it failed to follow Minnesota’s regulations, if the need to sue over water quality should ever rise.

Delineation of environmental corridors

Both recommendation sets call for delineation of environmental corridors based on wetland, stream and floodplain delineations, as well as on CARPC requirements. However, the new recommendations have dropped all reference to a 300 ft vegetative buffer for the commercial area east of STH 69. This buffer, described in the original staff recommendations, is needed to protect the lower portion of Badger Mill Creek and associated wetlands. Similarly, a recommendation that the western portion of Area W be designated as environmental corridor in order to protect the shallow groundwater in that area was also eliminated. These sacrifices of water quality protection obviously were done for the convenience and monetary benefit of the would-be developers of these areas and their municipal partner.

Area W

Most part of Area W is unsuitable for infiltration because it contains sub-areas where such infiltration is inhibited either by fine-grained soils or by shallow, fractured limestone or by high water table. The original staff report suggested several alternative approaches to address this problem. CARPC Executive Summary of April 8, 2010 reports that the resolution of the infiltration problems in this area would not be a part of the conditions for the approval of this amendment. According to the summary (p 4),

“The City prefers to maintain its flexibility”.

But flexibility in environmental protection almost always generates environmental degeneration.

Will the recommended water quality standards deliver the intended performance?

The CARPC Executive summary quotes a DNR letter which states, that without performance measurement of infiltration practices there can be no assurances that the infiltration practices are working as intended and that water quality is protected (p 3).

In the City of Verona’s USA amendment request, performance measurements of infiltration practices are not the only unknown variable. The amendment area is a large mosaic that comprises challenging terrains and difficult infiltration conditions that include steep slopes, shallow and in many places fractured bedrock, high water tables and deep fine grain sands. Nothing even approaching a stormwater management plan has been submitted to CARPC for review, let alone submitted to “performance measurement”.  And yet CARPC staff, in spite of its earlier more cautious approach expressed in the 6-11-09 report now seems to be all too ready to gamble with water quality of not just one coldwater stream, but of two, one of which happens to be an “exceptional water resource”. What will happen if Verona’s request gets the needed approval now and its still unknown eventual stormwater management plan gets implemented and fails to work as promised? Who will ever undo the damage to the Upper Sugar River, Badger Mill Creek, the wetlands, the State Natural Area?

The City of Verona and Stormwater Management

Many of Verona’s best management practices (BMPs) date to the1980’s when water quality mitigation standards were lower. Now those facilities need retrofitting to improve their performance. Any such work on BMPs requires large sums of money, which are not easily allocated for these purposes.

As of 6-1-09, the City of Verona had 61 detention basins, two infiltration basins and one bioinfiltration basin. 47 of these facilities are public, 15 private and three are of unknown ownership. The City inspects them on irregular basis and repairs them as need arises, usually after reported flooding.

As of December 2008, Verona was under watch for total suspended soils (TSS), the only pollutant under formal reduction regulations by DNR. In order to reach its goal of 40% TSS reduction the City needed to reduce its base load by 139 tons per year. At that time the City was reducing TSS by 83 tons or 24%. The estimate for 40% TSS reduction was  $2.7 million.

All municipalities, including the City of Verona are mostly concerned with expanding their tax bases. Regardless of their public propaganda to the contrary, water quality is never their primary focus. It is unwise of the CARPC to ignore their own responsibility as a watchdog agency for water quality, and turn over these watchdog responsibilities to a municipality and its private developers, letting them dictate terms and conditions under which the CARPC’s recommendation of the amendment approval would be issued to DNR.

It is equally unwise to contemplate recommending anything for approval before a detailed stormwater management plan has been produced and shared with the public. When it comes to water quality protection, no municipality should ever be allowed to do its “own thing” in an environmental area that is difficult to mitigate, with high potential to harm sensitive water resources, such as suggested that the City of Verona should be allowed to do in Area W.

Backed by NR 121.05 (1) (g) 2. c., which based on considerations of water quality, allows for exclusion from a USA of  steep slope, highly erosion-prone soils, limiting soil types, recharge areas and other physical constraints, the proposed amendment area should be rejected. As long as such is done for solid water quality reasons, expressed in open deliberations, DNR will have the means of proving that it backs a CARPC decision.

Stefi Harris and Arnold Harris


3427 County Rd P

Mt Horeb WI 53572

Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment Endorsements

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Vote TUESDAY!!!!!!!

Western Dane County Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment has their endorsements out for the county board races. It is imporatant for all of the reasons they cite….

Best Dane County Board election choices for smart growth and environment

We strongly recommend for re-election to the Dane County Board incumbent supervisors in ten contested elections. These county leaders have played significant roles in supporting smart growth, as opposed to urban sprawl that destroys Dane’s remaining farmlands and open spaces; a rational public transportation and transit system; protection of the environment of our land and water resources; and comprehensive planning for a sustainable Dane future.

Our top choices and their district numbers:  Elaine Desmidt (3); Brett Hulsey (4); Matt Veldran (7); Paul Rusk (12); Dave De Felice (16); Robin Schmidt (24); Kyle Richmond (27); Pat Downing (30); Patrick Miles (34); Denise Duranczyk (35).

We also endorse the following seven newcomer candidates, whom we think will also support sustainable policies for Dane County, and who are running in contested county board elections: Michael Johnson (5); Barbara McKinney (15); Melissa Sargent (18); Bill Clausius (19); Gordon Shea (20); Sharon Corrigan (26); Sam Cooke (33).

Finally, we look forward another two years of quality public service from eight county board candidates with proven leadership and support records, who are running in uncontested districts: Chairman Scott McDonell (1); Barbara Vedder (2); 1st vice chair John Hendrick (6); Carousel Andrea Bayrd (8); Dianne H Hesselbein (9); Jeremy Levin (10); Al Matano (11); Chuck Erickson (13); Tom Stoebig (17); 2nd vice chair Shelia Stubbs (23).


Arnold Harris


Stefi Harris;


Co-founders of the Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment

3427 County Rd P

Mount Horeb WI 53572

Dane County Towns Ass’n: Adjust Your Attitude!

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Brought to you by Dane County Towns Association

Having a poli-sci BA and an MS in geography means that I geek out over good land use policy analysis (in case you hadn’t clued into that already!).

Below is one of the best analyses I’ve ever seen with regard to Dane County’s rural land use policies. Stefi & Arnold Harris of the Western Dane County Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment are truly fighting the good fight out there.


to: Dane County town boards
from: Stefi Harris, Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment
re: DCTA ineffectiveness protecting town lands from annexation

As a rural resident of the Town of Cross Plains in western Dane County for 34 years, I have witnessed the increasing disappearance of farmlands and other open spaces of the towns in our county as they have been incrementally swept into the encroaching black holes of annexation by their neighboring cities and villages. All these annexations have been for development largely denied to the towns by countywide comprehensive planning. Mostly of them were instigated and conducted not because they made any sense from the planning point of view but to feed a class of land speculators and developers who buy up these town lands at farmland prices in order to enrich themselves with high-priced lots for urban sprawl.

Presently, there is only one venue in Dane County where towns might hope to affect the outcomes of city/village grabs of their lands and tax bases. That venue is CARPC, the appointed body to which all Dane County cities and villages must come in order to get recommendations to the WI-DNR for approval of their sewer service area extensions. Without those recommendations they can do only limited development on annexed town lands.

The main culprits in this destructive development are the cities, villages, land speculators and developers. However having monitored actions of the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) since mid 2008, I now understand that the Dane County Towns Association (DCTA), either through willfulness or bad judgment, is equally responsible for enabling CARPC to act as little more than a well-oiled machine for converting town farmlands and other open spaces to urban sprawl after these lands have been annexed by the cities and villages. And here it is how that happens.

CARPC has 13 members, appointed as follows:
— Dane County Towns Association (DCTA), three members;
— Dane County Executive, three members;
— City of Madison, four members;
— Dane County Cities and Villages Association (DCCVA), three members.

CARPC’s rules require a majority vote of eight of the 13 members to pass a positive recommendation for an urban service area (USA) extension on to WI-DNR. The pro-development forces have overcome that hurdle by organizing a CARPC voting bloc which includes all three DCCVA appointees, at least three of the four Madison appointees, and at least one of the three DCTA appointees, but frequently all three.

DCTA and its appointees, all of whom have been elected Dane County town officials, have a unique opportunity to counter the cities/villages bloc and discourage future unjust annexations of towns’ lands by making them through its CARPC actions unprofitable for developers. In order to accomplish this, they would have to form a voting bloc with the appointees of the Dane County Executive and with one vote that usually comes with Madison appointees.

However, DCTA historically and presently, almost always wastes its limited political capital opposing the County Board of Supervisors and the Dane County Executive in any and all land use controls. Mostly, this is an extension of the political orientation of the DCTA leadership. They act as though it were the Dane County government rather than the cities and villages that has been annexing their lands and exercising frequently unfair extra-territorial jurisdiction against their membership – the Dane County towns – rather than the cities and villages with whom their CARPC appointees typically walk in political lockstep.

From Mar 27, 2008 to the present, CARPC has reviewed as many as 20 service area extension requests. Some of these represented limited service areas (LSAs) of minor acreage. Others are cases in which there were specific agreements between a town and a neighboring city or village, such as the recent City of Middleton-Town of Westport CUSA review and approval by CARPC. And there was a single case where CARPC actually turned down a request by the Village of Mazomanie to extend the sewer lines on lands taken from the Town of Mazomanie without as much as a courtesy call.

But over 2/3 of the land area awarded to urban expansion during the same period or over 2070.7 acres, involved cases where CARPC approval was given even though towns had no say in annexations preceding these approvals. In each such occurrence, CARPC more or less rubber-stamped the municipal proposals. In all these cases, DCTA’s appointees mostly joined forces with the DCCVA and City of Madison appointees in a solid voting bloc.

The rubber-stamp approvals of the Madison, DCCVA and DCTA appointees are further reinforced by CARPC staff, led by an environmental engineer who routinely uses his position to lead board discussions to favor approvals of the urban service area requests, despite numerous clear violations of the Wisconsin NR 121 regulations dealing with water quality issues, and even has been seen to interrupt commissioner discussions in order to sway one or more dissident commission members to vote approval of his favored projects. WDC/SGE has researched and brought to the attention of CARPC, its staff and its commissioners technical information about many water quality-related proposal violations, to which little attention has been paid.

Moreover, CARPC rules allow broad opportunities for the applicant cities and villages, and along with them, their pet land speculators and developers, to testify at length, including use of extensive PowerPoint presentations. In contrast, opponents of these developments are permitted only three minutes per person to speak, with no such presentations. So each such meeting and all CARPC deliberative procedures, operate like a carefully coordinated card game in which the deck is stacked against the interests of the towns themselves, smart growth planning of Dane County, and Wisconsin’s environmental protection legislation.

A typical example of CARPC decision-making was at the March 11, 2010 CARPC meeting, concerning the City of Fitchburg Central Urban Service Area (CUSA) amendment request for 397.7 acres. At that meeting, DCTA appointee Ed Minihan, who is also chairman of the Town of Dunn, raised the objection to Fitchburg’s request based on two significant unanswered concern that directly affect his town. Those concerns involved unresolved issues over increased flooding in the Town of Dunn and degradation of South Waubesa Marsh, both due to the City of Fitchburg proposed urban service extension. This marsh is known as both a unique and an outstanding wetland area. Increased resale property values in the Town of Dunn can be in part credited to the proximity of pristine South Waubesa Marsh natural area. The town has also submitted its letter of objection over Fitchburg’s proposal to CARPC. Commissioner Minihan argued his objections clearly and concisely during Thursday’s CARPC deliberation. But what followed might surprise you. His two fellow DCTA appointees, commissioners Phillip Van Kampen and Susan Studz, ignored his comments, sided with the cities and villages, and voted against the Town of Dunn’s objection. Their votes were particularly hard to swallow because these two members never responded to Minihan’s objections and provided no coherent water quality or other reasons for going against the Town of Dunn. They gave him no backing whatsoever, despite that they were appointed to CARPC to represent the interests of Dane County towns.

Mr Van Kampen has been on CARPC for a long time and has had a fair track record until he was appointed chairman of CARPC at the March 11, 2010 meeting, replacing Jeff Miller, a DCCVA appointee. One must assume the cities and villages bloc of commissioners supported him as chairman because they assumed he would continue their status quo of the obvious CARPC bias in favor of awarding urban service area extensions at the expense of the towns from which the lands for these extensions have been grabbed.

Susan Studz is new to CARPC. She was recently appointed by DCTA to take the place of the late Harold Krantz, a town leader of great experience. To Krantz, by contrast, the interests of the towns always came first in any CARPC discussion or vote. He frequently voted against city/village proposals where town interests were not served.

If this type of mindless action of some of the DCTA appointees on CARPC continues, many of us who live in towns of this county fear what will happen to our towns when the land tracts that have been recently ripped out of their territories inevitably come to CARPC review.

Here, along the northern boundary of the Town of Cross Plains, the Village of Cross Plains in early 2009 annexed a large chunk of town’s territory through gerrymandering. It did that with no prior discussion with the town. The land in question is a recharge area for Garfoot Creek, a high quality trout stream, classified as an exceptional water resource. The village wants to convert this area into a dense suburban neighborhood. This process would inevitably degrade Garfoot Creek from the exceptional water resource with living, breeding trout, into an impaired waterway that could barely support a forage fishery. The town wanted to keep that area as farmland with low-density residential development under its 1 split per 35-acre rule. The town wanted to continue protecting the creek, because a healthy stream with quality fish is an attractant. Among other things it increases property values in an area where it flows.

Many of us in the town familiar with this recent hostile action of the DCTA appointees to CARPC, Van Kampen and Studz against the Town of Dunn are worried that if the case involving former Town of Cross Plains territory would come in front of CARPC now, that there would be no stopping of the Village of Cross Plains sewer service request and creek degradation and destruction. Furthermore, awarding the Village of Cross Plains a sewer extension through CARPC would only encourage the village to further encroach and take land from our town.

If DCTA or its CARPC commissioners ignore towns’ objections and are unwilling to lead by example and vote down cities and villages urban service area amendment requests whenever necessary, then how is anyone else on CARPC expected to help the towns? What is the sense of any town in Dane County using their taxpayer’s money to pay dues to DCTA if that organization is not sensitive to the overriding interests of their own members?

One of the unique sets of data that WDC/SGE has assembled are written surveys completed by residents of more than a dozen Dane County towns as part of their comprehensive planning projects during recent years. Notably, more than two-thirds of all rural residents surveyed clearly indicated that they want to keep the town lands rural and that they want to strongly limit development on the town farmlands and open spaces. This data directly contradicts the political assumptions of some who imagine that rural residents would support urban development all around the county, typically as enrichment schemes by a very small number of individuals. On issues such as these the majority of Dane County town residents is more in tune with the statewide Wisconsin Towns Association, who strongly favor smart growth planning and protection of town lands from unwanted development. The time has come for attitudinal adjustment of DCTA leadership. DCTA leadership should be made accountable for any hostile action by its CARPC appointees against towns whose cases come in front of that body.

Stefi Harris
Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment
3427 County Rd P
Mt Horeb WI 53572

Imagine.....There used to be a farm here.

Victory for Black Earth Creek!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Black Earth Creek, an example of a restored trout stream par excellence, has been spared a massive assault. Western Dane County will stay a little more rural for a bit longer. Bicyclists, nature lovers, fisherman — indeed anyone who breathes — should be thankful to a hard working group of people who made this happen.

Stefi Harris and the Western Dane County Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment are to be commended for a fight well fought…and won!

Capital Area Regional Planning Commission members: Thank you. Thank you for your good judgment, and backbone.

Way to go gang!

Here’s the word from the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (apologies for losing the letter’s original formatting):

101 S. Webster St.

Box 7921

Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7921

Telephone 608-266-2621

FAX 608-267-3579

TTY Access via relay – 711

Jim Doyle, Governor

Matthew J. Frank, Secretary

November 23, 2009

Carl A. Sinderbrand

Axley Brynelson, LLP

P.O. Box 1767

Madison, WI 53703

Subject: Village of Mazomanie Request Regarding Amendment to Dane County Water Quality Plan

Dear Mr. Sinderbrand:

Your letter to Thomas Gilbert, Bureau of Watershed Management, dated August 21, 2009, has been referred to me. That letter, submitted on behalf of the Village of Mazomanie (Village), requests the Department of Natural Resources (Department) to review the June 11, 2009, decision of the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) to not approve an amendment to the Dane County areawide water quality management plan (plan). The Department declines to reconsider that decision.

There is no statutory or administrative rule procedure that directs the Department to review regional planning agency decisions to deny amendments to areawide water quality management plans. Section NR 121.07, Wis. Admin. Code, establishes the procedures for approval of plans and plan amendments for designated areas of the state (such as Dane County). Section NR 121.07(1) (a), Wis. Admin. Code, provides that the Department shall review and approve or disapprove each plan for designated areas. Section NR 121.07(3), Wis. Admin. Code, provides that the Department may approve a planning agency’s amendments to a plan for a designated area. There is no provision in s. NR 121.07, however, that directs the Department to review and approve or disapprove a planning agency’s decision to deny a proposed amendment to a plan for a designated area.

In addition to this lack of procedural direction, there is a significant practical reason for the Department not to reconsider denials of amendments in designated areas. Dane County is a designated area for areawide water quality management planning, under s. NR 121.06, Wis. Admin. Code. The Department contracts with CARPC to conduct water quality management planning work in Dane County. In my March 18, 2009 letter to Jeffrey Miller, chair of CARPC, I made it clear that,

“We strongly believe that CARPC plays a necessary and critical role in shaping the future of Dane County. We are relying on CARPC to provide land use and water quality resource information and analysis, and a strong direction for local planning efforts.”

Further, I went on to state that,

“In reconsidering the Mazomanie amendment request, the Commission should focus on water quality impacts as the primary basis for a decision, and should consider the guidance and direction in this letter.”

CARPC has taken the focus suggested in our letter and the Department defers to their judgement in this case. As stated, the Department has procedures to review plans and approved amendments to plans and does review those decisions by planning agencies for designated areas. By approving or disapproving plans and plan amendments previously approved by regional planning agencies, and by re-evaluating the approval status of plans at least every 5 years, the Department fulfills its responsibility to protect, maintain and improve the quality and management of the waters of the state in designated areas. Since denials of amendments to plans in designated areas do nothing to change plans previously approved by the Department, they would result in no change to water quality, such that the Department has little or no reason to reconsider them. In fact, to do so would take resources away from other priority work of the Department at a time when those resources are in very short supply.

The Department has not historically been involved in reviewing denials of amendments to plans, unless the planning agency has failed to provide a water quality basis for the denial. If CARPC or another regional planning agency denies an amendment without stating a clear water quality basis for its denial, the Department has requested that the regional planning agency reconsider its decision. The Department did so in this case, by letter to CARPC, dated March 18, 2009. Specifically, I noted,

“Pursuant to state statutes and administrative codes (chapter NR 121), decisions regarding amendments must be based on water quality impacts and the cost-effectiveness of sewerage systems.”

However, once the regional planning agency states a water quality basis for not approving an amendment to a plan (as CARPC has done in this case), as long as the decision is consistent with the approved plan and was done in accordance with approved planning procedures, including a sufficient public participation process, the Department will not reconsider that decision, for the reasons stated in this letter.

The Department encourages the Village to work with CARPC to address the water quality concerns raised by CARPC when it decided not to accept the proposed amendment to the plan.


Todd Ambs, Administrator

Division of Water


Jeffrey Miller, Chair, CARPC

Kamran Mesbah, Deputy Director, CARPC

Scott Stokes, President; Village of Mazomanie

Sue Dietzen, Clerk; Village of Mazomanie

Ron Adler, Chair; Town of Mazomanie

Maria Van Cleve, Clerk; Town of Mazomanie

John St. Peter, Edgarton, St. Peter, Petak & Rosenfeldt

Timothy Fenner, Axley Brynelson

Andy Morton – WDNR – SCR

Tom Gilbert – WDNR – WT/3

Robin Nyffeler- LS/8

Judy Ohm-LS/8

Update: Robbie Webber informs me that there is another group which needs to be thanked for their hard work:

Just an FYI that there is another group working very hard on the CARPC
issues, and they worked extra hard on the Mazo decision, in
cooperation with Arnold and Steffi Harris.

Capital Region Advocacy Network for Environmental Sustainability
(CRANES) has been meeting twice a month for over a year – more or less
since the new RPC was formed – to build a network/alliance of
environmental groups and individuals that are willing to speak up to
preserve the environment in Dane County (and beyond, but we are
working on Dane County first.) Many of the names will be familiar to

Here’s a blog from Brenda back in March about our efforts to fight the
Mazo plan. It includes a letter that was sent out by the group urging
people to show up at the original CARPC hearing.

Indeed! Many thanks for all that great work!

Fightin’ the Good Fight Out West(ern Dane Co., That Is!)

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Here’s the latest from the good guys of the Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment….

From: “Stefi Harris” To: “Stefi Harris” Subject: letter to friends 7-25-09 Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 14:19:07 -0500 7-30-09 Dear Friends of the Environment Many thanks to all of you who testified at the public hearing and wrote letters to the Capital regional Planning Commission (CARPC) against the proposal by the Village of Mazomanie to expand their urban service area into a sensitive watershed area for purposes of creating yet more urban sprawl in a cornfield. We won at CARPC in a vote of 7 to 5. We should all be proud of our collective efforts. We think that having lost unprecedented two times at CARPC Mazomanie‚s proposal will also be rejected by DNR. However, we‚ll keep watching the situation just to make sure and let you know of further developments in this case. This time we are asking you to continue our common efforts and join in a fight against the request by the City of Verona to create development in a highly sensitive environmental corridor near Badger Mill Creek and the Sugar River. Both of these are coldwater streams with unique and rare aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The proposed development comprises 572 housing units, 12.6 acres of commercial development and 20.4 institutional development on 265 acres in two areas, located near the intersection of the US Highways 18-151 and State Highway 69. Specifically, the proposed development threatens the two streams with further reduction of already low base flow, increased runoff, erosion, sedimentation and pollution, as well as with increased water temperatures. These threats extend also to the area‚s riparian wetlands alongside of both creeks and to the spring fed wetland in State Natural Area adjacent to the western portion of the proposed urban service area (USA). There are at least four springs in and immediately adjacent to the affected area. If the City of Verona is allowed to spill and sprawl over its current boundary in a direction of Badger Mill Creek and the Sugar River these springs will dry up in the foreseeable future. The proposed Verona USA is a home to several threatened and endangered species. They are Acadian Flycatcher bird, Mulberry Wing butterfly, Lady Slipper orchid and the entire communities of calcareous fen and sedge meadow wetland types. At present the amendment area is sparsely populated. It includes agricultural fields, isolated patches of woods, wooded slopes, a few houses and the streams which flow through. In the past this area, because of its richness and diversity of plant and animal life, was a place where through centuries Native Americans lived, camped, hunted, fished and were buried. There are ten documented archaeological sites in and directly adjacent to the proposed USA. Four of those are mound sites. Since we have the knowledge of these sites only through literature search and not through an actual field survey, the number of the archeological sites in the same area might be even greater than ten. The City of Verona promises a limited protection to water quality, threatened and endangered species and archaeological sites. But its promises do not match its plan for mitigation of detrimental effects of its proposed development. You can read more about Verona‚s proposal on CARPC website under „Upcoming Public Hearings‰ (google „CARPC DANE‰ to find it). NR 121 relating to areawide water quality management plans contains a provision for areas such as the one between the Sugar River and Badger Mill Creek to be saved from destruction through massive development as the one proposed by the City of Verona. This is what it says: „Major areas unsuitable for the installation of waste treatment systems because of physical or environmental constraints are to be excluded from the service area. Areas to be considered for exclusion from the sewer service area because of potential for adverse impacts on the quality of the waters of the state from both point and nonpoint sources of pollution include but are not limited to wetlands, shorelands, floodways and floodplains, steep slopes, highly erodible soils and other limiting soil types, groundwater recharge areas, and other such physical constraints‰ (NR 121.05 (4)(c). And that is what we should insist on because the amendment area contains all those conditions. Please e-mail to CARPC that you oppose the City of Verona USA amendment request and send copies to individuals listed below. Also please, come to the public hearing on August 13 held by CARPC at City County Building downtown Madison at 7:00 PM in Rm 201. Stefi Harris, Dennis Franke and Arnold Harris Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment 608-798-4833; 608-798-4835 3427 County Rd P Mt Horeb WI 53572 It is important that you send your e-mail letters to CARPC with copies to all of the following: CARPC Dane County Executive Mayor of Madison Dane County Towns Association Gerry H Derr Renee Lauber Mark Hazelbaker

Bike Zeitgeist: Being the Engine, Pedaling Revolution

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

GM just went bust.

The Highway “Trust” Fund went bust a few months ago.

The repo man is busy, busy, busy.

No better time than today to introduce two great works that celebrate a better way:


Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities a book by Jeff Mapes (with a strong Madison connection; more below),


Be the Engine, a new music video  celebrating human powered transportation (posted below). This rockin’ tribute to all that biking going on out there has long been a crowd rouser at Motor Primitives shows. Now it is set to video and it evokes an explosive cultural resurgence into a non-motorized—and infinitely more fun—era. Pam Barrett, my rock star wife(!) who penned the song and performs it with the Motor Primitives, also created the video.

Back to Pedaling. The book is an amazing read. It is encyclopedic. It is well researched. It is a breeze of a read. It is a complete statement of the state of the bike movement as of today. For those of us who have been involved in bike advocacy since, well, forever (including yours truly), it is a mesmerizing read. The book is broad in scope; so much so that it becomes clear that our trials & tribulations here on the local level are, in fact, theorizable to the national level.

Or, at least rhyzomable to cities across North America—it could be called the Strawberry Strategy for Cycling Cities!

Even for non-bike geeks, the book provides a sense of adventure, almost in a Huck-floats-down-the-Mississippi sort of way.

Mapes, a political reporter in Portland, took a leave from his statehouse duties to divine the Zeitgeist of cycling, ca. 2008. First he traveled to several successful bike cities in the US—and even across the Atlantic. He observed the two wheeled action. Then he set out to interview the people who helped create the conditions for successful biking in their localities. Indeed, the sheer depth of creativity & willpower in the characters he meets along the way rivals that encountered by Huck on his adventures.

Powerbrokers take note: It is no coincidence that a political reporter took up the task of writing this book. Indeed, it was a natural. The emerging political power of bicyclists not only animates this book, but increasingly, it infuses the power—economic, political and cultural—of more & more cities and states which embrace a forward-looking vision. Many states and localities bemoan the loss of their kids after they’ve graduated from college. Well, it might behoove them to check out the places they are losing their kids to. This book provides a nice, shall we say, bike route map for creating places which attract & retain a thinking, creating and just plain competent populace. Smart people don’t like to live in places that suck. Bicycle-friendly places tend not to suck. (Note to the recession-ridden: Your giant highways suck.)

To give the reader a feel for how far cycle advocacy has come, Mapes takes a trip on the Way-Back Machine to interview the old bulls of the bike world–the likes of Dan Burden, Bill Wilkinson and, of course, John Forester. By bringing us all the way up through the history of the movement to the present, Pedaling illustrates just how far we’ve come since Effective Cycling was the be-all-end-all of bike advocacy. Not that there is anything wrong with EC; I am, after all, a League Cycling Instructor (LCI 636-C, Sir!). But there is a lot more to changing the world than just learning to effectively defy death on auto-centric roads.

Though Mapes essentially confesses to being a partisan of the larger cause at the outset of the book (he is a dedicated bike commuter), he does a marvelous job of even-handedly teasing out the oft-conflicting factions within the bike movement. (He is a journalist by profession, after all!).

The book celebrates bike celebrants—characters like the inimitable Reverend Phil of Portland, the wacky connoisseur extraordinaire of all things bike culture. And to be sure, it is heavy on analysis of what makes the hip bike capitals the hip bike capitals they are (the Portlands, the Amsterdams, the Davises, etc.). But I found the book most compelling, in a glimpse-into-the-future sort of way, when Mapes picks the minds of unlikely proponents of bicycling:

*The Mayor of patently un-hip Louisville, Kentucky, who sets out to create hundreds of miles of bikeways, with an eye toward creating an environment that retains and attracts an educated and creative workforce,

*A world-renowned Safe Routes to School coordinator who came to bicycling via asthma,

*Public health professionals/academics who finally “got it” in the late 90s (yes, Virginia, there is a connection between land use/transportation policy and health!),

*An old-line New Dealer in Congress whose district probably doesn’t need much bike infrastructure given its rural nature, but who fights like mad for bike & pedestrian funds nonetheless,

*The former Parsons-Brinkerhoff (yeah, that mega-highway building concern) executive who is single-handedly taming New York’s mean streets—as an appointee in a Republican administration!—to the benefit of cyclists & pedestrians,

*The tech entrepreneur who sees beyond his own fast growth business but uses that tech prestige & cachet to leverage better bike conditions, i.e., a better world around him.

The bicycle-wielding barbarians have crashed the gates…Indeed, They are in the king’s court! Mapes notes with relish that Obama is the first president to have specifically included bicycling as a major component of his transportation platform during a campaign (results TBD,of course!).

The one quibble I have with this tour de politique velò is Mape’s heavy reliance on the paid & professional. Pardon the metaphor, but, in a way, it is kind of like a car mechanic diagnosing a sputtering car by only looking at the engine block while ignoring the spark plugs. The folks who actually show up at city council meetings—civic minded volunteers one & all—are discussed and even lionized here, but only in a lumpen sort of way. This is too bad, because, after all, it was their dreaming, manifested in their political pressure which brought about paid positions for the bicycle professionals in the first place. The individuality of the professionals comes through loud & clear; the civic volunteers, not so much. This quibble notwithstanding, the auto-centric world has much to learn from this encyclopedic look at the cities winning with a bicycle-centered strategy.

The Madison Connection: There are several other reviews out there that will probably do more justice to the book than what I could write here, including David Byrne’s recent review in the New York Times. But I do want to highlight an unsung hero in the fruition of this book: My good friend Mary Braun. A former grad school colleague of mine in the UW-Madison Geography Department, Braun is now the acquisitions editor at the Oregon State University Press (the publisher of Pedaling Revolution). She met Mapes at a history conference where he gave a talk, and he mentioned that he was writing a book on the bike movement. Braun signed him up for her press, and, well, the rest is unmotorized history, published. This is a case of great minds thinking alike, because some months before that encounter, Braun had emailed asking if I knew anyone who would be up to writing just such a book. I didn’t have a good answer, but it’s obvious that she found a winner in Mapes—a natural given that he is based in one of those hip bike capitals and covers politics.

But the Wisconsin connection is very important. A good Wisconsinite through & through, Fondy born & raised, Mary Braun will be horrified that I even mention her here. But I’m tired of the unsung heroes going unsung. So here goes: This long-time Madisonian (Madison being a Mapes-certified “bikey” [sic] city)—and former acquisitions editor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Press—was a lurker on Madison’s “Bikies” listserv since its inception back in the early ‘90s. “Bikies” (the proper spelling, btw!) is one of those (in?)famous bike advocacy listservs that Mapes cites as a major factor in organizing bike politics. Braun was there—the proverbial villager supporting the bike insurgents—back when Al Gore invented the internets. She has long wanted bicycling as a movement to see the light of day. With this book, not only did she accomplish that dream, she helped produce the manifesto for a better day.



Trashing the Earth. Black Earth Creek, That Is

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

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!


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.


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

E-mail addresses of:


Dane County Executive

Mayor of Madison

Dane County Towns Association