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DeForest, Windsor battle puts developments on hold

Paul Snyder

A property dispute between the village of DeForest and the town of Windsor is testing the patience of developers proposing projects for the area.

“That element is certainly out there,” said Brad Ziegler, president of Hartland-based Della Properties Ltd., who has waited since 2006 for approval of his proposed $14 million, mixed-use Windsor Corners project.

“The reputation that this is a difficult place is out there, and you can imagine my level of frustration right now.”

Ziegler on Monday night watched the DeForest Village Board for the fifth consecutive time deny a final plat approval for Windsor Corners in Windsor. This time, the board rejected the plan over concerns the project would require an increased police presence because the development would add 10.5 acres of new residential property.

“We just felt the issue had not been adequately addressed,” said DeForest Village President Jeff Miller.

But Windsor Town Chairman Alan Harvey blasted the policing concern as a nonissue and said DeForest is stalling. He said Windsor Corners, along with a 53-acre tax-incremental finance district proposed by Middleton-based Livesey Co. LLC and an 85-acre mixed-use plan by Madison-based Schwa Development LLC, would be built in Windsor.

But DeForest, Harvey said, is voting against Windsor projects because the village wants leverage to annex the 53 acres for Livesey’s TIF district and the tax base that will come with it. State law lets DeForest vote on any new developments within a mile of its borders.

Miller said Livesey wants DeForest to annex the 53 acres for the TIF district along Highway 19.

“We’ve been working with the town to try to reach an agreement for the land,” he said.

Livesey representatives did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

Windsor is resisting DeForest’s annexation attempt, Harvey said, because the town does not want an exchange of 53 acres to place Windsor on the top of a slippery slope that leads to a greater loss of land.

And as the town and village square off, Ziegler waits.

“The police issue in DeForest is typically a formality,” he said. “But now it’s something that, as an applicant, we have no way of satisfying. I was very frustrated Monday, listening to all this, and thinking, ‘What control do we have over any of this?’”

Harvey said he knows the land dispute is pushing away developers and said DeForest is hurting itself by holding up approvals.

“When Windsor advances, we all advance,” he said. “We can’t do tax-incremental financing, so if these developments happen that’s immediate new tax base for the area, which includes the DeForest Area School District.”

Yet Miller and Harvey both said they are optimistic the town and village can reach an agreement.

“Some days you make progress,” Miller said. “Then the next day it’s like you take three steps back. We thought we were close, but we’re still waiting.”

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