Backers of a 200-acre Mazomanie development that was twice rejected by a Dane County planning group could use the project to undercut the group’s authority.
If the village of Mazomanie appeals a decision by the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission and wins, the decision could set a precedent of appealing the organization’s rulings. Village President Lowell Holcomb said the village soon will decide if it will appeal.
Whichever way the village goes, the project and potential appeal highlights a crossroads at which the commission is trying to balance environmental concerns and development proposals, said Jeff Miller, DeForest village president and CARPC chairman. If the state Department of Natural Resources, which presides over CARPC, overturns the commission’s ruling, he said, it could compromise the group’s future.
“I hope we don’t see the organization fold up,” Miller said.
The potential appeal is tied to CARPC’s second rejection of a project proposed by Cross Plains-based developer Janice Faga. Faga last year sought permission for a mixed-use development in Mazomanie with senior housing, residential units, retail and an extension of the village’s sewer system.
But CARPC rejected the project because it would be close to Black Earth Creek and, commissioners feared, could damage water quality.
“Location is critical here,” said Kristine Euclide, CARPC secretary. “Mazomanie is surrounded by water on three sides, and the state’s already put a lot of effort in trying to preserve those streams.”
Yet the DNR in March sent CARPC a letter telling commissioners they failed to provide sufficient reason to reject the development.
“The analysis said it would be possible to mitigate any adverse effects development might have on the water,” said Tom Gilbert, the DNR’s wastewater facility planning coordinator. “It appeared to us there were reasons given not based on our administrative rules.”
The DNR directed CARPC to review the proposal again, but the commission Thursday failed again to muster the eight votes needed to approve the project.
Mazomanie’s Holcomb said the commission is splintering relationships in the county rather than promoting development.
“The county should be there to work with us and provide guidance,” he said. “They aren’t even willing to talk to us, and it’s really too bad that Dane County’s taken that stand.”
Holcomb blasted the commission for making a decision about Mazomanie even though no CARPC members live there and said the village needs the commercial and residential opportunities the project could bring. Given the chance, he said, the village could manage water quality issues.
If Mazomanie appeals the decision, the DNR will be forced to rule on the development, Gilbert said.
“We rely on and try to support the decisions CARPC makes,” he said. “We don’t want to undermine that.
“But if we find the issues can be mitigated, then we have to be careful of not setting a precedent for everybody appealing.”
But one reversal could be all it takes for every CARPC decision to be challenged, Gilbert said. And the DNR, he said, does not have the staff to manage all of those potential rulings.