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Verona development plan stuck in neutral

Paul Snyder
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After three years of poking and prodding from government agencies and committees, a plan by the city of Verona to take over neighboring land for development is snagged on three ominous words: More examination needed.

“There is justification over the concern of impacts on the environment, and I know there are some people that think no development should occur in that area,” said Shawn Murphy, Verona’s administrator. “But I think the amount of review we’re facing is a little unprecedented.”

The city wants to take 265 acres from the town of Verona. The city can take the land from the town by targeting the property for city services such as sewer and water. But the Capitol Area Regional Planning Commission must sign off on the deal.

Dean Health System bought 60 acres in the designated area three years ago, and Murphy said the company plans to build a medical office park. He said the city could expand its tax base by taking over the property with the office park.

City leaders also want the land for future residential development.

But CARPC members worry the development could hurt the environment because Badger Creek meets the Sugar Mill River on the property, said CARPC member Larry Palm.

“We can’t replace what we have in nature with engineered solutions,” he said. “We can try, but is it going to be 100 percent? I doubt it. “

CARPC wants the city to guarantee that storm water will not seep into the creek or river.

Murphy said the city spent more than a year creating a $90,000 environmental-impact statement when the proposal was in the hands of Dane County. The city then created a storm-water management plan for the area.

But that might not be good enough. CARPC has delayed a vote on the proposal until the commission’s Sept. 10 meeting.

Murphy said Dean bought the land with plans to begin construction of the office park three to five years after the fact, so there is no immediate pressure for the city to get the land.

Dean representatives did not return calls for comment Friday.

But Murphy said if CARPC rejects the plan, the city is out $90,000 and whatever value future developments would have brought the city. He said he does not know how much tax revenue the Dean campus would generate.

“We’re willing to put in additional measures to keep this an environmentally safe area,” Murphy said. “We’re just somewhat hoping that every approval we go through isn’t going to take this long because it is a little unusual.”

But CARPC wants to make sure the previous plan examinations did not miss anything, Palm said.

“You can’t go back once you’ve started these developments, so you’ve got to do it right the first time,” he said. “The due diligence they’ve done is really for their own sake.”

One comment

  1. We can all be grateful for the careful consideration being given by the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) and thoughtful commissioners such as Larry Palm.

    The CARPC reviews Urban Services Area (USA) amendment applications. Reviewing an USA application is not like considering a neighbor’s request to add a garage or a deck to a house, or even another floor to a building.

    Approval of an USA changes the land forever and affects every other municipality in the region.

    Verona’s USA application is for hundreds of acres and hundreds of dwelling units and thousands of square feet of buildings and other impervious surfaces that affect stormwater runoff. Not too many decades ago, the size of this proposed development plan would have been large than most existing communities in Dane County.

    Such a proposal demands months, if not years, of scrutiny and public review.

    If the Dean Healthy System campus is developed on these 60 acres, what will be the cost of the municipal infrastructure improvements required to service the site, such as improvements to Valley Road and utilities? For sprawl (edge development), all these all these services cost more, making it doubtful that tax revenues will be higher than the costs for provision of public services.

    As a health corporation, Dean should be building to the highest possible environmental standards (LEED platinum), which requires infill siting, which in turn will lower the cost of public services while also lowering direct and indirect energy use. If a health campus is needed in Verona, Dean should build it on acres that already are in Verona’s current urban service area.

    Chasing more public dollars after the $90,000 already spent can’t be justified simply because three years have passed. In that same time period, the Capital area has been visited with climate change induced flooding, with record setting precipitation events that are predicted to become even more frequent in the future. This requires re-examination of our basic assumptions about so-called growth. In most cases, the “best use” of non-urbanized land on the edges of municipalities will be open space, to assure ecological diversity, enhancement of water quality/quantity, and local food production.

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