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Fight looms over more planning in Dane County (UPDATE)

By Paul Snyder

Dane County builders are revolting against a requirement for another layer of government regulation over where projects are built.

The opposition stems from a Capital Area Regional Planning Commission requirement that cities, villages and towns collaborate on Future Urban District Area plans, which would dictate where the commission allows water and sewer service extensions and development in the next 25 years.

If towns and municipalities cannot agree on a plan that establishes where projects can be built within two years of CARPC’s call to action — which is likely in 2011 — the commission can withhold approval of water and sewer service to developments.

The approach stymies potential development and could render meaningless Smart Growth plans already created by counties, municipalities and towns, said Kent Disch, government affairs director for the Madison Area Builders Association.

State lawmakers in 1999 enacted a law requiring Wisconsin counties, municipalities and towns by Jan. 1, 2010, develop Smart Growth plans, which set detailed outlines of development growth.

Builders argue those plans should be sufficient.

“We’ve got the comprehensive plans,” said Chad Wuebben, president of Madison-based Encore Construction Inc. “If your project falls within the comprehensive plan, then the battle should be easier to get it approved.”

But Smart Growth plans are not sufficient, said Topf Wells, chief of staff for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. He said Smart Growth plans do not have to be agreed upon by different governments.

“So you could easily have a case,” Wells said, “where three different municipalities say three different things about how 400 acres should be developed in the future.”

Wells said the potential disputes are why the regional planning commission must get bordering town and municipal governments to agree on developments.

But there is disagreement over whether the commission can force the issue. According to a legal opinion written by Tim Fenner, an attorney with Madison-based Axley Brynelson LLP, and given to the builders association, state-mandated Smart Growth plans render commission-mandated plans advisory.

If more planning is unnecessary, Wuebben said, the commission should not force the issue.

“Trying to work on boundary agreements between towns and villages is always a tough order,” he said. “And does anyone really presume to know what will happen 25 years from now? Could anyone 10 years ago have predicted Epic would develop a campus in Verona?

“What if there was a plan in place to say that couldn’t happen?”

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