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Dane County planners challenge Verona annexation

By Paul Snyder

Verona’s promise to exceed state requirements for storm water retention is not good enough for Dane County planners who want the city to be perfect if it plans to grow.

“What we thought would be a slap on the back and, ‘Good job, Verona,’ actually turned out to be a few commissioners only sniffed at us,” said Bruce Sylvester, the city’s director of planning and development.

The city of Verona has a plan before the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission to annex 265 acres from the town of Verona and extend water and sewer service to the land for commercial development. The commission, an advisory board to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is supposed to ensure municipalities that extend such services in the Madison metropolitan area do not hurt water quality.

State law requires 60 percent storm water retention for new commercial development in urban service areas. But Verona’s goal of retaining 90 percent on the annexed land that is developed still is drawing criticism from commissioners.

Commission members are concerned about a development’s effect on the nearby Badger Mill Creek and Sugar River, said Chris Gjestson, the commission’s administrative services manager.

If the commission, when it votes officially on the annexation May 13, rejects the proposal, Sylvester said the city will go straight to the DNR for a second opinion.

If that happens, Gjestson said, the DNR will approve the annexation, force the commission to review its ruling and clarify its rejection or support the commission’s rejection of the proposal.

But if the city is exceeding state requirements, Sylvester said, the state will have a hard time justifying rejection of the proposal.

Such a rejection could shift the issue to a courtroom, Gjestson said.

“I would guess there would be a lawsuit if that happened,” he said.

It wouldn’t be the first in the commission’s three-year history. The village of Mazomanie last year sued the state after the commission twice rejected a 200-acre mixed-use development and the DNR sided with the commission’s rejection. The case is still in Dane County Circuit Court.

By unofficial count — there were not enough commissioners in attendance for a formal vote — the commission Thursday voted 6-3 in favor of Verona’s annexation proposal.

The three votes in opposition stemmed partially from evidence that a city can achieve 100 percent storm water retention, Gjetson said.

Madison and Middleton set 100 percent storm water retention goals on their growth plans, both of which were at least three times that of Verona’s targeted annexation.

A perfect standard is not too high if Dane County’s waters are at stake, said John Imes, a commission member who voted against Verona’s proposal.

“Given the significance of the resource,” he said, “I don’t think we should accept a lower standard.”

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