By Scott Carlson
Special to the Daily Reporter
A state agency will comply with a court order to review a controversial, 200-acre development proposed for the village of Mazomanie.
The state Department of Natural Resources chose not to appeal Dane County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Moeser’s ruling earlier this month that the agency erred in not reviewing the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission’s rejection of a mixed-use project proposed by Madison-based Hawthorn & Stone Development Inc. CARPC rejected the project last year.
“The DNR and the DOJ have reviewed the court’s ruling and have decided not to appeal,” Bill Cosh, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said Thursday.
Mazomanie Village Clerk Sue Dietzen said the DNR made the right decision. She said the DNR’s review will give Mazomanie another chance to get the Hawthorn & Stone development approved.
CARPC rejected the proposal on the grounds the development would hurt nearby Black Earth Creek. The DNR accepted CARPC’s action without reviewing it, so Mazomanie in December sued the DNR, arguing the commission’s advisory role means the DNR must make the final decision.
The DNR’s decision to adhere to the judge’s ruling and undertake an independent review of the development does not threaten the viability of CARPC, said Kamran Mesbah, CARPC deputy director. He contended the commission is still vital to the DNR despite the setback in the Mazomanie case.
“That doesn’t make any difference to the importance or relevance of the work we do,” Mesbah said, adding the DNR doesn’t have enough staff members to handle amendments to the county’s water quality plans.
Mesbah said CARPC gives local communities representation and input into DNR-related issues.
“When you look at the historical improvement in water quality and development and compare it to other areas of the state,” he said, “it shows the benefit of the work we do.”
Still, controversy has swirled around CARPC. In addition to the panel’s rejection of the Mazomanie proposal, the commission earlier this year rejected a sewer service extension in Verona on the grounds the project would harm the Sugar River and Badger Mill Creek.
Before CARPC was formed, Dane County had a regional planning commission that former governor Scott McCallum in 2002 disbanded because of similar municipal disputes. Commission member Kurt Sonnentag, Middleton’s mayor, said previously it is possible CARPC will meet the same end.
Gov. Jim Doyle in 2007 formed the commission through an executive order. CARPC was created as an advisory body to the DNR to review water quality issues and sewer extension proposals for new developments.
Whatever CARPC’s fate, Dietzen said, Hawthorn & Stone has assured it is committed to press forward with the project, which would include senior housing and plans for a grocery story.
“We need this development,” she said, noting the town doesn’t have a grocery store.
Hawthorn & Stone officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
DNR officials could not be reached to comment on when they intend to start reviewing the proposed Mazomanie development, when the agency will complete the study and how it might differ from the CARPC’s review.
Even with an expeditious DNR review, the mixed-used development project is unlikely to break ground this year.
“A lot of infrastructure needs to be put in,” Dietzen said. “We probably can’t put the infrastructure in until next spring.”