Council takes up Northeast Neighborhood

Map courtesy City of Fitchburg. A map of proposed phases for the Northeast Neighborhood development project.
Jim Ferolie

A years-long effort to prepare an area east of U.S. Hwy. 14 for development is nearing an end.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Common Council is expected to discuss the city’s request to expand into the Northeast Neighborhood, which comprises about 924 acres of mostly farmland adjacent to the Town of Dunn.

City planner Tom Hovel told the Fitchburg Star a yes vote for that and the North Stoner Prairie Neighborhood on the opposite side of the city would enable city staff to complete an application to the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC), which oversees expansions of sewer service. Sewer service is controlled by the state Department of Natural Resources and is essential for most forms of urban development, and areas that can be connected to it are called urban service areas (USAs).

Hovel said the effort to expand into that area – it’s already within Fitchburg’s municipal boundaries but not the USA – started in 2005, with an application from a developer that long ago sold its interests to developer Phil Sveum. But the city did not act on the request immediately because it did not yet have a plan for development in that area.

The city completed its state-mandated comprehensive plan in 2009 and approved a neighborhood plan indicating future development of that area in 2010. It also included that area as a possible SmartCode development when it revised its zoning ordinances in 2010.

The city approved a resolution a year ago to prepare the application, which itself is an exhaustive process requiring scientific information and a multitude of maps showing how not just the area itself but the surrounding areas might be developed. Now that the application is almost finished, city staff have requested another resolution to file it with CARPC.

Throughout the process, it has met consistent opposition, with some people claiming the city is expanding in a sprawling, unsustainable way and others concerned about potential effects on nearby Lake Waubesa.

At this week’s Plan Commission meeting, where the resolution for both areas was forwarded to the council, only two people spoke in opposition, but one of them, Phyllis Hasbrouck, has been attempting to rally more opposition. An environmentally focused group she represents, the West Waubesa Preservation Coalition, has mailed postcards out to Fitchburg voters urging them to show up en masse so the council will delay action.

Hasbrouck also has presented a petition with nearly 600 signatures from Fitchburg voters to that effect, asking the city to meet several criteria first, including an analysis of alternative growth options and an approved plan for fire and EMS service. Ald. Steve Arnold has also been an opponent of the plan, and he, too, spoke against the resolution Tuesday.

Five people spoke in favor, including the developer and former Plan Commission and Common Council representatives.

Tuesday’s vote will not be a public hearing, but the Common Council allows an opportunity for public input at the beginning of each meeting.

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