Proposed Quarry, Airport and Conservancy Land Expansions Could Limit Future Growth for City

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Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Plan Commission reviewed three items under the jurisdiction of other governing entities that may impact the potential for real estate development in one of the city’s targeted growth areas.

City planning staff member Mark Opitz said he added an item to the agenda as informational to brief the commission on a few projects moving forward that have piqued public interest and could have an impact on an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the Town of Springfield.

Planning Director Eileen Kelley said there were three areas identified in the agreement that may need to be revisited with current proposals. 

The first area Kelley said is the growth area determined in the agreement consisting of about 640 acres. With the planned 160-acre conservancy expansion by the county and development of Misty Valley Middleton Ridge subdivision there is roughly 400 acres remaining.

Kelley said those areas were targeted for primarily single family but the potential for multifamily or commercial.

The second area identified in the agreement north of the airport was determined to be a long-term preservation corridor because it has environmentally sensitive land, Kelley said. 

The third area identified in the agreement was determined to be land that could be developed once the first area was substantially built out.

Kelley said the agreement was signed in 2004 and the plan hasn’t seen any changes since. 

Mayor Gurdip Brar asked if it was even possible to expand the airport if the land adjacent was considered environmentally sensitive. 

Springfield Town Chair Jim Pulvermacher who was present at the meeting explained why the land is considered sensitive.

“That is your water recharge area for your city,” Pulvermacher said. “It runs along the Highway 12 corridor…that is the major water recharge into the Mount Sinai Aquifer that you guys drink from. That’s why when we originally talked about that there was no desire to build in that area.”

Kelley said there is also agricultural land that the plan commission at the time wanted to remain for at least the next 50 years.

Brar asked Pulvermacher if the town still supported the intergovernmental agreement. Pulvermacher said he wanted to make the city aware of the boundary change of the quarry but did not think it would impact the development area and is happy to provide input as the city reviews its growth area.

Kelley pointed out that there are a lot of areas for infill that could accommodate growth within the city. 

Plan Commission member Kurt Paulsen said it seems there should be an intergovernmental agreement also in place between Springfield and Waunakee because of rapid development happening there. Pulvermacher said that is something he intended to work on during his time as town chair.

In terms of the quarry, Pulvermacher said he received a call from the county informing him that the Meinholz Quarry located east of Highway 12 and south of County Highway K would be expanding and regulation is under the county’s purview.

Yahara Materials, which owns the quarry, informed the town the land which they intended to expand on was approved by the county in 1969 and the company planned to reclaim that original plan.

Pulvermacher said neighbors to the east are upset and are challenging the expansion legally arguing it goes against the town’s plan and because the company is planning to extract limestone which involves blasting instead of sand and gravel which does not. 

He said he asked the county to postpone the public hearing for the county permit, so the town had time to review the arguments the homeowners were making. 

Paulsen pointed out that there are houses in the Misty Valley Middleton Ridge subdivision that would be within 300 feet of the quarry.

Plan Commission member Wayne Pferdehirt said he was concerned about the process and felt Yahara Materials was being assertive in terms of their rights. He said looking at the plan he didn’t see much detail in terms of detailed phasing of operation, land contours or storm water management addressed. 

“To me that is just not responsive in terms of what is being planned,” Pferdehirt said. “I definitely think we should register our concern with the county that this be thoroughly addressed.”

Paulsen added that the city could contest a permit should it come to that. He said that is probably what the neighbors would do. He added that those issues would presumably be raised at the county’s public hearing.

He said despite the agenda item being informational he wanted to make a motion to take action.

“The plan commission expresses its concern that Dane County fully investigate the storm water and operational concerns regarding hours of operation, traffic, blasting effects and that they consult with City of Middleton to notify residents of any public hearings,” Paulsen said in his motion.

He also asked that the Middleton Common Council be briefed.

Paulsen said the Town of Springfield should be able to limit hours of operation, but Pulvermacher said that was only the case for a new quarry, but since this was considered part of the 1969 plan approved by the county, they could not do that.

Regarding the 160 acre Acker family farm that is being bought by the county and planned to be converted to back to natural prairie and wetlands, the city was planning on having Belle Fontaine Blvd. connect to Parmenter St. Opitz said the hope was that in the future that would be an arterial road to support the planned growth.

Opitz said it would not be impossible to move the route of the road as long as other landowners were willing to cooperate. 

He said the adopted bicycle plan had a path cutting through the planned restoration area. He said the paths did not have to go through those areas, but it were designed with linkage and connectivity in mind.

“The idea is to establish a shared use path connecting Graber Pond at Parmenter St. all the way through the northern edge of the conservancy to Governor Nelson State Park through Bishops Bay,” Opitz stated. 

He said one of the reasons the county was interested in the land was because of agricultural runoff going into the conservancy. He said he was aware the county was interested in the land but did not know they were going to buy the entire 160 acres till the night before it was announced publicly.

Regarding the airport expansion, Opitz said there is concern from neighbors that there will be larger, louder aircraft and more air traffic. He said there has been a lot of misinformation spread on social media and hopes the planning process can address those concerns.

Optiz added that proposed expansion to the north would impose on the Town of Springfield agreement environmentally sensitive identified area.

He said there is no plan to change what type or size aircraft use the airport and no plan to change the speed at which they approach. He said the airport is actually small for its current classification.

Director of Community Development Abby Attoun noted that the planned solar project at the airport has also raised concerns from nearby homeowners about the environmental impacts of installation. She said there is public hearing set for June 20.

Mayor Brar asked if that would delay the project. Attoun said probably not because the city only just negotiated the land lease.

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