Tuesday, October 9, 2012

As Water Diversion Plan Sits, Waukesha Annexation Moving Forward

While the Town of Waukesha has yet to decide if it wants some of its acreage to be included in the City of Waukesha's Lake Michigan diversion plan, and the entire plan is on hold, one annexation from the town to the city of almost 100 acres is moving forward at the land owners' behest.

Tom Daykin disclosed the matter in today's Journal Sentinel, adding, "the property is open space, and includes wet lands..."

Fearing sprawl and further development not in its own interests, the City of Milwaukee did not negotiate a diversion sale to the City of Waukesha because Waukesha wanted to distribute some of the water outside its municipal boundary to portions of the Town of Waukesha and three other Waukesha County municipalities.

Daykin's disclosure brings to mind two things:

* That the City of Waukesha's diversion plan expands the number of square miles that  Waukesha currently provides water service by about 80%, and;

* This description of the City of Waukesha's growth pattern contained in the 2005 report "Protecting Wisconsin's Water: A Conservation Report And Toolkit" written by three attorneys for Midwest Environmental Advocates, a public interest law firm:

CASE STUDY: An Annexation Policy at Odds with Sustainable Growth

The City of Waukesha’s growth over recent decades has been dramatic and shows no signs of abating. According to the 2000 Census, the City of Waukesha has reached a population of 64,825 people, making it the state’s seventh-largest city.[58]

By the year 2030, the City estimates that its population will reach 85,000 people, a 27 percent increase since 2000.[59]

In pace with these population projections, the City of Waukesha has been significantly expanding its boundaries. Data provided from the City of Waukesha Department of Community Development’s Planning Division demonstrates that the City, over the past 20 years, has increased in size from 15.5 square miles to 23.6 square miles, reflecting a 52% expansion.

Is this trend expected to continue? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, over the next 25 years, the total residential acreage in the City of Waukesha is expected to grow by over 130 percent.[60]

Low-density residential development, consisting of one to two homes per acre,[61] is predicted to experience the most explosive growth within the residential sector, with projected acreage at build-out greater than 1,000 percent of the acreage in 2004.[62]

Likewise, major expansions are planned for the water service boundaries of the Waukesha Water Utility consistent with the areas demarcated for “urban growth” or sprawl.[63]

Indeed, rather than seeking to limit expansion of the service area in consideration of the city’s growing water problems, the Utility’s Master Plan provides for the expansion of the city’s service boundaries both south and west of its current corporate limits to provide for an additional 13 square miles of developable land to facilitate the city’s population growth and expansion.[64]

Absent coordinated efforts on the part of the Water Utility and the city’s economic planners, Waukesha’s expansion will certainly continue in upcoming years. Land-use planning that establishes open space goals, identifies groundwater recharge opportunities or advances other conservation-minded objectives has yet to become a priority for the city. 

To the contrary, city economic planners concede that consideration of such land use ordinances is still, at best, in the “infant stages,” notwithstanding their recognition of the sheer number of residential developments to be constructed in upcoming years.[65]

Moreover, city planners concede that annexations of property bordering the city occur on a regular basis, as developers continue to buy up farmland and then petition the city for annexation. In the last five years alone, over 1,300 total acres have been annexed by the City of Waukesha, with over 4,413 total acres annexed in the past 15 years.[66]

Unlike other cities whose expansion is limited by the existence of neighboring cities, there exists no immediate impediments to the City of Waukesha’s expansion.[67]

Rather, the annexation process is simple and driven by land developers, who after buying up neighboring farmland,[68] initiate the process by petitioning the City Clerk for annexation. Following State Department of Administration review, and approval by the City Plan Commission, the city’s Common Council invariably accepts the petition for annexation.69 

In this fashion, unless the city undertakes containment measures, Waukesha’s outward sprawl will continue unabated, property by property, acre by acre, development by development. The result – an ever growing demand for water at odds with an ever declining supply.
Here are the footnotes referenced above, in the bracketed numbers:
58 Corissa Jansen, Waukesha County Population Booms, MILWAUKEE J. SENTINEL, Mar. 8, 2001.

59 Id.

60 Waukesha, Wisconsin Water System Master Plan, 2.3 (June 2005).
61 These homes are expected to range in costs between $400,000 and $700,000. Interview by Jodi Habush Sinykin with Steven Crandell, City of Waukesha Community Development Director and Doug Koehler, City of Waukesha Department of Community Development Planner, Waukesha, Wisconsin (July 20, 2005).

62 Waukesha, Wisconsin Water System Master Plan, supra note 60.

63 The service area is defined as the area that is expected to require Waukesha Water Utility water services over the planning period. Waukesha, Wisconsin Water System Master Plan, supra note 60, at 2.4.

64 CH2M HILL, Report on Future Water Supply Prepared for Waukesha Water Utility, March 2002, at 1-6.

65 Interview with Steven Crandell & Doug Koehler, supra note 61.

66 Email from Doug Koehler, City of Waukesha Planner, to Jodi Habush Sinykin, Midwest Environmental Advocates, with chart attachment “City of Waukesha-Area: Year End totals From Annexations.” (Jul. 26, 2005); see also Telephone interview by Jodi Habush Sinykin, with Doug Koehler, City of Waukesha Department of Community Development Planner (Jul. 27, 2005).

67 Indeed, other than a DNR sewer service allocation, which can be modified and expanded upon request, no barriers exist to Waukesha’s expansion until such time as its growth brings it into proximity to other growing municipalities like the Town of Genesee and Delafield. Telephone interview by Jodi Habush Sinykin with Doug Koehler, City of Waukesha Department of Community Development Planner (Jul. 25, 2005).

68 This is consistent with the observation of Rod Nilsestuen, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, that the triangle between Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago is losing prime farmland, some of the nation’s best, at the third fastest rate in the country. According to the US Dep’t of Agric., the amount of farmland in the state has dropped 14% over the last 20 years. Jason Stein, Keeping Farms from Vanishing, WIS. ST. J., June 4, 2005, at AI. http://www.madison.com/archives/read.

69 To the best of their recollection, neither City planner could recall an instance when a petition for annexation was refused either by the City Common Council or the Department of Administration, Interview with Steve Crandel & Doug Koehler, City of Waukesha Department of Community Development, supra note 61.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This report is a valuable tool in the assessment of the diversion application exception. It should be forwarded to each member of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

I would suggest that the report be amended.

The City of Waukesha adopted a housing mix advisory approximately 6 years ago which has been widely ignored by the Common Council.

Waukesha has seen an explosive expansion of large apartment buildings within the last 5 years. The higher population density per square mile would significantly out pace the 2 houses per acre as suggested in this report.