Monday, December 29, 2014

End-of-year grassroots' updates: a report From West Waubesa

I've asked some grassroots activists whose groups have been featured on this blog to send a year-end updates. I'll be running them this week. Here's the first about an effort in Dane County to protect Lake Waubesa from encroaching development:
On Nov. 13 the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) voted 6 to 6 on Fitchburg's application to bring its "Northeast Neighborhood" into its Urban Service Area (USA).  Since CARPC rules require a super-majority of 8 to pass such a request, it failed.  This was a huge victory, since the CARPC hardly ever rejects any applications. 
But the CARPC merely advises the Department of Natural Resources on Urban Service Area extensions; the DNR has the final say.  If, as expected, Fitchburg appeals the CARPC's decision, the DNR might approve the application or send it back to the CARPC for a second look.  
The West Waubesa Preservation Coalition has been fighting this proposed development for 9 years, and has mobilized hundreds of concerned citizens in Fitchburg and beyond.  Over 1100 people signed petitions against the project.  For those inside Fitchburg, a major concern is the risk to taxpayers of trying to develop too many areas at once.  Fitchburg currently has 1126 developable acres within its USA, and creating another set of infrastructure to maintain isn't fiscally responsible. 
And people all over the county have rallied to protect Lake Waubesa and the Waubesa Wetlands from the siltation, petrochemical pollution, and excess nutrients that would flow into it from a developed Northeast Neighborhood.  The research, testimony, and writings of wetland scientists Dr. Cal DeWitt and Dr. Joy Zedler have been key in showing people what's at stake.  (For more info, go to to: and watch the 20 min. video!)  The wetlands will only be safe when the developable part of the Northeast Neighborhood has been purchased and dedicated to nature-friendly purposes.
Phyllis Hasbrouck
Chair, West Waubesa Preservation Coalition 


wetlands lover said...

There was a typo in the link to the video. The correct URL is

James Rowen said...

Thank you. Corrected.

Anonymous said...

Ever since Europeans colonized the continent, they've been at war with wetlands. We're now finding that wetlands are vital to a number of systems and not the least of these is clean, plentiful water. As global warming increases, here in wisconsin we're likely to have severe rain events. Wetlands, not more sprawl, will be more important than ever. This is a small victory but it was the right decision.

Warren Porter said...

This was a good decision. Fitchburg has plenty of developable acreage. Wetlands are crucial for wildlife habitat, good water quality and many other important functions.

Unknown said...

I was one of the hundreds of Fitchburg residents who registered in opposition at the CARPC public hearing in October. I also attended the public hearings in February, when the Common Council members voted on whether to apply to the CARPC to allow for the future development of the Northeast Neighborhood.

I was struck by how the main argument of those in the Common Council who voted in favor of applying to the CARPC for the expansion of the Urban Service Area was "This has always been the plan since the 1970''s not a new plan", and also how those who care about the Waubesa wetlands (and the environment in general) so eloquently and effectively explained why this plan (which is an old plan!) would bring irreversible damage to a delicate ecosystem, one which the Wisconsin Wetlands Association has named a "wetlands gem".

It's been beautiful seeing those who care about the natural environment come together and speak out against big money and shortsighted politics. It makes me hopeful that together, we can make a difference.