Saturday, April 29, 2017

Despite Kohler's golf course annexation ploy, hurdles remain

[Updated] I posted information earlier today about the move by Kohler interests to get their proposed golf course property along the Lake Michigan shoreline annexed by the City of Sheboygan so perhaps the level of local opposition in the Town of Wilson would go away.

While that possible annexation may or may not happen, and may or may not have consequences both expected and unexpected, it's important to remember that the plan to convert a 247-acre wooded-and-wetland-and rare dune-rich nature preserve

into a high-end, groundwater-sucking and traffic spawning private facility at the edge of the lake still faces many hurdles regardless of which local jurisdiction the golf course is allowed to put on its return address, including:

*  Tribal approvals. Remember that the Bad River band's treaty rights and legal prerogatives were among the key reasons the proposed Gtac open-pit iron mine plan for the Bad River watershed collapsed.  A new national report about that is here.

This is relevant because the proposed golf course site was occupied long ago by native people, is filled with thousands of artifacts that includes at least one ceremonial mound which must be protected despite all the destruction, construction and presence of thousands of golfers.

The permitting process requires that the Federal government contact more than two dozen native groups and inform them of the plan, opening numerous routes to various delays.

*  Required permits. The wetland permit application which was recently been filed, and about which many complex questions were raised by DNR experts, is not the only permit needed. Each permit requires a separate application, review, and so on.

*  Because the golf course property is also to absorb several acres of adjoining land in Kohler Andrae State Park, the park's operating Master Plan will have to be amended by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board which oversees the Department of Natural Resources.

The Board is heavy with Walker appointees - - and it's been known for sometime that Walker's campaign committee has benefited from big developer donations - -  but amending a state park Master Plan, especially for a park as popular as is Kohler Andrae which has long-standing strong advocacy, is not a slam dunk. 

The Board decision will require a public vote; public testimony is not required but could be allowed by the Board. 

* Finally, the DNR's draft Environmental Impact Statement assessing all the environmental impacts posed by the golf course plan has not yet been deemed complete by the DNR.

All of these issues have to be addressed, reviewed, and as with all such matters - - possibly litigated - - regardless of whether the golf course property remains in the Town of Wilson or is annexed by the City of Sheboygan.

*  Federal approvals. I'm well aware that Trump's election has profoundly changed and deteriorated the mission of the US EPA and made a bad situation in Wisconsin that much worse, but the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers - - a separate body with its own, engrained culture - - still have obligations with regard to the project's potential impact on Lake Michigan water quality, the integrity of the shoreline dunes, and so forth.

I'm not downplaying the significance of the annexation ploy. I'm just saying that there are multiple timetables in play, regardless.

Latest Kohler golf course ploy: change the map

A case study in development by gerrymander.

I'm posting a long communication from Friends of the Black River Forest who bring us up to date on the latest twist in the controversial plan to turn a 247-acre nature preserve along Lake Michigan into a high-end golf course:
KOHLER GOES AROUND TOWN OF WILSON TO GET ITS WAY

KOHLER asks City of Sheboygan to annex  proposed course
to avoid all accountability to Town of Wilson

  1. KOHLER STOOPS LOW TO GET ITS WAY
In an action signaling it is above respecting an entire Town and its residents, the Kohler Company has asked the City of Sheboygan to annex its proposed golf course land to the City, taking the decision away from the Town that will be impacted by the development. Town of Wilson’s ordinances expect a developer to show the impacts to the neighboring properties as part of its Conditional Use Permit requirements. This was too much for the Kohler Company. The Company balked at paying for consultants to determine short and long term impacts. It had a pattern of providing incomplete information critical to the Town’s, DNR’s and Army Corps's permit applications. Apparently the review process is just not part of what they want to do.

When you are above the rules what do you do if you are Kohler? 

Get the City of Sheboygan to annex you, thereby avoiding any accountability to the residents of Wilson. Make offers to residents they can't refuse so they will vote to annex?Get the owner of Riverdale Golf Course to negotiate with the City of Sheboygan for sweet deals? Perhaps tell the residents along 12th Street it would be a good idea to annex since studies show their wells might be most at risk from golf course pumping. All the while costing Wilson's Town Board and Plan Commission hours upon hours of time diligently following the approved process.
It is difficult for those who are grateful to the Koher Company to objectively evaluate the impacts of this proposed golf course for years to come. Looking only through the lens of economic impacts they miss the critical issues of water, pollution, and the give away of their State Park land for one company's profit-all issues which affect the economy in the long run. FBRF's belief is that no matter how civic minded anyone is, he or she is not above the law or the rules.

The City of Sheboygan Common Council

The City of Sheboygan will get a whopping $17,000 in real estate taxes from Kohler's parcel along with taxes from whomever else is annexed to the city. The city will be in a position for further development and the annexation of the Town itself. We would hope that the Sheboygan Common Council members would search their consciences before they inflict a project on this sensitive environmental corridor and its residents which can never be reversed. Will the ever present desire to make life cheaper for their constituents  justify throwing their neighbors to the south under the bus?
The city alderpersons won’t be affected by the impacts to the quiet Town of Wilson, the environmental changes, or the sounds of saws and bulldozers removing 150 acres of trees sending runoff into the lake. They live nowhere near our Town. Since they will not witness this they certainly will not have to inform themselves of any of the scientific information describing impacts, unless they look beyond the money.

Minimalist? Green? Environmental Practices?

The Kohler Company had the choice of planning a course according to environmentally sound practices. Many golf courses are built on completely green priciples. Instead, using no environmentally sound principles, the company made up the term ”minimalist” while planning a complete reconstruction of the land, and threatening Wilson’s wells to boot.

This Company has had DNR staff working for it for 3 years without filling out an application. This company wrote Scott Walker asking him to smooth the regulatory process. Now, impatient that anyone would want to protect their water and health, Kohler tries to get around this pesky task of accountability because the City of Sheboygan would jump at any increased revenue.

FBRF has been working for 3 years to educate people on the very real impacts of this proposed course. Why have we hung in?

  • We are doing this for the residents of Wilson and to protect their access to clean water
  • We are doing this for the waters of Lake Michigan, the Black River and the Sheboygan River
  • We are doing this to preserve our State Park land and its rich habitat
  • We are doing this to protect the beaches and shore from further impairment
  • We are doing this because the legislature has been on a mission to give away our water and allow businesses to pollute
  • We are doing this because right here, in the Town of Wilson we can say, the favoritism ends here. There is too much at stake for us to cling to the argument that Kohler makes beautiful things. Credible scientific data on impacts must be considered even for a Kohler Company project.
  • We are doing this for our future 

FBRF has a tough road ahead and will do all we can to challenge the City of Sheboygan. To do this we need active supporters to:
  • share information
  • donate to our legal fund
  • show up when hearings are held.

We cannot force people to understand what is at stake and step up. If the public chooses to be uninvolved FBRF cannot fight their fight. We make all the necessary information available to you. Let us not go down the road of Kewanee, the Central Sands, Waukesha, Green Bay and the miles of shore north of Cleveland which are contaminated. Follow our newsletters for FBRF's plan of action.

here is the Kohler proposed annexation map

Attend the Town of Wilson Board Meeting Monday May 1, 6:30 p.m.
5935 S. Business Drive, Sheboygan, Wi.
Comment to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by May 6
regarding Kohler Wetland Permit application
USACE PUBLIC NOTICE and Kohler Wetland Permit Application, click here  to view DOCUMENTS

This is the letter FBRF has sent to the Army Corps regarding the Wetland Permit Application.

This is a link to documents sent to the Army Corps of Engineers in addition to our letter.

Suggested Template: You do not have to write a long comment. Just pick one issue
or more if you'd like. Individuals need to respond as well as FBRF.

From:

Subject: The Kohler Wetland Permit Application
Comments: I object to the permitting of the Kohler golf course for these reasons: (Be objective, referring to information in the Public Notice or the Wetland Permit Application. This can include what further information you think is needed or what is not mentioned. If you have written the DNR previously assume the USACE has not read your comments to the DNR.

***FBRF will be asking the USACE for a public hearing.



Wetland Gems, Important Bird Area, Ridge and Swale and Interdunal wetlands, Endangered Species
Check out more documents on our website from:
Wisconsin Wetland Accociation,
Wisconsin Socity for Ornithology
Quentin Carpenter - PhD, Land Resources





FBRF is hiring experts for the review of this permit. We will considering litigating the isue of annexation and any improprieties in the DNR's permit review process.
FBRF is a 501(c) (3) charity







Sign our petition to halt the constuction of the proposed Kohler Golf Course in the Town of Wilson, WI.







Kohler Claims Course Will Be "Minimalist"

Excerpts from DNR Draft  Kohler Environmental Impact Study
Quentin Carpenter, PhD in Land Resources: "In general, I find little new information in the DEIS compared to the scoping documents initially supplied by Kohler, and I see few questions that were raised by the public either answered or at times even acknowledged. Like the initial document, this DEIS focusses on minutia and largely ignores the larger issue that this proposal will completely transform the existing, largely intact and functional, dune, swale and forest ecosystem that developed here over millennia into a human-dominated, northern European analog. There is no reason to expect that the leftover fragments of the prior system are likely to survive the new and altered hydrologic, trophic and disturbance regimes. There is every reason to expect that the fragments will turn into weed patches dominated by exotic and/or invasive species.

A truthful description would include the fact that many of the former dunes will be altered and covered with imported soil upon which nonnative European grasses will be planted and that half the forest will be cleared and the rest left as fragments with occasional view corridors of Lake Michigan."

Kohler's Wetland Permit Application and their course descriptions do not include the collateral damage from the tournaments the course would host. The Company rejects any other alternative plan, insisting it be a tournament course and for this reason needs to use 4-20 acres of our State Park land.  The course layout clearly shows there is not sufficient room for 300,000+ tournament attendees, buses, trucks, tents,etc. (see wetland permit application maps).