Lyndon says no to development

By Trevor Kupfer, Dells Events

The town of Lyndon ran short of parking and chairs Thursday when about 30 area residents visited Lyndon's Zoning Board meeting to air concerns about a proposed development on 147 acres at Highway N and Hall Road, along the Wisconsin river corridor.

After an hour and a half of discussion, the board denied the request to change zoning from agricultural to B-1 on the grounds that it's contrary to the town's comprehensive plan and poses a threat to the water table and infrastructure load.

"It comes down to not having enough water or electricity, plus we don't want this development out in the country," said Joe Rogge, who would be a neighbor to the development.

The landowner, Peter Knorr, came before the board last year, but was unable to answer some of the questions brought forth at a meeting. Since then. Knorr has hired Joe Dorava, an engineer with Vierbicher Associates in Reedsburg. At Thursday's meeting, Dorava presented a conceptual plan, identified environmental restrictions and fielded questions from those present.

The town's attorney, John Orton, facilitated the meeting and recommended the board table the request until it can revise its zoning ordinance.

"There seems to be a recurring fear of what's coming in," Orton said, "and our current ordinance permits that fear to exist."

As the town's zoning ordinance currently stands, an approved zoning change would allow Knorr to develop several projects without any additional town approval.

"They don't have to come back for permission to build a hotel, a restaurant or a tavern," Orton said. "They would, however, for residential dwellings, lodges and campgrounds."

"So if they wanted to build a strip club tomorrow, they could?" one resident asked, followed by a nod from Orton. "That's great, because we really need one of those."

The conceptual plan envisioned a mixture of commercial (mostly along the highway) and residential. "At this point we want to let the market drive that," Dorava said. However, as one resident pointed out, they could change the entire thing to commercial if they wanted to.

"In a big city it might be fine to change something to business and let anything that wants to go in, go in," Orton noted. "But in the context of a rural setting, it doesn't make sense to let anything get built there without the board approving it first."

At the meeting Dorava mentioned several possibilities including timeshares, condominiums, hotels, a gas station and restaurants. According to the town's comprehensive plan, commercial properties should stay on Highways 12 and 16.

Several of residents questioned the environmental impact of the development.

"We are not going to encroach upon any of the wetlands or flood plane, as the conceptual plan shows," Dorava said, adding they can only build on about 60 acres.

Some asked how the development will affect the river. "We can't do a lot," Dorava responded, adding they originally wanted to create a trail system, but aren't allowed to do so because of the flood plane.

"I'm concerned about the viewshed from the river," said Deb Kinder, president of Stewards of the Wisconsin River. Though they can't build there, they could cut down all the trees to allow a hotel to have a view, she said. "You have the jewel of the river up there at the Upper Dells; it's just beautiful."

About one mile south of the proposed development is Louis' Bluff property, about 100 acres of land protected by the state.

Along the river Dorava said they "want to keep it in its natural state," but would like to maintain access to the boat landing near there.

Another resident noted the area's population of wildlife, such as sandhill cranes, pheasant and deer.

"There's a huge amount of wildlife, and that's a significant concern for me."

Orton said, if the board chooses to approve the request, they could place conditions on the developer such as an environmental impact study.

Dorava also envisioned development of a sanitary system involving individual property pumps leading to a large mound system, and some road construction. If the development is mostly residential, both the sanitary and roadways would be turned over to the township.

The sewage plan would need to go through the county and Department of Commerce. David Donnelly, of Juneau County sanitation department, said the soil in that area may limit their options.

A neighbor said he currently has a 65-foot water well that is down to one third, and is concerned about depleting the wetlands and wells.

"When they go dry, who's going to be responsible?" another said.

"Based on reports from a local well driller (Sam's Well Drilling), the water needed for this type of development is not going to cause a serious depletion of the ground water," Dorava said. "There's plenty. Nor is there any problem with electricity."

Another resident reported weekly electrical surges and expects more problems when the developments tap into it.

Board member and Lyndon Chairman Pat Mitchell said he's concerned about the increase in traffic, causing more road maintenance costs, as well as the cost of police and fire.

"This should add value to the land, and improve the tax base," Dorava said, estimating adding $6 million to the tax base. The statement was followed by a hearty laugh from the crowd. "We've heard that before," one said.

At the end, Orton called for a show of hands for those in favor of the development (four people, including Knorr), those against it (about 20) and those who may be for it if the zoning is changed (three). The board echoed the wishes of the masses by unanimously voting it down.

"Are you taking good farm land out of commission?" one person asked during the meeting. "Would another area in the town be better suited for this?"

"We're talking about the corridor to Wisconsin Dells," Dorava said. "There's going to be pressure to develop there, if not now then sometime in the future."