Stop Construction of the Bishop's Bay Subdivision Development in Middleton, Wisconsin
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The Bishop's Bay subdivision is being constructed along the Middleton-Westport, Wisconsin boundary line. It will contain, when completed, 7 neighborhoods, 35 high rise apartment buildings, multiple businesses, a lake, school, church, and numerous other facilities over a 787 acre parcel with 6,000 residents. It would be the largest development ever constructed in Dane County and is the equivalent of 3 Southbridges in size.
Here are our concerns with the development.
- A rural township like Westport DOES NOT NEED high-rise luxury apartments. Having 35 high-rise towers will disturb the existing environment and is an overbuild for the area. The Bishop's Bay development is primarily intended for wealthy families, and the majority of Westport residents COULD NOT AFFORD to live there. The intended demographic of the apartment development is for those making over $100,000 a year in salary, and for a lot of Westport residents, that is not the case.
- The area is rural and full of family farms. Many family farmers and longtime local residents will not appreciate the additional complaints from new Bishop's Bay residents such as manure smells and increased development pressures from Middleton. Residents will soon see their farming operations and homes surrounded by luxury apartments for the wealthy, which may potentially cause them to sell their land or cause an exodus of longtime local residents.
- It was constructed along a planned freeway routing. The subdivision was built along a planned roadway reliever route known as the North Mendota Parkway. With the increased traffic on narrow rural roads, it will lead to a more significant traffic issue over time. We are already seeing major congestion on some rural county roads, and 6,000 additional vehicles (with no public transportation serving the area) will lead to a major transport crisis on the north side of Lake Mendota. With the subdivision being constructed, it leaves a narrow area of land remaining for the roadway, the majority of which crosses family farms, homes, businesses, and wetlands farther to the north. A wildlife daycare center planned to have camels, lemurs, kangaroos, zebras, 350 kids and 50 staff members has recently been approved along County M. 400 people means 400 more cars on a two-lane road that backs up for miles during rush hour.
- It is built on an ecologically sensitive area less than a mile from Lake Mendota. The subdivision is being built across County M from Governor Nelson State Park, marshes, native prairies, and multiple natural stream areas, increasing pollution in our already-choked lake system. With 6,000 people entering the area, we will also see an increase in trash going into the sewer system and ultimately the lakes. The issue would be worsened further by the planned widening of County M, which runs parallel to the lake. Dorn Creek State Wildlife Area would be most affected by this plan.
- The urbanization from Middleton and other communities is destroying our regional history and traditions. Many people have lived on the surrounding land for generations, and while being removed from their land, the history went with them. This is best summed up in an editorial written by James P. Koltes, local historian and lifelong resident, in the September 7th, 2016 edition of the Waunakee Tribune. "Once the ‘best farmhouse in Westport"
"It was an old house scheduled to be burned for fire department practice. It has long been unoccupied, yet the accidental burning of the house on Oncken Road is another historical building now only a memory. It was built by German immigrant Hajo Harmes Oncken in the 1860s. There is a stand of Burr Oak trees there on a hill, the leaves of which appeared to be black in the summer. The area became known as the Blackwoods. A one-room, rural school built nearby was called the Blackwoods School. So against the backdrop of the Burr Oak trees, Hajo Oncken built what he thought to be 'the best farmhouse in Westport.' Four generations of his family lived in that house. They shopped in Middleton and Waunakee. Their teenagers went to high school in those towns. Sons played baseball for the Westport Home Talent league. The family went by buggy or sleigh to St. John’s Church at Lakeview. There was swimming, skating and ice boating on nearby Lake Mendota. Oh, yes, there are so many memories. But now, only a tall, brick chimney and a cement stoop remain. Urbanization is rapidly coming from the Middleton way. Will even the Blackwoods themselves survive?"
- Residents were not properly informed about the scale and elements of the development. In a 2015 Wisconsin State Journal interview with a Bishops Bay resident, she states: "We bought into the New Community of Bishops Bay early on and were sold on this awesome plan,” said Rachel O’Neill, whose home is now up for sale. “Later, we find out we are getting tons of apartment buildings and (Wall) hasn’t pulled through on anything promised.” Mr. Wall is widely known for not keeping his promises, and as such was ousted as CEO of the company he founded, named after him, in 2012. He also planted pumpkins in 2009 on land he was developing so he could pay significantly less in taxes.
Some additional articles about Mr. Wall:
- Businesses in downtown Middleton and West Madison will lose significant business. Mr. Wall's plan includes a town center with businesses such as coffee shops, restaurants, a lake, and a farmer's market. Having this in place will take away business from existing establishments in Middleton and Madison, and potentially cause high vacancies and establishment closures in those areas and significant monetary loss.
- This area contains some of the most fertile and economically valuable farmland in Wisconsin. With the loss of the farmland, the development will result in a loss of not only our area's history, but also creates a narrow 1.5-mile farmland strip between Middleton and Waunakee. A study done by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection shows that Westport contains not only some of Wisconsin's most nutrient-rich farmland, but also where development pressures are greatest.
- A school and homes are being built across from a state wildlife area where hunting is permitted. Hunting is permitted on the north side of Oncken Road where the wildlife area is, in Westport, However, directly across the street from where people hunt, an elementary school is planned to be constructed. In recent events in Verona, having hunters close to a school prompted a lockdown at multiple schools, and a similar incident could happen here, creating fear and anxiety in our children and compromising their learning time.
- All of these kids that will live here will have to go to school in Waunakee, not Middleton where they live. The area in question used to be part of Westport, which for the most part is located in the Waunakee school district. All of the kids that will live here will be going to a different town for school than the one they live in, creating more road congestion, air pollution from busses, and costing all of us up here in Waunakee more in taxes for kids that don't even live here. We can't change the boundaries (requires state Legislature action), but we can stop Bishops Bay.
A solution to fix the issue would be to construct one road around the perimeter on the northern side of the existing golf course, with homes facing it on the southern side and mixed park/farm land on the northern side. Existing structures would remain unchanged. Further development could be prevented with the implementation of a Agricultural Enterprise Area, or AEAs, through a petition signed by local residents to create it to protect our valuable land. We could also work together to create Agricultural Conservation Easements, or ACEs, to preserve land as being economically viable.
We would like to make it clear that we are not against development. We just feel that it needs to be done sustainably, fairly, and gradually, keeping the opinions of those who own the surrounding land in mind and the rural feel.
Together, as citizens of Dane County, we can prevent wealthy developers from taking over the wonderful county we have here.
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