Dear Friend, We need you to turn out twice next week. Phil Sveum, the developer who owns 250 acres in the Northeast Neighborhood (NEN) is asking for


Working to preserve the land west of Lake Waubesa from poorly planned development

Dear Friend,

We need you to turn out twice next week.

Phil Sveum, the developer who owns 250 acres in the Northeast Neighborhood (NEN) is asking for rezoning of his land, the next step in the development process. He thinks that one year of water testing is enough to ensure the future of the Waubesa Wetlands, but Dr. Cal DeWitt does not.

CD Deep Spirng - close aerial-554

Deep Spring in the Waubesa Wetlands
Photo by Cal DeWitt

4-14-16 NEN decision map

The shaded area has been approved for development by the DNR.

What's the rush?

As you know, the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) entered into negotiations with Fitchburg Lands LLC, the owner of 250 acres of the NEN, in response to being sued by it. The Town of Dunn, in an effort to mitigate the harm that would be caused by a development, joined the negotiations. This past April the DNR expanded the area permitted to be developed. Now Phil Sveum wants to get the area rezoned so that he can start moving earth in the spring.

Screen shot 2016-08-08 at 10.51.18 PM

Click on map for a better view of the green areas (developable land).

We think that this is premature. First, there are still hundreds of acres of empty land in Fitchburg much closer to existing infrastructure. (See the green areas on the map above.) Uptown has barely started to fill in. Why should Fitchburg taxpayers take on the maintenance, repair and replacement of another set of infrastructure when they can get the same amount of new tax base by using what they already have?

CD Rainbow over Waubesa Wetlands during flood-554

Rainbow over the Waubesa Wetlands
Photo by Cal DeWitt

A jewel in danger

The second reason is that nobody really knows what this development will do to Lake Waubesa and its wetlands, and once ruined, they cannot be replaced. The DNR ruled that the next time Fitchburg wants to build something adjacent to the NEN, it will have to do various studies first, but that won't be necessary in the present case. But they did rule that there must be tests done for one year at four places in the NEN, and those are ongoing now. The problem is, they are testing for phosphorus and turbidity, but not for nitrogen.

We'll get to nitrogen in a minute, but first we have to ask: is one year of testing enough to understand what might happen with stormwater in a developed NEN? What if 2016 is a dry year – should you accept that as "normal?" In fact this year has been totally atypical – "Lake Larsen," the degraded wetland just west of Larsen Rd. has been a healthy cornfield this year, unlike most years where it is underwater or covered with weeds after the corn drowns in the spring.

If Fitchburg officials accept this one atypical year, they may approve stormwater infrastructure that will be totally inadequate in a wetter year, resulting in permanent damage to Lake Waubesa and the Waubesa Wetlands, named one of 100 Wetland Gems by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association.

Screen shot 2016-08-08 at 11.12.43 PM

Dr. Joy Zedler
Photo by David Tenenbaum

Dr. Cal DeWitt and Dr. Joy Zedler have been working to champion the Waubesa Wetlands for years, as you can read in this April 2016 article on the UW Madison website. Recently they began talking about the inadequacy of the water testing mandated for the NEN by the DNR, and the result is a research project that Dr. DeWitt will report on next Monday, Aug. 15.


Dr. Cal DeWitt

Free lecture on role of nitrogen in the NEN and the world

What: Dr. Cal DeWitt will explain how nitrogen is over-fertilizing the world, how the NEN fits into the puzzle, and how Fitchburg can once again be a recycling leader – but this time by recycling nitrogen!
When: Monday, Aug. 15, at 7:40 p.m.
Where: Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Rd., second floor meeting room
Cost: free and open to the public!

If you've ever attended one of Dr. DeWitt's lectures, you know how he makes complicated issues understandable and fascinating. Because the information that he will share will have a bearing on the vote to be taken the following night in the Plan Commission, we want as many Plan Commission members and Common Council members to attend as possible.

Can you send an email or make a call to ask your alders, mayor, and Plan Commission members to attend this important lecture?

And if they do not attend, can you send them a quick email after the lecture to let them know what you learned? Here is a link to the webpage with the council members' names and contact info. If you don't know which two alders represent you, click here for the aldermanic district map.

Rezoning Hearing on NEN Tues. Aug. 16 – be there!

One year of testing is not enough time to understand the hydrology of the NEN, and therefore the Plan Commission and Common Council should not be rushing this development through.

At a recent meeting between Phil Sveum and Hwy MM residents, several residents complained that since the new Lacy Rd. overpass was built, there has been more standing water in their yards after a rain. One family had their sump pump burn out because it was working so hard. If just one overpass ramp can cause new, inexplicable water problems, what could a 1600 dwelling unit development cause in the NEN and downstream?

Please attend and join us in expressing opposition to going ahead with rezoning before adequate water testing has been done.

What: Plan Commission Hearing
When: Tues., Aug. 16 at 7 p.m.
Where: Fitchburg City Hall, 5520 Lacy Rd.
Who: residents who care about taxes, lakes, and wetlands

frog in wetland

We depend on you

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to insist on the highest standards for developments that will impact environmentally sensitive areas! As you will learn at Professor DeWitt's lecture on Monday, our future depends on healthy wetlands. And right now, our healthy wetlands depend on you taking action.


The southern end of Lake Waubesa, looking northwesterly towards the Northeast Neighborhood.
Photo © Nadia Olker


Phyllis Hasbrouck, Chair