Dear Friend, Bad news - the DNR has responded to the lawsuit filed last year by Fitchburg Lands LLC, (the owner of 250 acres of farmland and wetlands


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

Dear Friend,

Bad news - the DNR has responded to the lawsuit filed last year by Fitchburg Lands LLC, (the owner of 250 acres of farmland and wetlands in Fitchburg's Northeast Neighborhood), with a new decision that approves a total of 454 acres of land to be admitted into the Urban Service Area. We have 10 days to get our comments in to the DNR, in hopes of getting them to change their decision!

And, in a separate issue, there will be a public meeting on March 14 for people concerned with the landfill reclamation project proposed on Hwy MM. Their biggest concern is asbestos, which causes the deadly cancer mesothelioma.

NEN map DNR 3-1-16 decision

The red outline is approved under the draft decision. The dotted line is the original request, Click on map to enlarge.

DNR, Fitchburg Lands LLC, and Town of Dunn reach settlement; but we fight on!

We always knew that when the CARPC rejected the City of Fitchburg's application to extend its Urban Service Area (USA) by 985 acres in its Northeast corner, the decision would probably be overturned. And sure enough, in April 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) overturned the CARPC's rejection, but only approved 375 acres. And then in June the developer Fitchburg Lands LLC sued the DNR, saying it had been "capricious" not to approve the entire request.

NEN map DNR 4-13-15

This map shows the area approved by the DNR's 4-13-2015 decision. Click on map to see enlargement.

It is not surprising, considering Governor Walker's attacks and cutbacks at the DNR, that those who are left at the agency have no stomach for a lawsuit, and turned to negotiations instead. The Town of Dunn, recognizing an opportunity to influence the outcome, became a party to the suit and will be signing the settlement as soon as it is finalized.
You can read all the documents relating to the draft decision, including a map, the decision document and the staff analysis, by clicking here.

town of dunn banner

We're not giving up!

There are different roles for different groups to play, and we respect the work that the Town of Dunn has done. As you will see, there are some improvements in this new agreement (which are surely their doing), even though the number of acres approved rose by a total of 79. But there are also major problems remaining, and we hope that an outpouring of public comment can convince the DNR to amend their draft decision.

To read the WI State Journal article on the DNR draft decision, click here.

Be a part of the solution – write to the DNR today.

What: send an email to, or a letter to
Fitchburg NE Neighborhood Public Comment
Wisconsin DNR, C/O Ms. J. Lathrop, WQ/3
PO Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921
When: to arrive by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 14
Who: you who care about wetlands, farmlands, lakes and future homeowners!

DNR logo

What to write

You can oppose the entire decision because it expands the area upstream from the Waubesa Wetlands that can be developed, or just address one or more aspects of it.
You can see the dilemma the scientists at the DNR are in when you read this excerpt from the staff analysis. It describes dangers to water features, e.g. the lack of an aquitard (shale layer) in the area of the Waubesa Wetlands, the aquifer drawdown ("cone of depression") in the Madison area, and a model that predicts the loss of Starkweather Creek in 2035. And then it requests that future applications which the City of Fitchburg submits should use the updated Dane County Hydrologic Model – but it's not necessary in this one!

Fringed Gentian

Fringed Gentian in the fen in Waubesa Wetlands
Photo by Cal DeWitt

And it asks CARPC technical staff, DNR, and the WGNHS to complete the Dane County WQM Plan: Groundwater Status and Protection Plan by December 2016. "The report will provide recommendations for source water protection areas to reduce cone of depression impacts and to protect areas that feed surface water features such as the perched fen located west of Lake Waubesa…." But "the completion of this report is not a requirement for the development of the subject urban service area approval issued in this decision document."

Why not? The staff makes a great argument for protecting these wetland gems, and then backs off and says, "please consider such things in future applications." Isn't it their job to protect our natural resources in every decision, not just in future decisions?

frog in wetland

Frogs and toads need a huge buffer to be able to successfully reproduce.

Toads and frogs need more elbow room!

Though the DNR did expand the buffer to 300 ft. buffer on 3 sides of the degraded wetland just west of Larson Rd. (called Wetland 1 on the map), this is still totally inadequate to protect a restored wetland or to protect future homeowners. To learn from Dr. Joy Zedler's testimony on 5/20/08 as to the need for buffers between 728 to 1309 ft. in order to protect amphibians in wetlands, click here.

Lake Larson color contour-cropped copy

Larsen Rd. runs up the right side, Goodland Park Rd. runs along the bottom, N is up.

DNR - don't let developers build homes that are destined to flood!

To understand why this new plan could result in scores of homes with flooded basements or worse, look at this map. The kidney-shaped water feature represents a future restored wetland. The red line around it shows the extent of flooding in June 2008. It almost corresponds to the 876 ft. (above sea level) contour line.

Because basements are 8 ft. deep, any home built at a ground level of 884 ft. or lower will have flooded basements or worse the next time that 2008 flood levels are reached again. As you can see, the shaded area in this flood-prone zone contains a lot of planned homes! (Yellow means 5 dwelling units per acre, and orange means 10.)

WI map of getting wetter-300

This shows the change in annual precipitation from 1950 to 2006. It's predicted to get still wetter here.

Ask the DNR to keep the shaded area as green space!

The new plan does put some of this land into green space, but much of it remains approved for building. How does this make sense when global climate disruption is bringing fiercer and more frequent storms to our part of the globe? Please include in your email a request that they redraw the green space border to extend at least to the 884 ft. contour line.

Steve Arnold  headshot 2015

Fitchburg Mayor Steve Arnold

Remember, any development would still need to be approved by Fitchburg.

With Steve Arnold as mayor of Fitchburg, we do not expect any development to be approved in the NEN any time soon, because he is a champion of the Strong Towns philosophy that says "fill in your areas with existing infrastructure before you build on greenfields," and Fitchburg has over 1000 empty acres within its current Urban Service Area.

Here's a section of the WSJ article of March 2, with a quote from Mayor Arnold.

"Fitchburg Mayor Steve Arnold, who campaigned largely on his opposition to the Northeast Neighborhood expansion, agreed that the additional monitoring will provide more certainty than the DNR’s original decision. But he still is concerned about the expense the city could incur by extending utilities.

'Those parties were discussing the issues and city politicians and staff weren’t really involved,' Arnold said. 'I’m not really being given a choice. It’s going to be very, very expensive to extend water out there. We’re not where we want to be on utilizing infrastructure that we’ve already built.'"

Please remember this in April of 2017, when you vote for Mayor!

Screen shot 2016-02-15 at 2.49.52 PM

The landfill site is near the top. Hwy 14 is on left, Hwy MM in middle of photo

Does the MM landfill contain asbestos?

What if it does?

On Feb. 18, twenty-one people attended a public meeting at the Fitchburg Library to hear a presentation from Mr. Larry Jokipii, who intends to purchase the landfill at the top of the hill on Hwy MM, a bit south of E. Clayton Rd. There were many questions put to Mr. Jokipii about the many judgements against him that were discovered on CCAP, and many concerns were raised about his plan.

The close neighbors are especially concerned about the 100 truck trips per day that are forecast for the next 10 years, and the dust and noise that cement crushing will cause, but the worst possibility that was raised, from a health and safety point of view, was that there might be dangerous substances in the landfill.

mesothelioma cancer alliance

Since that meeting, one long-time neighbor of the site has affirmed that over the years she saw in the landfill: flooring, ceiling tiles, insulation, sheetrock and plaster, cement, asphalt, joint compound, materials from older demolished buildings including wiring, pipes, plumbing fixtures, old wood painted with old paint or varnish, and asphalt roofing shingles. She did some online research and found that all of these products for many years were manufactured with: asbestos. Click here to visit an excellent website that details all of the products that have contained asbestos, and what deadly diseases can be caused by exposure to this mineral.

It's important to understand that asbestos fibers are very light, and when a product that they are in is damaged or crushed, they will fly through the air and enter people's lungs. Studies have shown that even one incidence of asbestos exposure can result in mesothelioma, an aggressive and nearly always fatal cancer.

If there is asbestos in that landfill, the utmost care would have to be taken to remove it safely before doing any reclamation work. It might well be cost-prohibitive to do so, and the safest thing might be to leave the area undisturbed.

Please attend a public meeting on March 14

What: public meeting about the landfill with elected Fitchburg officials
Where: Fitchburg Community Center, 5510 Lacy Rd., downstairs in the Syene Room (first room on the left as you enter the Senior Center from the back parking lot)
When: Monday, March 14 at 5 p.m.
Who: all concerned people

This time Mr. Jokipii will not be present. This is an opportunity for neighbors and other concerned people to talk to Mayor Steve Arnold and Fitchburg District 4 alders Tony Hartmann and Jake Johnson about the landfill. Winds can carry asbestos fibers a long way, so the number of people who would be impacted could be very large. Please let your friends and neighbors know about this meeting.


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

Thank you for your help in protecting our health and our environment!


Phyllis Hasbrouck, Chair

P.S. Monday, March 14 is doubly important! 5 p.m. that day is the deadline for your comments to the DNR on the NEN, and it's the start of the landfill meeting with elected officials!