Northeast Neighborhood approved

Developer Fitchburg Lands, LLC, has filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources following its decision to only partially approve an urban service area amendment for an area near Lake Waubesa and its wetlands.

The lawsuit stems from an application Fitchburg originally filed in November 2013 for an expansion of the Central Urban Service Area to extend sewers and necessary infrastructure to the 985.9-acre area in the northeast corner of the city for future development.

Late last year, the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission denied its request largely due to environmental and water quality concerns, after which the city appealed to the DNR. In mid-April this year, the DNR reversed CARPC’s decision in part, but approved less than half the expansion, totaling 375 acres instead of the requested 985.

Fitchburg Lands owns land in that area, only part of which was approved for development. It consequently filed a lawsuit against the state DNR in Dane County Circuit Court May 13.

“Obviously, we disagreed with the decision,” said Fitchburg Lands agent Phil Sveum. “Certainly we respect the DNR’s process and we felt that discussion should continue with the DNR. And so you have limited options to continue those options and it necessitated this filing.”

The Department of Justice, which is representing the DNR, declined to comment because the case is pending.

The complaint calls on the court to direct the DNR to approve all the land within Fitchburg’s original application. It also requests an order reversing the DNR’s decision to approve only portions of the application and an order vacating and revoking certain conditions.

“The DNR acted arbitrarily, capriciously, unreasonably, and beyond its authorized range of discretion by imposing conditions unrelated to water quality, and by imposing conditions that the City and Petitioner cannot implement, that are ambiguous as to scope, time and responsibility, that are inconsistent with prior practice, and that have not been adequately explained,” the complaint claims.

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The complaint claims that Fitchburg Lands is adversely affected because some of the property it owns and included in the application was not approved.

It contends that the facts in the record “demonstrate that the entire area subject to the application is eligible for approval" and argues the DNR’s decision is “beyond its authority, unlawful and must be reversed and modified.”

“The DNR exceeded its authority by imposing conditions beyond the scope of water quality-related delegated authority, and by not approving the entire area subject to the application,” the complaint claims.

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