Town of Middleton

The town of Middleton board passed an ordinance Monday that sets up a vote on whether to withdraw from Dane County zoning, a topic that has been contentious on state and local levels.

JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL ARCHIVES

TOWN OF MIDDLETON — The Town Board approved an ordinance Monday that clears the way for residents to vote on whether to withdraw from Dane County zoning at the town’s annual meeting next week.

A week after two write-in candidates opposed to withdrawal successfully defeated incumbents on the Town Board, members passed the ordinance, 3-0, a final step to set up the April 18 vote on opting out of county rules that guide development.

Board Chairman Bill Kolar, who lost to town Planning Commission member Cynthia Richson in the spring election on April 4, publicly said for the first time he personally opposes opting out, but added that he supported giving residents the chance to vote on the issue.

“I’m not going to take away democracy. I’m not going to take away your voice. Why would anybody vote to take away the voice of the people?” said Kolar, who has served on the board for eight years.

Members Brent Renteria and Gary Whitney also voted for the ordinance, but they did not say how they would personally vote next week.

Tim Roehl, who lost his Town Board seat in last week’s election to former member Richard Oberle, did not attend Monday’s meeting. Also absent was board member Paul Connell.

Roehl advocated on behalf of the Dane County Towns Association for a state Assembly bill that initially amended the law to remove the requirement that town residents vote on withdrawal.

Assembly Bill 109, which would make it easier for towns to leave county zoning oversight, was eventually modified to remove that provision. The Assembly voted 57 to 34 to adopt AB 109 on Thursday. The state Senate is not expected to vote on it before the town meetings.

Under current law, Dane County towns can withdraw from county zoning during a one-year window every three years, 2017 being the first opportunity. Town officials must notify the county six months before a vote is held at an annual town meeting or special election.

The new bill requires only that the town notify the county of the change by Sept. 1 and vote on it by Nov. 1 during the specified years.

Roehl has said he was representing towns that believe the law is currently too burdensome. Kolar has said his position on the withdrawal was mischaracterized during Richson’s write-in campaign.

Dane County has historically used its influence in town zoning to limit suburban sprawl and preserve the county’s rural character.

Some residents at the meeting were concerned about potential implications from AB 109.

Kolar said the town has the ability and resources to run its own zoning.

The towns of Berry, Black Earth, Blue Mounds, Bristol, Springfield, Sun Prairie and Westport are also scheduled to vote April 18 on whether to opt out.

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Logan Wroge has been a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal since 2015.