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County Executive Falk Vetoes Rezoning Petition in Town of Verona; Affirms Town Policies on Agricultural Preservation

August 07, 2003
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
County Executive

Saying that it is important to be fair and consistent in deciding the maximum development potential in rural areas of Dane County, County Executive Kathleen Falk today vetoed a rezoning petition for development of rural homes in the Town of Verona. The veto protects the 35-acre rural density standard that Falk said is an important part of the Town of Verona land use plan, and key to the town’s policies on agricultural preservation and residential development. # # # Below is the County Executive's Veto Message DATE: August 7, 2003 TO: Kevin Kesterson, Chair Dane County Board of Supervisors Members, Dane County Board of Supervisors FROM: Kathleen M. Falk Dane County Executive RE: Veto of Zoning Petition #8397 (Gregory Thompson/11 acres/from A-2 Agricultural and RH-1 Rural Homes to RH-1 Rural Homes/Town of Verona) and Comments on Zoning Petition #8653 (Mildred Smith Estate/6 acres/from A-1 Ex Exclusive Agricultural to RH-1 Rural Homes/Town of Oregon) Today (8/7/03) I am vetoing Zoning Petition #8397, because it violates the 35-acre density standard. While I am not vetoing Zoning Petition #8653, that petition is further evidence that the development of small, sprawling rural subdivisions that have the effect of circumventing the county’s subdivision ordinance, is beginning to occur. I hope that towns and the County Board will join me in stopping this development, which accelerates the loss of farm land. I will do my part by vetoing such zoning actions in the future. I made these decisions after personally visiting both sites. With regard to Zoning Petition #8397, the action would have the effect of granting three residential splits on this property, making for a total of five lots created since 1980. This parcel has the density limit of 3 splits, according to the density policy in the Town of Verona Land Use Plan. The 35-acre density standard is an extremely important part of the Town of Verona plan, referenced as a key principle in the town policies on agricultural preservation and residential development. The density policy has several purposes. One is to limit development in agricultural areas to preserve agriculture and rural character. Some have argued that this reason does not apply because this area is essentially part of the open space corridor between the rapidly developing cities of Verona and Madison, and therefore is not a farming area anymore. While this argument has some validity, it ignores another key function of the density principle, which is to provide a fair and consistent means of allocating development opportunities. While the density standard is not perfect, it does provide a clear and consistent means of deciding the maximum development potential among parcels in the rural parts of towns. The standard is worth upholding for these reasons of fairness and consistency. In addition, in this particular case, the petitioner is, in effect, seeking the split of a previously granted split. If we begin to interpret the density policy so that it applies only to the initial splits or rezonings from A-1 Ex -- a significant departure from the common interpretation of the policy -- we will destroy the policy’s ability to limit development in rural agricultural areas in a fair, consistent manner. With regard to Zoning Petition #8653, this zoning petition is one of three that have recently come before the Board and will collectively result in the subdivision of most of a 400-acre farm. While the amount of development fits within the density standard, the result of these ostensibly different actions is effectively a rural subdivision of farmettes and country estates. This has less to do with the technical requirements for a subdivision plat under Chapter 75 of the Dane County Code, and more to do with the fundamental nature and character of the use. This type of development is coming before the Board more frequently and, in effect, is a circumvention of the County’s subdivision ordinance and the stated intention of many county and town land use plans to keep subdivisions out of agricultural preservation areas. If we continue to allow this sort of development, we are undercutting our efforts, as contained in county and town plans and regulations, to preserve the agricultural areas and rural character of much of Dane County. While I am not vetoing this petition because the owners of this property might not have had adequate notice of my and others’ concerns over the consequences of their proposed development, I will veto similar petitions or sets of petitions, which create, in rural areas, unsewered, unplanned, unplatted groups of houses, which function as or appear to be rural subdivisions. Several members of the Zoning & Natural Resources Committee have voiced their concerns over these types of developments. I look forward to working with the Zoning & Natural Resources Committee and the County Board to work on this issue in a fair, pro-active fashion. Thank you for your consideration of my actions with regard to these petitions.