Town of Washington (WQOW) - A controversial effort to turn open fields into a housing development is another step closer to becoming a reality.
On Thursday night, the Town of Washington Board approved rezoning a 55 acre lot in The Priory neighborhood. C and M Home Builders is looking to develop the area into single-family homes.
The project has received backlash from nearby homeowners, who are concerned the density of the development project will threaten the groundwater.
But since Thursday night, much of their concern shifted toward the town board because they said the public comment period was shut off, and the board didn't allow for balanced presentations at the meeting.
"They heard from us, but it was very clear that they didn't really want to hear our complete story. And so, by not allowing me to present my science on the issue, what they're really doing is just, you know, gagging us. I'm disappointed in that approach by the town board,” said Dr. Robert Hooper, a geology professor at UW-Eau Claire.
At the meeting, the town board said they were advised not to make a comment about the town's concerns. The rezoning request now goes to the County Planning and Development Committee, which is expected to be discussed next week
Posted on April 20, 2017:
Town of Washington (WQOW) -- A chance for new neighbors has some Eau Claire County homeowners putting up fences. On Thursday, the Town of Washington Board voted to more a proposed housing project forward.
C&M Home Builders is looking to develop a 55 acre lot in to single family homes, but to do so they were requesting to rezone the property from Agriculture (A1) to Rural Housing. The town board voted to do so Thursday.
By rezoning the property, the developers would be allowed to build single family homes on lots that are a minimum of one acre. The county said most of the surrounding homes are build on property ranging from two to five acre lots.
Many of the homeowners living in the area oppose the project because they believe building the homes so close together will threaten the water quality. Over 100 people in the area formed the Priory Neighborhood Water Protection Association to fight the project.
"I'm very personally disappointed, and the association is beyond disappointment that they didn't listen to our serious concerns about the effect on the groundwater," said Margaret Melrose, association board member.
At Thursday's meeting, engineers and hydrogeologist out of Barr Engineering in Minneapolis, hired by C&M Home Builders, spoke about their research in to the property. They stated, from recent research, the water is testing safely and adding more septic systems won't change that. Representatives from Eau Claire County Planning and Development also spoke at Thursday's meeting, saying the rezoning request is in line with the county's comprehensive plan.
"There's obviously concerns and you have to address those concerns, and I believe we have tonight, beyond a shadow of a doubt that there isn't going to be any issues as long as we do out job, which we need to do our job," said Cody Filipczak with C&M Home Builders.
Filipczak said the plans for the property are still up in the air, and staff would be open to developing on lots larger than one acre,hinging on the county's plan. But while the rezoning request was at hand, the community's other big concern Thursday was that the board shut off the public comment period. Many people spoke out saying the board did not allow for balanced presentations at the meeting.
"The public deserves the right to hear from people, particularly when they're experts in the community, and it not be discounted simply because they live in the area. I still have grave concerns about the possible contamination of the groundwater by all these septic systems," said Dr. Robert Hooper, Geology professor at UW-Eau Claire.
News 18 asked the board chair about the town's concern, but he said he was advised not to make a comment.
The rezoning request will now move to the county planning and development committee, which is expected to take it up next week.
Town of Washington (WQOW) -- A plan to grow a neighborhood south of Eau Claire is causing some residents to push back -- some even calling it a threat to public health.
C&M Home Builders is looking to develop 31 single family homes on a stretch of 55 acres, but to do so requires rezoning the area from Agriculture (A1) to Rural Housing. In response, over one hundred homeowners in the nearby Priory neighborhood have formed the Priory Neighborhood Water Protection Association. They believe the subdivision would threaten the quality of the area's groundwater and could contaminate wells. Members said the hard bedrock also makes it extremely difficulty for city sewer and water lines.
"We can have development, we can have new neighbors and we will know that they'll be safe out here. It's not that we're against development, we welcome development, safe development with five acres or more," said association member Beth Ivankovic "This is an Eau Claire issue, we only have one ground water for all of us."
Driving down Priory Road a wall of thick, crumbling rock lines the street. UW-Eau Claire Geology Professor Dr, Robert Hooper said that's what can be found underneath the ground all throughout the area, which can have a big impact on water quality.
"When you have rock that has big fractures in it, the water will just kind of go right down those fractures and it really speeds up the transmission of any water that you put on to the surface. If you're putting septic affluent or septic waste on the surface and it happens to intersect a fracture, it will go very rapidly down," said Hooper.
If the rezoning is approved, the project calls for single family homes to be developed on one acre lots. Homeowners in the association said they're asking for for septic systems to be separated by five acres.
"If you're five or ten septic systems down gradient or down slope on the water table, you're going to have problems. They way you protect yourself is diffusing the number of septic systems on a specific acreage," said Hooper.
"Septics do a great job of keeping bacteria counts down, but they don't stop or prohibit nitrates, pharmaceuticals or viruses," said Ivankovic. "It's not if it will happen it's when it's going to happen, and that's our biggest concern."
The Town of Washington Board meets Thursday night and is expected to vote on the rezoning request. News 18 reached out to the developers Tuesday, but C&M Home Builders said they were not comfortable talking about the project until after the meeting.