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District 16

Alder Jael Currie

Image of Alder Jael Currie,
Council Vice President

Alder Jael Currie,
Council Vice President

Contact Information

Council Office

Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
WI Relay Service

Alder Currie’s Updates

Update on the New County Landfill and Sustainability Campus Proposal

May 11, 2022 1:13 AM

Greetings friends and neighbors,
 
The current county landfill as well as the proposal for a future landfill and sustainbility campus are both within the boundaries of District 16. As such, this has been an issue I have been heavily contacted about and have been working to understand the dual City and County processes and represent voices and concerns of City residents. Late Tuesday night the Council approved to enter into a land sale and agreements with Dane County to sell and develop portions of the Yahara Hills Golf Course as a future landfill, compost site and sustainable business park and entering into a new solid waste agreement. 
 
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I have struggled immensly with this topic as I am incredibly sympathetic to the experience of residents who live within vicinity of the current landfill as well as the proposed site. Those of us who do not live, work or go to school within these areas daily will never have these experiences unless we chose to. And let's be frank - I can't think of anyone who'd be thrilled to live next to a landfill. On the otherhand, I also think this is a very cool project and way to creatively fill unmet needs within both City and County lead properties and/or initiatives. I also have come to understand the severe limitations of finding a parcel of land large enough to accommodate our county's waste needs and meet all eligibility standards set by the state. Talk about a connundrum!
 
After going back and forth several times, I chose to vote to approve the resolution. Below are some key points that helped form my decision.
  • Communication & Transparency
    • It is clear and extremely unfortunate that proactive communication and transparency about site planning did not occur. This resulted in residents and neighbors being notified instead of engaged in the process. However, I disagree that there has not been enough information made available regarding the proposal itself, reasons for the proposal and how it would be implemented at the proposed site. 
    • I share concerns about environmental and social health impacts and understand it is impossible to detail all impacts of a site that currently does not exist. While I acknowledge the current site is far from perfect and never will be, I've seen County staff demonstrate a dedication towards efforts to receive and address issues as soon as possible and implement best practices for standards that will work for our community. This included adding a website specifically about this proposal as well as a reporting tool to alert staff of odor issues pertaining to the current site. 
    • It is my opinion that accountability to ensure issues are acknowledged, responded to and solutions developed and implemented ASAP ultimately lies within elected officials, which I know is a strong focus for a handful of Madison Alders, County Board Superviors (including myself and Supervisor/Board Chair Miles as well as Village Board President Clow. I do hope that residents do not lose faith in the democratic process and continue to partner with staff and elected officials to provide feedback on mitigation strategies as well as notifying us of issues along the process. 
  • Documentation and/or verbal testimony
    • Issues I was made aware of verbally at the end of last week (ie: a nearby church experiencing seepage from the current landfill & residents not receiving compensation and/or other agreements solidified in the current Locally Negotiated Agreement (LNA) had not been confirmed or documented by the time this resolution came up for vote.
    • Having this information would've been pivotal to me requesting a delay on the land sale agreement at Tuesday's meeting as this would demonstrate new information and issues to acknowledge & resolve before moving forward with the land sale.
    • I had difficulty supporting delaying the land sale without a concrete plan of what would be accomplished and discovered in the interim. 
  • City vs County notification and education
    • This is a county led project and therefore, the County will continue to lead in these communication and education efforts, with the City as a supporting partner.
    • The Village Board of McFarland have been a partner with the City and County on outreach and eduation to the community. In fact, Village Board President, Carolyn Clow, coordinated and attended a public information meeting about the proposal that was hosted at the McFarland Municipal Center on March 10, 2022. 
    • While it is concerning the McFarland School District & Board appear to not be aware of the full scope of the proposal, the school district office was included in mailed notification of at least 2 public information meetings, to which no one responded. While I am not faulting anyone, there have also been several news articles and other media covering the proposal which is in such close proximity to land owed by the district and is intented to be used for a future school. It is my understanding that a joint meeting of District staff and School Board members was held Tuesday evening as well, and afforded the opportunity for information to be shared as well as recieve feedback.
  • Outreach, public information meetings & opportunities for feedback
    • In my opinion, City staff have gone above and beyond to be present for public information meetings, smaller meetings to break down the plethora of information about the proposal and clarify miscommunications that have entered the narrative. This includes a public meeting (with hybrid component) held in McFarland April 21, 2022 that was attended by Streets & Urban Forestry Superintendent Charlie Romines, Parks Division Superintendent Eric Knepp, and Deputy Mayor Katie Crawley. That meeting lasted nearly 4 hours & mainly consisted of Q&A. Every question posed was answered.
    • Outreach and public information meetings will continue, even with the now approved land sale agreement. 
    • There is a firm commitment and intention from the County to better engage and collaborate with groups such as the McFarland School District, its Board and the Neighbors for a Better Landfill Coalition who clearly have a vested interest and have been organizing around this topic. 
    • The City negotiated a buy back provision within the approved land sale agreement. This means the City can buy the land back from the County - for what it is sold for for - thru the end of 2024, if a landfill and sustainability campus aren't sited on the land, for ANY reason.
    • The City will have the majority of the representation in the LNA process along with representation of the Town of Cottage Grove. This factor has led to a willingness (from the City) to include representation from McFarland, which is currently outside of the distance required to have a guaranteed seat(s) in this process. 
    • The LNA along with the ability (for residents) to file a contested case with the State means there are continued and future opportunities for public comment and mitigation strategies to be employed before this site would be approved for use as a future landfill.
  • Other factors 
    • The land sale will provide a revenue that will allow the City to begin making much needed improvements to Yahara Hills and it's 3 other owned and operated golf courses, as recommended by the Golf Task Force Report of 2020.
    • The land sale was approved by the County Board's Personnel & Finance Committee Monday night. 

I'd like to thank everyone that has communicated with me about this topic, especially the residents of the Secret Places Neighborhood Association. I truly applaud residents organizing and advocacy efforts and know they will not cease after Tuesday's vote. I also understand this news will come at great disappointment to many of these same residents. I am willing to help navigate what is a very complex issue and topic that impacts several municipalities, systems and processes, as best as I can. One method I am committing to is using my city sponsored webpage to provide updates on the proposal as it moves along in both City and County boards, commissions and committtees. If you don't already, I would encourage you to subscribe to my email list so you can get notifications whenever I post updates/blog related information. You can do so by visiting the following link: https://www.cityofmadison.com/council/district16/blog/ 

Sincerely,

Jael




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