The Deerfield Village Board is reconsidering a long-dormant idea of extending water service southward along State Highway 73. It’s also weighing extending sewer service there.
The discussion came up two weeks after the board heard a tentative plan to develop part of a Highway 73 family farm for business use.
It’s also coming up as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation prepares to reconstruct a 1.9-mile stretch of Highway 73 in 2023, from Shaul Lane in the Town of Deerfield to just past North Street in the village.
Village Administrator Elizabeth Mccredie said the DOT has suggested the village make water and sewer infrastructure upgrades at the same time that the highway is redone.
The Village Board on June 10 asked Tom TeBeest, its contracted engineer with Town & Country Engineering of Madison, to bring back an estimate of the cost to extend sewer and water along the highway, to an area south of Gullickson Trucking, 3474 State Highway 73. The area is part of a village tax incremental finance district – TIF District #5 – that was created in 2008, according to an annual report filed with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
TeBeest said extending water to the area was planned for and permits approved about 10 years ago, but the land was ultimately never developed and the upgrades never made. He said extending sewer service was not part of those plans but could be pursued now. A sewer extension would have to be approved by the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission.
In May, Sona Olson, a Realtor with Sona Olson Homes/Inventure Realty Group in Madison, spoke with the Village Board about developing about three acres of her family’s 437-acre farm as business incubator space. It would be part of an envisioned 22-acre business park development south of Gullickson Trucking.The board asked her to return to a future meeting with a plan for the entire 22 acres.
In the mid-1990s, Olson’s father, Walt Olson, envisioned developing the entire farm into a $40 million golf course complex, with a 27-hole challenge course, single and multi-family housing, a senior assisted living center, a clubhouse with conference and banquet space and commercial space fronting on the highway. Those plans never materialized.
TIF District #5 is one of two TIF districts on the village’s south side. It runs from the west side of Highway 73 eastward toward Mud Creek and includes the site of Deerfield Auto Sales, 3510 State Highway 73, and the Olson farm.
TIF District #4 was created in 2007. It stretches from the east side of Highway 73 westward, encompassing the intersection of Washburn Road, the Majestic Manor Drive neighborhood and the Deerfield Plaza shopping center developed in the 1970s that today contains Brown Heating & Air Conditioning, The Pickle Tree restaurant, a used car lot and a former grocery store now used by solar installer SpeedSolar as a warehouse.
TeBeest said the village should consider, as part of the project, upgrading infrastructure under the intersection of Highway 73 and Washburn Road, where some old pipes that are no longer in service could be removed.
“We could clean it up, get that out from under the road,” TeBeest said.
Village Board members said neither TIF District #4 nor #5 has performed well. Perhaps, they said, that would change if infrastructure was upgraded.
“I think it’s worth taking a look at,” board member Arnold Evensen said. “It could be an incentive,” he said, for future business development.
In other matters, the Village Board decided to approach the Bank of Deerfield, Liberty Commons property owner Cal Couillard, and the Deerfield School District, to try to legally map out the puzzle of who owns what parcels of land between the bank and Liberty Commons, south of Deerfield Street.
The issue came up as the village considered vacating a short stretch of alley it knows it controls between the Deerfield Police Station at 7 E. Deerfield St. and the former Deerfield Community Center at 3 W. Deerfield St.
The alley was historically a village street between Deerfield Street and Liberty Street; in 1999 the village portion was fenced off as a play area for DCC’s after school program. DCC moved to Liberty Commons this month. The former DCC building, which also once housed Dance Studio 3D, has been bought by the Bank of Deerfield. The bank has not publicly said what it plans to do with the now-vacant building.
The board said it can’t decide about vacating its portion of the alley without first legally confirming who owns the rest of it. The village also wants to confirm if there are any active easements along it, and at the same time determine the ownership mix of a large parking lot that once belonged to Deerfield Elementary School. The school and parking lot have over the past 15 years been redeveloped for the Liberty Commons commercial condominiums.
Board members questioned, among other things, why the school district appears to still own a portion of the alley when the school closed about 15 years ago. According to the online property portal Access Dane, the bank also owns a portion.
“That’s a very confused piece of land,” Village Board member Don Kositzke said, questioning whether the Access Dane map was accurate.
Village Board member Jerry McMullen said it makes sense to look at the entire area, including the former school parking lot.
“For as long as I have lived here people have complained about the hodgepodge that’s down here,” McMullen said. “It’s been fragmented for years.”
Dave Dinkel, who developed Liberty Commons out of the vacant former school and last year sold that property to Couillard, urged the board to not vacate the alley, but rather to keep it as a mapped village thoroughfare.
He said pedestrians and bicyclists heavily use the former school parking lot, now private land owned by Liberty Commons, to reach Liberty Street.
Were the village’s portion of the alley vacated, and the owner of Liberty Commons were to decide to block off its parking lot, and owner(s) of the rest of the alley blocked off their portions of it, bicyclists and pedestrians would be forced to Main Street, he said. That is not a safe route, Dinkel said.
Kositzke agreed that the village’s portion of the alley should be maintained as a mapped village route. He called the alley “an important linkage,” that should be part of current efforts to re-envision downtown spaces. “To give it up, without having an easement through there for future use, for no reason, is irresponsible,” Kositzke said.
McMullen countered that because the village-controlled stretch of the alley apparently dead-ends into the bank and school district stretches, it’s useless as an envisioned public bike and pedestrian thoroughfare. He characterized it as a linkage to nowhere.
“To say it’s a valuable downtown linkage for anything is simply not true,” McMullen said. “Anywhere you want to go from there, you’re (on) private land.”
McCredie said vacating the alley and putting it back on private property tax rolls would generate about $280 a year in taxes.