A development along U.S. Highway 12-18, at Cambridge’s western gateway, has come back up before the Village Board.
In April 2019, the Cambridge Plan Commission shot down a request from Todd Schultz, of Cambridge Real Estate Ventures, LLC, to create a pay-go tax incremental finance district for a proposed 20-acre commercial and residential development across from the Cambridge Winery.
Schultz signaled immediately after the Plan Commission vote that he might walk away from the plans. “Well I guess we’re done,” he said.
He had repeatedly indicated that the development would not go forward without the village’s involvement through the creation of a “pay-go” TIF in which he sought $1.85 million in incentive reimbursements from the village over 20 years.
He has not returned to the Plan Commission since.
On Nov. 26, Village Administrator Lisa Moen told the Village Board that Schultz’s Cambridge Real Estate Ventures, LLC is asking the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to move a drainage ditch and wetland on the property, in order to build a road access to U.S. Highway 12-18.
The village and about a dozen adjacent property owners were notified as part of DNR process.
Moen said she has spoken to both Schultz and to the DNR in recent days.
“I wanted the (village) board to be aware that this is out there, so we aren’t blind-sighted down the line,” Moen said.
She said she was told by Schultz that relocating both the wetland and drainage ditch, that flows into Koshkonong Creek, farther to the south would allow him to place an entrance to the development near U.S. Highway 12-18 and Wisconsin Highway 134, just west of the Shell gas station at 424 W. Main St.
Schultz was not present at the Nov. 26 Village Board meeting, and the Village Board took no action at that meeting related to his plans.
He wrote in an application to the DNR that he would like to relocate about 5,600 square feet, or about one-eighth of an acre, of wetland and about 300 linear feet of ditch.
He wrote that not developing the site “would be the only alternative,” if the drainage ditch and wetland aren’t moved.
“Only a small lot would be available to build along state highway 12-18 and the remainder of the property would be inaccessible because of the ditch/wetland that crosses the entire width of the property,” Schultz wrote.
Schultz indicated in the DNR application that he has at least one commercial business interested in locating on the property.
“This user needs five acres that fronts the highway in order for the project to be viable, and the ditch/wetland currently bisects Lot 1 in half, making it much too small,” Schultz wrote.
“A high tension electrical easement crosses the north end of the property, further constricting the size of Lot 1,” Schultz continued.
Schultz further suggested that he’s abandoned the idea of a mixed-use development with a residential element, and may now limit the plans to commercial development.
He said new homes and apartments at The Vineyards of Cambridge has satisfied the current demand for multi-family residential housing.
“The real need is for commercial development which will provide jobs for these new residents,” he wrote.
Schultz also wrote that this is the only site in the village that he believes could work for his vision.
“No other properties exist in this community on this corridor for growth with this size and appropriate zoning opportunity,” he wrote.
Moen stressed that no new plans for what might be developed on the site have been submitted to the village.
She said the Wisconsin Department of Transportation would have to approve any entrance onto the highway and would dictate whether additional traffic controls such as a stoplight would be required.
Some Village Board members expressed concern about increased traffic congestion near the Shell station.
“That is going to create a problem, a lot of traffic,” Village Board member Ted Kumbier said.
Moen said the DNR process is open to public comment, and citizens can request that the DNR hold a public hearing.
DNR water management specialist Weston Matthews, in a letter to Schultz included in the application, listed his email as: email@example.com. and his office phone number as (715) 460-4089.
Village Board members also expressed concern about language in Schultz’s application to the DNR, in which it’s twice stated that the development has the backing of the village and that the village has created a tax incremental finance district on the site.
“The village board recognizes that this is a keystone property for the expansion of the village and has created a tax incremental finance district to facilitate this development,” board member Kris Breunig read from the DNR application.
Moen said she will be contacting the DNR “to let them know that this is inaccurate. We have not created a TIF, nothing has been proposed that we have supported at this point.”
Village Board members also said they’d like an assurance from the DNR that moving the drainage ditch and wetland aren’t going to worsen runoff from the property, and negatively affect surrounding neighbors who have in the past complained about flooding from the site.
In other matters on Nov. 26, the Village Board:
- Approved a liquor license for Avid Gardener, 136 W. Main St. Owner Christianne Laing said her intent is to sell wine from small niche vineyards in her gardening and gift shop.
- Approved a contract with the Village of McFarland, for McFarland to provide senior meals and outreach services in Cambridge for 2020, at a total cost to Cambridge of about $23,000.
- Recognized Jay Weiss, founder of the Cambridge Tree Project, for his efforts in planting local trees. The Cambridge Tree Project planted its 1,000th local tree in 2019, noted a proclamation read by Village President Mark McNally. Weiss, who attended the meeting, thanked the village, the broader community and his family, who were also in attendance. “I feel very fortunate to live in a village that has such an appetite for planting trees,” Weiss said.