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Our View

Collective vision key as Cambridge, Deerfield inch closer

The town of Deerfield’s new comprehensive plan, adopted in 2020, shows how much the villages’ futures are expected to intertwine

  • 3 min to read

The villages of Cambridge and Deerfield are separate communities and certainly have distinct cultures. But they’re envisioned, in coming years, to keep growing toward each other. More and more, they may benefit from having a unified voice.

The town of Deerfield’s new comprehensive plan, adopted in 2020, shows how much the villages’ futures are expected to intertwine.

The town’s plan shows the extraterritorial zoning areas of the two villages actually overlapping in the Prairie Drive and Munson Road area, roughly extending a half-mile from that intersection to the north, east and west and for more than a mile to the south into the town of Christiana.

An extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction – or ETJ – area is where a village or city says it expects to grow into the future by potentially, in coming years, annexing town land. There’s no certainty a village or city will do that but it’s a strong enough poissbility that it shows up in their comprehensive plan and in the comprehensive plans of affected adjacent townships.

Through its ETJ area, a village like Cambridge or Deerfield has some limited say about proposed development in an adjacent town, securing it’s ability to grow that direction without being blocked by a town’s unilateral development decisions.

Cambridge and Deerfield’s ETJ areas both extend 1.5 miles beyond their borders into the towns of Deerfield and Christiana, that lie between them.

That their ETJ areas overlap indicates that Cambridge and Deerfield expect to continue to grow toward each other and to hypothetically meet in the U.S. Highway 12-18 corridor. That their trajectories are sliding toward each other in the highway corridor has recently risen in importance as the two villages, the towns of Christiana and Deerfield, and the Deerfield and Cambridge school districts weigh the potential implications of a utility-scale solar farm proposed to line both sides of the U.S. 12-18.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission is now reviewing an application from Invenergy, LLC of Chicago to build a 300-megawatt solar project and 165 megawatt battery storage facility, fora total capacity of 465 megawatts, in the towns of Deerfield and Christiana. A decision is expected from the PSC by November.

We hope recent joint local meetings about the solar farm are the first of many and that going forward, area towns, villages and school districts continue to proceed as more than a collection of separate jurisdictions, but rather as one community working toward a response that does well by everyone. Because, we live and work in too close of a proximity for one town or village or school district’s decisions to not affect everyone.

Other opportunities to speak as separate municipalities, but one community, also lie ahead.

The release later this summer of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Connect 2050 plan will offer an updated vision for the U.S. Highway 12-18 corridor through the Deerfield and Cambridge areas. We hope local towns and villages respond to what is proposed with a unified voice.

The future of the Koshkonong Creek watershed, with an updated regional approach needed to control storm water that doesn’t place undo financial burden on farmers via drainage district assessments, is another chance for Cambridge, Deerfield and surrounding towns to speak as one.

Recreationally, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources already sees us this way.

In 2017, the DNR established an area stretching west from Palmyra to Deerfield, and south from the village of Lowell in Dodge County to Milton, as the Glacial Heritage Area. It is defined as “a coordinated series of parks, preserves, wildlife and natural areas, and other conservation lands that are linked together and to nearby cities and villages with different types of trails.”

Dane, Jefferson, Dodge and Rock counties and volunteer groups in the area have since found many ways to work together to maintain and enhance the trails and natural areas that we collectively enjoy close to home, and invite visitors to.

As local fire and EMS departments step into a future likely to involve more full-time hiring, it also behooves Cambridge and Deerfield to keep an open mind about merging. That doesn’t mean combining is a given. But having an open mind to the possibility may, if comes to that, help keep the focus on objective facts and community-wide benefit and help keep municipal-centric high emotion at bay.

And, years from now, if Cambridge and Deerfield find themselves in a position to consider a school district merger or perhaps a lesser proposal like a unified high school jointly controlled by two independent school boards, the same open mind might become beneficial to apply. Objective consideration of the facts, and of the best potential outcomes for everyone, will be key to best serving all local school children and families into the future.

As the gap between Cambridge and Deerfield potentially narrows in coming years, making critical decisions as separate municipalities but one unified community may make more and more sense.

Adopting a separate but collective mindset now, when the highway corridor growth and resulting school and service mergers are still hypothetical, not actual, will only make the future easier to navigate.

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