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DANE COUNTY

Early approval processes for a proposed county landfill kick off

The wheels are beginning to turn on the siting of a proposed Dane County landfill off U.S. Highway 12-18 near Cottage Grove.

The county is proposing a 230-acre development at 6701 U.S. Highway 12-18, the current Yahara Hills Golf Course owned by the city of Madison.

The project is envisioned to include both a landfill and a “Sustainability Campus,” a suite of recycling facilities and sustainable businesses to reduce the volume of waste entering the landfill. Early visions of the site include mattress recycling, a food waste compost program, a maker’s space, office space, educational classrooms and a business park with sustainable businesses.

The landfill proposal is making its way through early approval processes at the county and city level. A land sale agreement, and development plan changes, are both slated to go in front of the Madison Common Council on May 10, and to Dane County’s personnel and finance committee in late May. It’s also projected that the landfill project will be taken up by the Dane County Board in June.

These steps are the first of many in a lengthy approval process, said John Welch, the director of Dane County Department of Waste and Renewable, the arm of the county responsible for waste management.

Welch said the county hopes to close on the sale of the land by September, and work with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Consultants to do necessary research.

The land sale agreement says that the city is proposing selling land to the county at about $24,000 an acre. For 230 acres, the sale is estimated around $5.5 million total.

The county is “not currently pursuing other sites” for possible landfill location, Welch said, and while the county has spent several years looking at possible sites, Yahara Hills continues to be the main one.

It’s a challenge to find sites with more than 200 acres, a single property owner to negotiate with, and the correct geological, topographical and hydrological conditions to allow for a landfill, Welch said.

A potential landfill site also needs proximity to urban services like water, sewer and electric utilities, and accessibility to hauling routes like U.S. Highway 12-18 and interstate highways, Welch said.

Many area residents have brought up concerns about the east side of Dane County shouldering responsibility for the entire county’s waste.

Several community members also asked why the city of Madison couldn’t extend utility service outside of the city, to allow for a landfill to be sited further away.

Welch has said that the county is not considering moving the facility further east down U.S. Highway 12-18, toward Cambridge and Deerfield.

“Trying to do this in a farm field ten miles down the road will not happen,” Welch said of the sustainability campus. “That is not what the county or the city wants to happen for our waste management in the future.”

“We could pick a spot 10 miles out of town in the country,” Welch said, but that would eliminate the possibility of creating a sustainability campus. A facility outside of Madison, Welch said, would be a landfill of the past. The county doesn’t want to just bury garbage in the ground, like the landfills of decades ago, he added.

Early plans show that the county hopes to take a phased approach with the property, to keep some space open for recreation. Welch said a landfill doesn’t use its entire acreage at one time, so 18 holes of golf and other recreation opportunities will still be available at this site even once a landfill would open.

The Dane County Department of Waste and Renewables collects more than 290,000 tons of waste per year at the current landfill. Rodefeld opened in 1985, and expanded in both 1994 and 2015.

At Rodefeld, the county also recycles tires, shingles, bicycles, household chemicals, electronics, construction and demolition materials like metal, bricks and cardboard, and is trying to keep items out of the landfill, Welch said. The current landfill recycles about 80 tons of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.