As the town of Christiana prepares to hear from area residents on a proposed auto salvage yard along U.S. Highway 12-18, Cambridge officials are considering what power — if any — they have to stop it.

Town of Christiana property owner Robert Johnson has applied to rezone a site at 275 U.S. Highway 12-18, near Rodney Road just west of Cambridge, from highway commercial to manufacturing and industrial use. Johnson wants to open an automobile salvage and recycling business.

Christiana’s plan commission will discuss Johnson’s request and take public comments at a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Participants will be able to join in virtually; visit the town’s website or call the town hall for a meeting link.

The rezoning request would ultimately have to be approved by Christiana’s town board and by Dane County’s Zoning & Land Regulation Committee.

At a Feb. 9 village board meeting, Cambridge officials weighed the impact to the highway corridor, which is its western gateway near the high-end Vineyards at Cambridge neighborhood, the Cambridge Winery and Dancing Goat Distillery.

Cambridge officials said the timing is especially challenging given another proposal for a utility-scale solar farm in the same area.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s review process for the solar farm, proposed by Invenergy, LLC, of Chicago, is expected to begin this spring and will take about a year to complete.

On the salvage yard, the village board voted on Feb. 9 to follow a recommendation from its planning commission, to send a letter of opposition to Christiana.

“This was discussed at plan commission and there were a number of concerns raised,” Village Administrator Lisa Moen told the village board.

But Moen said the village has little recourse other than stating its view in a letter.

“There is not a whole lot we can do besides that,” Moen said.

Village board member Kathy Cunningham, who chairs Cambridge’s plan commission, said in combination with another longtime auto salvage yard across the highway, the proposal would result in “more junk (along the route) coming into Cambridge.”

“Absolutely nobody on the plan commission wants this,” Cunningham said.

“I don’t want to see another auto salvage junkyard coming into Cambridge,” Village President Mark McNally agreed. “Between the solar panels and this, it’s going to look like an industrial area.”

Cunningham agreed that the village has little say, though. Cambridge’s extraterritorial zoning area, that gives it limited say over some kinds of development just beyond its borders, doesn’t apply to the salvage yard proposal, she said.

Village officials also said they planned to send a letter to Dane County’s zoning office, and planned to ask to comment any future county-level public hearings.

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