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Write-in creates second Christiana Town Board race

On Thursday, April 1, Deborah Straub registered as a write-in for Seat #2 on the town board, challenging incumbent Jeff Notstad

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A second write-in race is underway in the town of Christiana, where a proposed utility-scale solar farm and a gravel quarry near Utica have recently divided residents.

In mid-March, Jeremy Knudson announced he would be a write-in against Jim Lowrey for Seat #1 on the town board.

On Thursday, April 1, Deborah Straub registered as a write-in for Seat #2 on the town board, challenging incumbent Jeff Notstad.

The election is Tuesday, April 6.

Neither Knudson nor Straub’s names will appear on the ballot; they must be written in.

An article on the Knudson and Lowrey race was published in the Cambridge News & Deerfield Independent on March 18 and remains on the newspaper’s website, www.hngnews.com/cambridge_deerfield

The Christiana Town Board consists of two supervisors and a town chair. Current town chair Maureen Lien is not seeking re-election. Mark Cook is running unopposed for Lien’s seat.

Straub

Straub said she entered the race after being blindsided by the recent development proposals.

“I found out about some things that have been in the works for several years but were not disclosed,” Straub said.

The quarry near Utica, in particular, “there was no mention of this until it was pretty much at the zoning table,” Straub said.

The owner of an estate service who has lived in the town for 35 years, Straub said she has “no conflicts of interest,” that would affect her involvement on the board.

“I would like to support families and farmers in the area,” and to ensure that “everyone’s concerns are met and that everyone is treated fairly,” she said.

Straub said she values transparency in local government, “which has been lacking in the town of Christiana,” and added that “I am known for voicing my opinion and for working with people in general.”

She said her objection to the quarry, that Dane County’s Zoning and Land Regulation Committee voted on March 23 to give a 10-year conditional use permit to, is not its operation in general. Rather, she said, she has objected to the driveway entrance being on County Highway B.

Straub and other neighbors had sought to get Notstad, whose family owns the quarry property and were the ones granted the county permit, to put the driveway on East Church Road instead.

Notstad has abstained in recent town board votes on the quarry.

“I would not have voted for the quarry,” had she been on the town board, Straub said. “I would not have allowed it to go through.”

“I would have gone to the (county) zoning committee and said ‘there are families, there’s a farm with horses right by the quarry, there are people’s driveways. This is a small community with small businesses and houses and families, and you’re turning it into an industrial zone.’”

Straub said she generally supports solar and renewable energy but feels the current proposal from Invenergy, LLC, for a utility-scale solar farm in the town, is “too large,” and affects too many rural property owners.

“This was not thought through properly,” she said.

Invenergy is proposing to build the 375-megawatt Koshkonong Solar Energy Center on up to 2,600 acres in the towns of Christiana and Deerfield, within a total project area of 11,900 acres. 

The Chicago firm expects in April to file for a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, after filing an engineering plan in December with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Notstad

Notstad is a life-long town of Christiana resident who continues to farm on land his father once worked.

He has been on the town board for four years. He’s also a previous longtime member of the town planning commission. And he is a past president of the Cambridge School Board and served for 16 years on the board of his dairy co-op.

He said he decided to run for the town board in 2017 after selling his cows in 2016.

He said he’s had to stay quiet on the quarry near Utica, as the owner of the property and as the holder of the conditional use permit issued by Dane County on March 23.

He said, however, that “the process has spoken,” with public input allowed before the town planning commission and town board, and before the county’s Zoning and Land Regulation Committee, before that county committee voted 5-0 to approve the conditional use permit.

“Last week, the county listened and they let everyone speak again,” he said.

Notstad said he is concerned that the proposed solar farm is dividing the town, pitting farmers who would benefit financially against other rural property owners.

He said he respects both sides of the debate and sees the job of the town board as keeping the community from fraying over it.

He said he has not entered into a lease agreement with Invenergy and has not taken steps to do that, although his land is within a delineated project boundary.

“This is going to be a tough one out here,” he said. “It’s really got people worked up.”

He said the coming process will require leaders like himself who have years of local government experience.

“I have the years. We’re going to need experience to get this thing right,” he said. “It’s going to be challenging, and I would like to keep it civil out here.”

“I’m a longtime member of the community. I enjoy living out here, and I’m going to do the best job I can for the people,” he added.

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