With a spirited debate and nearly ignoring a directive from Acting City Attorney Matt Dregne, the Sun Prairie City Council narrowly approved a preliminary plat for Token Creek Serenity Estates during its Tuesday, July 20 meeting.
Token Creek Serenity Estates contains 39 residential lots and 3 outlots on approximately 35.22 acres of land located south of Token Creek and north of Stonehaven Drive. Tuesday night’s meeting was the first held in the Council Chambers inside the Sun Prairie Municipal Building in downtown Sun Prairie since the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 forced the closure of the building.
Although the public was not allowed to attend the meeting in-person, media representatives from the Sun Prairie Star and the Sun Prairie Media Center in addition to invited city staffers were allowed in the council chambers. Two alders spearheaded principal opposition to the plan: District 2 Alder Theresa Stevens and District 4 Alder Tina Bohling.
City Council President Steve Stocker had previously expressed concerns about the proposal.
All three were concerned about the development proximity to the Token Creek Watershed, as were members of the public who submitted their comments in opposition to the plan.
“I do not have any objection with the development of the land parcel in general. We knew when we bought and built that the development of that land was inevitable,” wrote Kellie Kalberer, whose property in The Reserve abuts green space in the Token Creek Watershed.
“I do have objections to the waivers and exceptions being given for setbacks and to filling in wetlands to connect sewers just to create a few extra lots. At the other end of the walking path, the city is building a beautiful park that is focused on the environment and showcasing and protecting it,” Kalberer added. “It makes no sense that just 3,000 feet away the same city is considering encroaching on the same space, and doing damage to the watershed that they are “protecting and promoting” just up the path!”
“We concur with our neighbors, John and Andrea Davies that the extension of Lonnie Lane by filling in 9,000 to 10,000 square feet of Token Creek will have a very poor effect on the environment and is not actually necessary,” wrote Peg and John Shannon.
“We also are not convinced of the need for the Lonnie Lane roadway extension being mandatory,” the Shannons added. “It is proposed as a way to preserve profits of the developer and city at the expense of the environment. The road allows the sanitary sewer line to remain serviced by gravity instead of a mechanical/engineered solution which would establish a connection at Amanda Lane. The MPO office research supported the use of Stonehaven as a suitable method to access/route along the east/west directions.”
“I’m the owner of a home immediately adjacent to the property under consideration for Serenity Estates. There is an abundance of wildlife living in this area — sandhill cranes, blue herons and other birds and animals — who rely on the health of the Token Creek watershed,” wrote Daniel Berman, a Lonnie Lane resident. “I’m deeply concerned about the impact of this development on water quality and the environment in and around Token Creek. It’s my understanding that the proposed plat requires adding significant fill near the Creek to extend Lonnie Lane — which seems entirely unnecessary — and poses concerns around drainage and potential flooding of basements of low-lying homes on Stonehaven.”
“I am opposed to the approval of the plat. As many are well aware the ongoing discussion is resulting in an improved design (thank you),” wrote John Davies, who has raised objections about the proposed development since it was first proposed at the Sun Prairie Plan Commission. “I feel that there are still impactful conditions that are not acceptable.”
But Community Development Director Scott Kugler said the extension of Lonnie Lane is needed for connectivity and utility service to the area. And the amount of fill, roughly 8,000 square feet, does not require the city to purchase additional wetland from a Department of Natural Resources wetland bank. District 3 Alder Mike Jacobs asked what would be done to mitigate the taking of the wetland.
Coris Development representatives said the new habitat to be added — about 20,000 sq. ft. of ponds and swales, will easily surpass the amount filled in as part of the development.
Kugler also said the developer has met the storm water detention requirements to accommodate a 200-year storm, which is far in excess of city standards.
District 2 Alder Bob Jokisch favored the plan because of the steps being taken, saying the pond area near the watershed will be improvement over present agricultural use near the creek. There are a number of examples of streets crossing the wetlands; utility and emergency services access is also important in that area, he added.
Fellow District 2 Alder Theresa Stevens bristled at the comment, saying many farmers practice responsible cultivation techniques that minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides. “I would take a strong opposition to that,” Stevens said, referring to Jokisch’s comments.
Bohling also said the extension of Lonnie Lane doesn’t have to be a through street, but instead could be a pedestrian or bike path.
But Kugler cautioned alders about rejecting the proposal, citing a conversation with Dregne. The acting city attorney reminded Kugler — who in turn reminded alders — that the existing city ordinance states the council could only reject the proposed preliminary plat for health and safety reasons.
Those amount to unsanitary or unsafe conditions that could jeopardize the health of those in the development if if is allowed to continue. Because no such endangered climate existed, alders were required to approve the proposal.
When the final vote was taken, Stocker, Stevens and Bohling voted no, but the item still passed on a 5-3 vote because all other alders voted aye.