The Town of Westport has reaffirmed its endorsement of a multimillion-dollar renovation project proposed for Cherokee Country Club, where the owner argues that golf-course improvements are needed to remain viable.

Initial project plans would have resulted in 9.82 acres of wetland and waterways being disturbed.

According to a report by the Wisconsin State Journal, approximately 10,000 dump truck loads of sand would have been removed from beneath the existing golf course so that the club could raise the playing surface. Cherokee Country Club filed permit applications with both the Wisconsin DNR in April to allow for the proposed wetland disturbance, and with Dane County for the grading work that would be involved in the project.

Westport administrator Tom Wilson said the town has no say in whether those applications are approved. Supervisors did a supplemental review this spring, however, and recommended their approval under the advisement of town plan commissioners.

Town officials were recently asked to reconsider that recommendation, after the Friends of Cherokee Marsh expressed concerns that the project would have an adverse effect on the marsh they had devoted so much time and effort to protect.

“We do not support the application for permit to permanently discharge fill material into 9.82 acres of wetland and to convert 1.3 acres of shallow open water to upland,” the Friends stated in a July letter to Westport officials and the Army Corps of Engineers. “We understand that the proposed 9.82 acres of wetland loss would be offset with wetland mitigation credits, but if the mitigation occurs in another watershed as expected, Cherokee Marsh and its downstream waters receive no benefit to offset the wetland loss.”

The Friends also expressed concern that initial plans included the conversion of 1.3 acres of shallow open water to upland, something the DNR strongly discourages.

Plan commissioners directed staff to reach out to representatives from Cherokee Country Club and its project team, requesting a response to the Friends group’s concerns.

Principal of Heartland Ecological Group, one of three companies involved in the renovation plan, Jeff Kraemer informed the town that revisions had been made to the project to minimize wetland and waterway impacts substantially.

“Cherokee’s revised plans have further minimized wetland impacts from 9.82 acres to 2.06 acres. Of the proposed wetland impacts, 1.31 acres will result in wetland loss through conversion to uplands, while 0.75 acres of wetland impacts will result from excavation activities and will result in a conversion of wetland type but not a loss,” Kraemer stated. “Waterway conversion to uplands has been eliminated from the proposed plan.”

Town officials were apparently satisfied with the project team’s response, as no action was taken to reverse its recommendation that the project be approved.

“I thought that their response to the questions was really well done,” Wilson said. “They’ve clearly been working with the Department of Natural Resources for a long time to get this all accomplished. And it will make the whole watershed better, what they’re doing.”

Town chair Dean Grosskopf agreed.

“I think they’ve done a really nice job quelling the fears that people had there at Cherokee Marsh,” Grosskopf said. “It sounds like they’re going to do a nice job.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, the town board:

- received a water-utility report. Wilson reported that the water-tower project was “coming along,” although recent weather had presented challenges. The project should be completed by the end of September.

- was introduced to its new Dane County Community Deputy, Jody Schneider. Town supervisor Terry Enge asked whether Schneider would be wearing a body camera. Schneider said she will not. Grosskopf invited Schneider to sit in his driveway to catch speeders on Woodland Drive.

- approved a lot-line adjustment for Advanced Concrete, Inc. The company stated that it intends to add indoor truck-storage bays, employee break rooms/meeting rooms, and additional office space pending further project approvals.

- awarded a chip-seal maintenance contract to Fahrner Asphalt for $135,800. Per the contract, Fahrner will complete surface treatment on River and Bong roads no later than July 2022.

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