Friday, September 30th, 2016

Packer development thwarted at the goal line

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The Green Bay Packers are fighting on two fronts this week. Not only are they squaring off against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Super Bowl Sunday, but they’re fighting the Democrats in the state legislature as well.

The Green Bay Packers are playing in the Super Bowl next Sunday, but efforts by several Wisconsin Democratic legislators and an environmentalist group may have damaged the team’s bottom line. Just when the team thought it was nearing the end zone, a blind-side blitz set back team efforts to develop a 20-acre property at the corner of Hwy. 41 and Lombardi Avenue.

At issue is 1.6 acres of wetlands on the site that would have to be filled in out of the 9.34 acres of wetlands on the site. Under an agreement between auto dealer John Bergstrom, acting on behalf of the Green Bay Packers, and the Department of Natural Resources, the remaining wetlands would be “enhanced” by the development. Among the enhancements on the remaining 7.69 acres of wetland: management and removal of invasive plant species, signage posted to educate the public on the importance of wetlands, a walking path, and deed restrictions protecting the remaining wetlands. In addition, Bergstrom agreed to create four additional acres of wetlands on a nearby property, a net increase in wetlands.

DNR Water Division Administrator Bruce Baker, said to WBAY-TV that the agreement was a big win. “In addition to them changing the building and the configuration of it, they also agreed to restore the wetland that would be impacted because that wetland is currently has a number of invasive species in it.”

Baker said in another interview that if nothing were done on the site, invasive species would take over, destroying the wetlands.

In other words, if the deal with Bergstrom and the Packers went through, the state would be able to preserve 7.69 acres of wetlands and add four more. If the deal did not go through, the state would lose all 9.34 acres.

That was not good enough for the Wisconsin Wetlands Association who decided to challenge the DNR decision in court. Such a challenge could take months. Meanwhile, a development project that was to probably include a Bass Pro Shop creating 300 jobs would continue to be on hold.

Governor Scott Walker intervened and asked the legislature to pass a law to exempt the property from the court review provided the developers adhered to the terms laid out by the DNR, the terms that resulted in more wetland acreage and most of the current acreage protected from invasive plant species.

As the Natural Resources Committee in the Assembly was passing the bill on a 9-6 party-line vote, five Democrats decided to take matters into their own hands and sabotage the development.

For once the DNR was actually helping to move the development ball. Why not? The supposed goals of the environmentalists would have been advanced, too. Too bad the environmentalists and their allies in the legislature were too fixated on stopping development to see how the entire game plan would have benefitted everybody.

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