Town Chills on City Cross Country Facility

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Kevin Murphy

TOWN OF MIDDLETON–The Town Board’s enthusiasm for a cross-country skiing facility proposed north of Pleasant View Golf Course, partly in the town of Middleton, has vanished like a snowball in July.

Three years ago, board supervisors welcomed the prospect of a regional training facility for athletes that could be also used by local skiers. But the Erdman Park Master Plan debated at the board’s virtual meeting Monday night, was viewed as putting the training facility on land annexed into the City of Middleton while leaving the town responsible for the road’s upkeep.

Basically, the city is proposing to put an $8 million recreation center just north of the golf course accessed by an extension of Schwartz Road, said Michael Lawton, an attorney for the town.

The city will annex undeveloped land for the trailhead area and the extension of Schwartz Road. Bollenbeck Acres will grant recreational easements for the ski trails to the west, Lawton said.

“(Dan) Erdman is donating select parcels and granting easements to the city over town lands,” he added.

“They couldn’t have picked a worse place for it,” Board Supervisor Brent Renteria said.

The rail crossing on Schwartz Road, located just south of US 14 and west of Pleasant View Road, was changed from private to public status in a nearly $200,000 proceeding before the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads two years ago, said Jim Wells. Wells was expanding his self-storage facility along US 14 and paid to improve access to it. Now, the city, Dan Erdman and Bollenbeck properties come along to exploit it, Wells said.

“Dan stays in the weeds and lets me pay for everything,” Wells told the board.

Neither Wells nor board supervisors feel they have been kept in the loop as plans for project have changed over time.

Board Supervisor Denise Schmidt said the town was initially enthused about the project but now that annexation has been raised, the town’s interest as fallen.

“There’s fantastic co-benefits here but there needs to be a (town-city) partnership and there’s no partnership on this, “she said.

Middleton Town Administrator Greg DiMiceli said the city “has never reached out,” to the town on the project and the town’s inquiries about road issues have been referred to Yuriy Gusev, executive director of Central Cross Country Skiing, and the project’s prime mover.

Gusev said he was “surprised” to hear the board’s concerns about the project since he has presented the size and scope of it twice to them.

Gusev said that Middleton City Administrator Mike Davis has raised the annexation issue but Renteria said he couldn’t remember that happening.

“Annexing into city was not raised before. There’s lots of infrastructure will be needed that would benefit city residents. Revenue from (the project) would go to city,” he said.

Wells asked why the projects neighbors haven’t been notified about it.

“This all has been so hush, hush. Are you trying to slide things through,” he asked.

Wells also mentioned the prospect of using “snow canons” to make artificial snow which could add to runoff in the area already plagued by a high-water table. 

A stormwater detention pond is included in the plans submitted to Dane County, Lawton said.

The city could annex the whole property but only limited annexation was on Common Council’s Tuesday agenda, Lawton said.

The Common Council recently rejected resolutions passed by the towns of Middleton and Springfield to include two of their residents on the Airport Commission, Town Chair Cynthia Richson said. The vote came after the council rejected Mayor Gurdip Brar’s recommendation to refer the matter to committee.

The town’s Park Commission will be considering a $50,000 donation to upgrade the baseball diamonds at Pioneer Park, DiMiceli said.

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