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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Republicans turn wetlands project to win-win

wetlands, column

So often in politics, issues are seen as zero-sum games. When one side wins, the other is negatively affected. While this makes for easy characterization and consumption, it misses the point. Sometimes there are opportunities for win-win.

Perhaps you heard about a recent bill approved by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker, authorizing development of a small parcel of wetlands at Brown County. At issue is a project near Lambeau Field with hundreds of jobs and a dying wetland.

 

First, some history about the project.

 

The Green Bay Packers and other developers have looked for ways to capitalize on the attraction of Lambeau Field for several years. One proposed plan was to develop just over an acre and a half of scrubby land at Highway 41 and Lombardi Ave. as part of a larger retail park.

 

Now, to be clear, this is not a pristine wetland. As my colleague Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) explained, this parcel of land is hardly natural. It is a scrubby area that became wet as a result of other construction projects.

 

The developer went to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to gain approval. The DNR listed conditions and restrictions needed before it would agree to development of the wetland. The developer agreed to meet the conditions, reconfigured plans five or six times to meet DNR requirements and finally gained approval. One of the conditions was that the developer clear invasive species that had taken root and would overrun and ruin a nearby wetland. In addition, the developer would create four acres of new wetland.

 

Now, that sounds like a good deal for every party involved. The developer gets to build and the DNR and environmentalists get cleaner, larger wetlands. It was believed Bass Pro Shops, an outdoors-themed retailer, would eventually take up residence.

 

The system worked, and the developer got approval last summer from DNR officials within the Doyle administration.

 

Two things happened to throw a wrench in things. Apparently improving the existing wetlands was not enough for the Wisconsin Wetlands Association. The group formally challenged the DNR’s decision, effectively putting the brakes on the project for the foreseeable future.

 

Second, four Democrat lawmakers wrote a letter to Bass Pro Shops asking them to reconsider their plans. Plans that included bringing hundreds of job opportunities to Green Bay. This is exactly the type of backward, job-killing attitude Governor Walker and the Legislature are trying to change.

 

The state legislature should not be in the business of approving bills to deal with specific instances or individuals. In this case, an exception is in order.

 

The DNR and the developer followed the process. A resolution was arrived at that benefited all sides. Construction jobs, followed by hundreds of full-time retail jobs were anticipated.

 

Republicans are changing the way business is conducted. We are attracting businesses to this state and ensuring a business climate conducive to success. The way this particular project was initially handled and approved should be a model for future projects. Instead, the project turned into the poster child for evils of the process.

 

So often, business and environmental interests are perceived as in constant conflict. This instance shows it can be a win-win.

 

This project creates hundreds of jobs and not only conserves wetland space, it enhances our wetlands.

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