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Land Information & Computer Graphics Facility Helps Dane County Map Its Future

The Land Information & Computer Graphics Facility at UW-Madison”s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is helping to map the future of Dane County – literally. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is hosting a series of public workshops designed “to listen to citizens throughout Dane County as they discuss their concerns about our growth.” LICGF staff are providing technical assistance, presenting various maps, and are conducting land use mapping exercises throughout the workshop series. The next workshop will be at the Dane County Forum, Feb. 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The idea, according to Falk, is to involve Dane County residents and planning professionals in a dialogue that will help shape crucial land use decisions. At the kick-off last November, UW-Madison Professors Ben Niemann, Steve Ventura and Emeritus Professor Phil Lewis presented a comprehensive look at Dane County land use. Their presentation, entitled “Exploring Natural and Cultural Patterns: Crafting Dane County”s Future,” included more than 30 digitally produced maps. They provided a panoramic view of how cultural, economic and environmental factors are shaping current land use.

According to Niemann, LICGF maps are layered with information from the latest tax-parcel data from the assessor”s office along with other land use and economic data. “These maps provide a more up-to-date and accurate view of how land is actually being used in the county,” he said.

Using advanced map-making techniques and employing publicly available county data, Niemann concluded that as much as 50 percent of Dane County”s developable land is already gone. This includes much agricultural and environmentally sensitive land. That contrasts with estimates from the Dane County Regional Planning Commission, which suggest that only 15 percent of Dane County land has been developed. The RPC has historically based its estimates on maps derived from aerial photographs.

Aside from questions about how much undeveloped land remains, at the heart of the issue are such questions as: How do we plan and develop the remaining land? Do we want to sacrifice more agricultural land and sensitive environmental corridors for housing and business development? And at what price?

A December workshop dealt with preservation of agricultural land, open space, and environmental resources.

At a January workshop entitled “Growing Smart: Techniques for Achieving Economical, Sound Development,” citizen groups “mapped” Dane County”s future using dots representing population density. Underlying the exercise and the workshop”s theme were questions such as: *Where should growth occur? *How can we improve the way we make land use decisions? * Who should pay what costs for providing government services to development?

The Feb. 10 workshop will examine techniques to strengthen and preserve Dane County communities by asking questions such as: *What can we do to help keep downtowns strong? *How can we better link people, jobs and services? *How do we maintain the character of many communities?

This spring, Falk will use recommendations derived from the workshops to form a set of specific, implementable steps to manage growth in Dane County.

For more information or to review various land-use analyses, contact Ben Niemann, LICGF director, (608) 263-5534, or Kathleen Falk, Dane County Executive, (608) 266-4114.