Shaping, not stopping, growth in Walworth County is the challenge that faces all who highly value this area’s unique character and quality of life. The Conservancy’s role is to assure responsible development that will preserve and protect significant amounts of land and safeguard the historical and cultural heritage of the region as well. In addition to its land conservation work with private property owners, the Conservancy supports the County’s adoption and implementation of a conservation subdivision ordinance that incentivizes residential developers, particularly in urban fringe and rural areas, to adopt designs and site plans that maximize protection of open space and natural areas. Conservation subdivisions also employ techniques, materials and native plantings that reduce stormwater runoff, even after construction is completed, protecting surface water quality and controlling erosion.
Native Shoreline Vegetation
Wisconsin’s lakes are among its foremost attractions, providing millions of recreation days annually to tourists and residential meccas to those fortunate enough to own a piece of lakefront property. Unfortunately, with the residential development all too frequently comes massive alteration of the shoreline landscape — piers and boat slips, clearing of vegetation and cultivation of showy acres of green grass, and installation of terraces, riprap and other devices to provide a degree of wave protection to the now-denuded shoreline. In even moderately sloped areas, unfortunately, what gets applied to the land to sustain this newly created landscape (pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides) gets easily washed into the lake with each storm event, creating water quality and habitat problems. The Conservancy would like to reverse this trend, working with willing lakeshore property owners throughout Walworth County, to reintroduce native species plantings, providing shoreland protection and stabilization, improving water quality and even discouraging rapidly expanding goose populations.
Planning and Zoning
Safeguarding the land and historical legacy involves more than working with
landowners and addressing big picture development and land conservation issues.
It also means dealing with the nuts and bolts planning and zoning issues that
confront town, village, city and county officials regularly. The Conservancy
plays a watchdog role, monitoring requests for rezoning, variances or
conditional uses that signal changing land uses and the prospect of development
that is counter to adopted plans and policies. Close attention is also given to
land use and park and open space planning activities, where service on advisory
boards and opportunity for public participation can help shape overall
preservation and development policies. Please see the Conservancy’s Policy Paper
on Development for more information.
Walworth County is known for its prime agricultural lands. They not only support significant crop production and dairy operations, they add demonstrably to the scenic and open space values of the county. In a 1999 survey of county residents, 90% agreed that farmland preservation is important, and 80% agreed that County government should establish it as priority goal and implement policies to achieve it. The Conservancy is committed to farmland preservation as well, and recently recommended as part of the County land use plan 2020 update the initiation of a dialogue among farmers, County officials and land conservation interests to examine the viability of a purchase of development rights (PDR) program that would identify and compensate owners of prime agricultural lands for keeping their land in farm production.