May 23, 2024

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Golf course to landfill: Madison City Council agrees to sell part of Yahara Hills Golf Course | Local Government

The Madison City Council has signed off on a $5.5 million deal to sell Dane County about 230 acres of the Yahara Hills Golf Course to convert parts of the grounds into a landfill and composting site.

The land deal, approved on a 17-2 vote late Tuesday, would split off the eastern part of the city-owned golf course into a “sustainability campus,” which could house a landfill, composting site and business park. The deal comes as the county-operated landfill across Highway 12/18 from the golf course is expected to run out of space by 2030.

Dane County has yet to approve its end of the deal.

Madison Streets Superintendent Charlie Romines told council members the land deal might seem “counterintuitive” because the county still has to determine a number of factors such as hours of operation, environmental monitoring and site limitations. But the county has to own the land before it can start the decade-long process of designing and permitting a new landfill, Romines said.

“There’s a lot more process to come than I think would normally be thought of when you’re at a point of a sale and agreement,” he said.

Without a nearby landfill, Madison would have to send its waste elsewhere, potentially 40 miles away to Johnson Creek, the closest current landfill site.

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Residents who live near the proposed site urged council members to postpone the vote Tuesday night, citing health impacts and a need for further community input.

Ald. Barbara Harrington McKinney, 1st District, sought to defer the vote, citing residents’ concerns over lack of information about the project, but the motion failed, 17-2.

Even if the deal is finalized by the city and the county, there is no guarantee the site will eventually get converted into a landfill.

Under the agreement, Madison could buy back the land through the end of 2024 should Dane County decide not to put a landfill on the site.

In addition to the landfill, parts of the golf course will remain as recreational space. Once the current landfill site close, parts of that land could see conservation and recreational use.

Should the sale be approved, the golf course will have its 36 holes of golf available through the 2024 season, with fewer holes open for play over subsequent years and 18 holes guaranteed through the 2042 season.

Like the city’s other golf courses, Yahara Hills has seen play dwindle in recent decades despite the sport’s surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the course broke even, a first in two decades, Madison’s Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp said last year.

Racial quotas

Council members also voted Tuesday night to eliminate racial quotas for membership on the city’s Police Oversight Board, a policy that prompted a federal lawsuit from a conservative law firm. The change was approved automatically as part of the board’s consent agenda, meaning there was no separate vote on the matter.

The 11-member board, which is tasked with serving as a check on the Madison Police Department, had required someone from each of five demographics — the Black, Asian, Latino, Native American and LGBTQ communities — to hold a post on the board.

In a lawsuit against the city, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty argued the quotas amounted to racial discrimination. Instead of saying the board “shall” have representation from the groups, the new language describes a commitment to “strive to include members from a diverse background.”