Dekorra Town, Columbia County, Wisconsin

The Town of Dekorra lies 25 miles north of Madison on the east bank of the Wisconsin River in South-Central Wisconsin. Its rural landscape features drumlins, moraines and streams as well as Lake Wisconsin, a pool of the Wisconsin River that serves as the primarily recreational and scenic attraction in the Town and the surrounding area. The current population is estimated at about 2,500. However, population grew by almost 30 percent in the 1990s, prompting concern about the long-term viability of the Town’s rural character. As evidence of change, older seasonal houses close to Lake Wisconsin are being replaced by larger, year-round residents for retirees and farmland is often subdivided into 35-acre lots, the minimum lot size allowed by agricultural zoning. Some residents are also worried that housing prices in Madison could prompt commuter-oriented development since the Town is readily accessible to the state capitol via Interstate 39/90/94.

The Town of Dekorra borders Lake Wisconsin and is within easy commuting distance of the City of Madison.

In May 2005, the Town adopted a Comprehensive Plan designed in part to address rural preservation goals. The Plan contains a TDR mechanism that has been implemented in the Town’s Land Division and Subdivision Code. TDR sending areas are designated as “Agricultural and Woodland Preservation Area” on the Town’s Planned Land Use Map. This designation includes roughly three-quarters of the land area of the Township.

The TDR receiving areas consist of roughly 2,500 acres of land depicted on the Town’s Planned Land Use Map as TDR Receiving Areas. These receiving areas are adjacent to existing development in three locations on the western edge of the Town, near the Wisconsin River, and at three other sites in the interior of the Township. In these areas, land divisions are allowed for properties not constrained by wetlands, streams, shoreline setbacks, floodplains, hydric soils, soils with limitations for septic systems, soils with low potential for the installation of basements and steep slopes. Current zoning in these designated receiving areas allows one unit per 35 acres. For each seven lots in excess of that baseline, a receiving site developer must deed restrict 35 acres of land in the sending area. Since the sending area is zoned for one unit per 35 acres, the transfer removes one potential dwelling unit from the sending area. The maximum lot size generally allowed after land division is five acres and the minimum lot size, following the application of TDR, is one unit per one or two acres depending on the underlying zoning of the receiving area.

The Comprehensive Plan and Land Division/Subdivision Code specify that the sending and receiving areas must be contiguous and under common ownership until the County permits TDR sending and receiving sites to be non-contiguous.

As of the date of this profile, summer 2006, the Town was considering a TDR development called Legacy Oaks, which proposed 40 homes on a 340-acre site in the southwestern corner of the Town. The project was opposed by many nearby landowners who wanted no change in the minimum 35-acre lot size requirement.