Dunn_AlecfromArts

ALEC LUHN/Herald photo

A Dane County Board of Supervisors committee voted Tuesday against a University of Wisconsin proposal to build a Department of Homeland Security animal disease research facility just south of Madison in the town of Dunn.

Citing environmental and land use concerns, the Zoning and Land Regulation Committee approved a resolution opposing the UW proposal to build a National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

If constructed, the facility would be used to research bioterrorist threats as well as human and animal diseases.

"The crux of my opposition is that [the facility] isn't consistent with the town's plan or the town's reputation for preservation of farmland," said Supervisor Patrick Miles, who drafted the resolution.

UW Chancellor John Wiley submitted an "expression of interest" in March 2006 to construct the 520,000-square-foot facility on university-owned land adjacent to UW's Kegonsa Research Facility. The site is one of 18 potential locations the Homeland Security, Defense, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services Departments are considering to replace the existing Plum Island Animal Disease Center, which is located in New York off the coast of Long Island.

Scientists at the facility would research foreign diseases that can affect both animals and humans — the study of which would require the government's highest security level.

Although the resolution has yet to be approved by the entire board, Tuesday's vote may be a significant roadblock in UW's attempts to have the facility located in Wisconsin.

UW Communications declined to comment on the board committee's vote late Tuesday night.

If the DHS eventually decided to build the facility in Dunn, it would be required to apply for a conditional-use permit — which the same zoning committee would have to approve before construction could begin.

Tuesday's resolution indicates the committee would likely be reluctant to do so, according to local anti-NBAF activist George Corrigan.

"It's really saying to the town of Dunn, 'We're behind you, we got your back,'" Corrigan said.

In addition, he said the approval of the resolution indicates the committee "has passed judgment on community acceptance," which is one of the four criteria the DHS is using to evaluate candidates.

Although the facility would contain Biosafety Level 4 agents — the highest classified level of toxic substances — the resolution only addressed "environmental, transportation and development concerns."

The Dunn site in question is located on a state-designated Rustic Road off of U.S. Highway 51.

According to Miles and three other Dunn residents who spoke at Tuesday's meeting, neither thoroughfare would be able to safely or effectively handle increased traffic caused by the facility.

In addition, they said the facility would negatively affect the water quality in two nearby lakes, overtax the residential sanitation system and ruin the town's attempts to preserve its rural feel.

"It's up to the county to stand up and say, 'These guys deserve some help in preserving farmland,'" Miles said.

The committee also faulted UW for only proposing one site.

"UW made a mistake in putting all of their eggs in one basket," Miles said while addressing the committee.

The resolution is expected to be voted on by the Dane County Board's Executive Committee Thursday and will move on to the entire board pending the committee's approval.