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Plans set to expand nature conservancy

Plans set to expand nature conservancy

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village of pleasant prairie logo

village of pleasant prairie logo

PLEASANT PRAIRIE — Plans are underway for the village to purchase a former gas station property with eyes on future expansion of The Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin.

The Village Board on Monday night unanimously approved a resolution for a blight determination at the former Sheridan Road Gas Station, 12439 Sheridan Road, as a precursor to a future purchase of the 1.135 acres.

When its purchased, the land will be included in the Chiwaukee Prairie West conservancy area, according to an informational packet provided prior to the meeting.

Land surrounding the property was purchased by TNC in 2016 and is now part of a more than 150-acre wetland restoration site that is open to the public. The resolution to allow the village to purchase the gas station property arose because of the cost for the conservancy, a nonprofit organization, to buy the land outright, said Jean Werbie-Harris, community development director.

Werbie-Harris said the site has historical soil and ground water contamination that needs to be dealt with before it can be turned into a use for the conservancy.

Once purchased, TNC hopes to use the land for parking and access to its restoration site, Werbie-Harris said.

“The village has a unique opportunity to remove blight from a primary access corridor, prevent future undesirable uses of the vacant gas station site, facilitate provision of a safe parking and access point for area residents and visitors and aid a longtime partner by completing the purchase transaction,” she said.

According to an updated appraisal of the property that was completed earlier this year, its fair market value is listed at $54,000.

Low risk of future contamination

The conservancy will reimburse the village for any out-of-pocket expenses, Werbie-Harris said. TNC plans to remove the canopy, install a new parking area and signage and also handle the upkeep of the site’s vegetation.

Werbie-Harris said Village Attorney Eric Larson doesn’t see too much risk for Pleasant Prairie when it comes to possible continued contamination on the site.

“He indicated that we have very little reason for concern regarding contamination, given the fact the site was previously cleaned, the underground storage tanks have been removed, and certain soils have also been excavated and removed,” she said.

Werbie-Harris added that Larson also noted what the village can do to deal with any contamination remnants that may exist.

‘A safe place to park’

Stephanie Judge of the TNC told the board that all future plans were in the “very preliminary” stages, but the purchase does fit with what the conservancy hopes to accomplish.

“What we have known for quite some time is that the site makes logical sense as part of the larger conservancy that surrounds it,” she said. “We’ve had requests from neighbors and other local users who would really like a safe place to park off the road and then go for a walk on our property.”

Judge added that TNC hopes to survey other conservancy groups and educators to determine what types of facilities may be in demand for potential visitors.

“The level of future investment in it beyond the basic parking lot would depend on interest,” she said. “I think the slate is open. We would really appreciate the site being an access point for our property as opposed to some other use.”

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