Dane County Towns Hire Top Republican Lobbyist To Push For Zoning Changes

The Capital Times

The Dane County Towns Association has hired major conservative lobbyist Bob Welch to help push through state legislation on county zoning.

The association is advocating inclusion of a proposal in the state budget that would allow towns to opt out of county zoning, affording them more autonomy in making development decisions. Dane County officials and municipalities have argued that will lead to more urban sprawl and could damage water quality.

As the fight plays out, the Dane County Towns Association is stepping up its offense with the addition of Welch, a Republican state representative from 1985 to 1993 and state senator from 1995 to 2005. Welch represents 17 other entities this session and has lobbied prominently for pro-hunting groups and the ethanol industry.

“We thought he was qualified and he has the experience working with legislators from having been a senator himself to be able to assist in helping us figure out how to get this bill passed,” said DCTA legal counsel Mark Hazelbaker. “We’re also dealing in an environment where people against us on this issue have professional lobbyists, therefore we felt perhaps that’s what we have to do to get across the finish line on this.”

Dane County executive’s office chief of staff Josh Wescott said, given the success of the county, it’s confounding that officials with the towns association are pursuing this change and bringing in Republicans in the state Legislature to dictate how the county grows. He said bringing aboard Welch, “one of the top Republican lobbyists in the state,” was “especially disconcerting.”

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