TOWN OF FULTON

If developers want to build a commercial venue in the town of Fulton, they likely need to restrict their focus to the Newville area.

The town’s comprehensive plan predicts strong economic growth in that slice of Fulton thanks to the Interstate 90/39 expansion. But business plans outside of that area could face opposition if they threaten the rural landscape.

The town board affirmed last week that approach when it rejected a proposed event venue. Known as The Vale, the rustic, “wedding barn”-style project would have been located at the southeast corner of Highway 51 and Consolidated School Road near Thresherman’s Park.

Heather Tarpey and Andrew Reed asked the town to change the parcel’s zoning from agricultural to commercial so they could build The Vale. The Rock River Thresheree, which owns the parcel in question, had agreed to sell the land to Tarpey and Reed if the zoning change had been approved.

Town Clerk/Treasurer Connie Zimmerman said the board’s rejection was unanimous after a unanimous recommendation against The Vale by the town’s planning and zoning commission.

The move came despite strong praise for the business from those who rejected it, she said.

“Each board member said, ‘This is a great idea. You guys have really submitted an awesome application, one of the most thorough applications we’ve seen,’” she said. “‘It’s just not the right place for it.’”

Development outside of Newville could have set a precedent for other commercial entities to move into rural areas. The board was also concerned about traffic flow at the venue’s sharply angled intersection, Zimmerman said.

Some board members worried about what type of business would replace The Vale if the event venue failed, she said.

A handful of neighbors from a nearby subdivision attended the meeting. They complained about potential noise and increased traffic on Highway 51, Reed said.

He and Tarpey considered building in Newville, but the Interstate doesn’t make it rural enough to fit The Vale’s rustic theme. They plan to continue searching for locations in Rock County because there aren’t many wedding venues here, Reed said.

They were surprised the board denied the plan, especially because the town’s consultant recommended rezoning the land and approving the project.

“Part of their goals in their township is to develop the economy,” Tarpey said. “This would be bringing several jobs, more than several jobs, to the township, plus increased customers at local restaurants and hotels.”

Zimmerman said the town welcomed new economic activity but needed to balance such growth with preserving farmland.

“(The board is) not saying they don’t want economic growth; they want it in a certain area,” Zimmerman said. “That’s because it (Newville) has easy access to the Interstate, to Highway 59. There’s just so much more to offer out there.”

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