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Businesses battle over bike path in Fitchburg

The cost of success: Fitchburg's "growing pains" takes its toll on business

FITCHBURG, Wis. - Debbie Paul and her husband moved Midwest Decorative Stone & Landscaping Supply to County Highway PD more than 20 years ago.

"It was just open fields, and since then, it's really grown up around us," Paul said.

Now, that growth has some consequences.  Paul said additions to the bike path now towering over the road and next to her business will be a problem.

"We can't have this blocking the view of our business," Paul said.  "You might as well close our doors."

Paul said it has been months of back-and-forth with the city of Fitchburg and the Department of Transportation (DOT).  She said the initial plan was to install a ramp on the other side of the road so bikers could exit off of the elevated path spanning PD.

Paul said more recently, the DOT decided to put it in front of her business, obstructing the view and access to some of her displays.  She added she expects the city or state to buy up the land where her landscaping models and gravel samples now sit, possibly forcing her to move.

Paul said she had been working with the city on the issue, and she and her husband have involved a lawyer in the process.

She said the decision was made after General Beverage, a business across the street, was going to lose property to the ramp.

"You lose business when you move.  The wholesale warehouses, they can move anywhere, but we can't," Paul said.

Fitchburg Mayor Shawn Pfaff said the construction businesses and homeowners are seeing along Highway PD and Verona Road is positive and shows the city continues to expand.  He said the prime location along those growing corridors is why businesses choose to stay.

"Sometimes these aren't easy things to do because you have businesses that have been here before all of this stuff started, they want to be in on the new growth, they want the high visibility," Pfaff said, "and they also want to make sure that their future is for years to come."

Pfaff said the city has clearly communicated with people living and working around the work, warning them before it began and asking them to be patient and flexible with the process.

"We've also let them know that there are going to have to be a few changes here and there, and there's going to have to be a little give and take," Pfaff said.

Pfaff said the DOT made the decision instead of the city because they're paying for the project and usually make engineering calls on construction like that.

"It's a great location for us, and people know that, and I'm hoping we can continue doing what we do here, but it's been a difficult process," Paul explained.

The ramp off of the bike bridge should be completed before winter, Pfaff said.

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