Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Sustainability Not Part Of Janesville’s Future
Those who spoke in favor of protecting the farmland or giving the plan more thought included a fourth-generation diary farmer, a 50 year-old-mom farmer, a couple who ran to the municipal building after watching the council meeting proceed on JATV and Julie Backenkeller from the Rock Environmental Network, among several others. Those who spoke in favor of urban sprawl were primarily builders and developers who by describing themselves as "the bad guys," tended to paint themselves into a sympathetic corner. Defenders of the plan also worked the disingenuous argument that "no one is forcing farmers to give up their land" in their favor.
Also in attendance at the meeting were most of the challengers running for city council in next month's election. Challengers Potter, Briarmoon, Straasburg and McCoy asked the council to forgo a vote today in order to give the growth plan more thought and time consideration. Only one challenger, Frank Perrotto, was fully satisfied with the plan and encouraged the council to endorse it as soon as possible.
But before the public speaking session began on the plan, the city administration presented a short list of changes they recommended to supposedly fix the document, after hearing opposition at the last meeting. Although most of the changes were minor, there appeared to be little effort to inform the general public of these proposed changes, nor was any public hearing held for their consideration. Nevertheless, the council considered each amendment and voted on them accordingly. Some passed, some failed.
Near the end of this amendment procedure and just before the main vote on the plan, Councilman Tom McDonald proposed that plan provisions recommended by the Janesville Sustainability Committee be considered and made supplementary to the Comprehensive Plan. Several council members pointedly spoke out against McDonald’s motion using the argument that the general public did not have a chance to view the sustainability committee’s proposition. This coming immediately after voting on a chain of amendments few folks except the administration knew would be presented. McDonald's motion in favor of adding sustainability considerations to the growth plan was killed.
Residents who care about the future of farmland and the sustainability of Janesville's economic growth need to remember that only Loasching and McDonald voted for removing the Urban Reserve Area from the plan. (Loasching is not running for re-election) And most importantly, McDonald also was the only council member to vote in favor of giving the plan more time to develop.
I don’t known how many times I heard several council members describe how important it is that the Comprehensive Plan maintain flexibility for future councils to consider any necessary changes. A laughable request when you consider the source.