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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sustainability Not Part Of Janesville’s Future

The topic headlining the Janesville city council meeting Monday night was the action taken by the council to endorse the city’s deeply flawed growth plan, dubbed the Comprehensive Plan.

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.


Anonymous said...

What McDonald did was huuuge. The council talks up "sustainability, sustainability" just like they talk up "diversity, diversity" only to be exposed for the phonies they are. If they thought sustainability initiatives were important enough to be included in Janesville's growth plan, they would have delayed it for at least a month. Anything they do now to engage the committee is pandering. What a joke!

You hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

If the city council thinks the development from sprawl is the kind of economic growth Janesville needs after losing GM - we are in bigger trouble than we thought.

Lou Kaye said...

I received an email from someone who felt that because of the treasure involved (super-rich farmland), this council meeting should have been on national news.

Janesville's Comprehensive Plan is a very, very weak document. It gives all the impetus for the city's boundary growth to the farmer.

A farmer sells, they have the right - a developer buys, they have the right - and Janesville just grew again. That’s not right. It’s the worst reason and excuse for growth. No guidelines, no criteria, just a line drawn around the farmland surrounding the city because big pipes are nearby. And it gets worse. The city will annex portions of this vacant farmland and draw a TIF district around it, while hundreds of buildings within the city remain unused.

All the so-called flexibility built into the plan just weakens it more and won’t make up for an inflexible city council. The plan will probably meet state statutes but the State of Wisconsin should reject this growth plan because it’s not a growth plan. It’s more of a “wash our hands clean of any responsibility” growth plan.

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