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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

City Growth Plans Are Set In Stone, Unless...

During a city council discussion to consider a property owner's zoning change request came this remark from Janesville Council Member Tom McDonald regarding the city's Comprehensive growth Plan.
Quote From Council meeting:
(March 22, 2010)
"Again it is my understanding that this rezoning would be inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan, so under Wisconsin law can we even do this? My understanding is we would have to open up the (Comp) plan and actually change the plan and there would be an entire process that would go into that, so that is something we would not be able to do tonight."
The response from the city staffer? "Correct!"

Oddly, nobody challenged McDonald on that assertion. I say that because when the city council voted to approve of the city's growth plan just over one year ago, several council members justified their vote in favor of approval by insisting the plan was not set in stone because each zoning, annexation or development request would be judged case-by-case. Excluding this blog at the time, that premise was left unchallenged.

In addition to the obvious false justifications to hurriedly approve of the Comp Plan, and less than one month after (April, 2009) the plan was approved, the Janesville community planning director (no less) said that the city’s newly minted Comprehensive Plan was actually unable to direct future growth within the city's own school district. At least 60% of future development growth is expected to occur inside the Milton School District! Just incredible.

In another council discussion a month after (May, 2009) the school district disclosure, several council members repeated yet again how each parcel, development and proposal brought to the council would be acted upon and voted independently on their own merit. That the plan was not laid in stone, but simply a guide that could be changed at anytime.

In yet another challenge (June, 2009) to the city council's sense of flexibility regarding the Comp Plan guidelines, the City Manager (who did not challenge the council's "flexibility" assertion during approval of the Comp Plan) repeatedly interrupted and warned council members that approving a zoning change request that happens to run counter to the plan would set "a new and dangerous precedent."

However, that McDonald's statement on Monday night went unchallenged was finally an admittance that the council's general understanding of the Comp Plan was false from the start. Once the Comprehensive Plan and its boundaries and zoning requirements are approved, it becomes the written law making it nearly impossible to change zoning or deny annexation other than that specified by the plan. Unless as McDonald said, it is cracked open which will probably require public notices, additional hearings and of course, a different approach and goal to future growth.

After rushing the plan into approval eight months early, it's unfortunate that their willingness to accept some truth had to come one year too late.

Note: The city council eventually voted against the property owner's zoning change request at Monday night's meeting because, "it is inconsistent with the city's Comprehensive Growth Plan."

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