Council continues public hearing on comprehensive plan
WHAT THEY SAID
“We’d like to see some of those lines pulled back and in farther so we can preserve some of our farmland.”
—Harold Hanauska, Harmony Town Board member
“The land on the Rock Prairie is … the richest farmland found on earth. Sooner or later we have to make a stand.
“Taking fertile farmland, when other options are available, is not sustainable. I’m not against the growth of the city. But let’s define and refine our idea of growth.”
—Julie Backenkeller, 719 N. Grant Ave., Janesville
“I think this plan hits the target right on the money … I love that this plan is strong with encouraging infill … throughout the city, not just the downtown. This plan is a good, fair balance of our most scarce and valuable resource: land. It’s a plan for the future. I disagree with the idea of eliminating future (urban) reserve land. That should be fair notice in the year 2100 that that might be housing.”
—Doug Marklein, 3919 Dorchester Drive, Janesville
“I applaud the city council for actively soliciting input. When this process began, (the city) welcomed recommendations, and I believe they are reflected in this plan. Literally hundreds of people have shared their thoughts about this community and its future. This process was remarkably inclusive …”
—Dan Cunningham, Forward Janesville
“We have to preserve the best farmland for food production.”
—Margaret Pulera, Darien
JANESVILLE Comments on Janesville’s proposed comprehensive plan ran the gamut Monday.
Some speakers called it a land grab and pleaded with the council to do more to preserve farmland.
Others said the plan is on target.
The state requires that communities have 20-year plans to identify appropriate land development. Janesville has been working on its plan since 2006 and sponsored a survey and community meetings as part of its information gathering.
But the Sustainable Janesville Committee, recently formed by the council, asked for more time to study the plan. Some of its members have been critical of what they say is lack of farmland protection.
The council did not approve a request to suspend the second reading of the ordinance so the plan could be approved Monday. Rather, it heard the staff report and opened the public hearing, continuing the hearing until Monday, March 9, when the council is then expected to vote.
Four council members—George Brunner, Kathy Voskuil, Russ Steeber and Bill Truman—voted to suspend the second reading of the ordinance so they could vote on the plan Monday.
But Tom McDonald, Yuri Rashkin and Amy Loasching preferred to give the council and community more time to study the plan. A two-thirds majority would have been needed to vote Monday.
Mike Slavney of the consulting firm that prepared the growth plan said he has never worked for a city so well prepared to grow in every direction.
He also said he has not seen another community seek as much public involvement.
Some residents and council members questioned the projected growth in the plan, especially in light of Janesville’s economic woes.
Councilman Yuri Rashkin said new construction is practically non-existent and noted that the plan calls GM the industrial anchor of the community.
The projections are based on economic cycles and actual trends, Slaveny said. Some of the plan must be brought up to date, since parts of it were drafted months ago.
Slavney said the plan commission and city staff responded to concerns about preserving farmland by cutting back an area designated as urban reserve and leaving it agricultural and rural.
The urban reserve identified areas of logical development beyond the 20-year planning period, he said.
And the plan now would direct the city to work with towns and the county to consider implementing purchase or transfer of development rights programs in areas appropriate for long-term agricultural use, Slavney said. That assumes the city would work with the county and towns to limit rural residential development to a maximum density of one home per 35 acres.
What about the property owner who might want to more densely develop that land? council member Russ Steeber asked.
If within 3 miles of the city, he or she would have to get subdivision approval from the city, town and also the county, Slavney said. Steeber said he has some concerns for that reason about removing the urban reserve.
Slavney said growth historically has been to the north and east, toward the best farmland.
“We’re trying to encourage more development on the north and west sides … We’re not sure we’ll be successful,” Slavney said.