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Guest Column: County throws out its own playbook by ignoring land-use plan
Editor’s note: The following is in response to Paul Gorski’s July 3-9 “Meet John Doe” column “County ignores long-range plans, wasting tax dollars, risking growth.”
By Steve Schultz
Winnebago County Board member, District 3
I thank Paul Gorski for his commentary describing the county board’s failure to follow our 2030 Plan (LRMP) (“Meet John Doe: County ignores long-range plans, wasting tax dollars, risking growth” July 3-9, 2013 issue). I’d like to expand on his discussion and address the seriousness of our board’s dismissal of the public’s will and the economic impact of ignoring the LRMP.
I was personally involved in the development of the LRMP as a resident and as a board member, as were many other citizens and leaders in our county. Dozens of meetings and hundreds of hours of public input and debate went into the plan. Residents, business owners, and local government leaders came together and discussed the future of the county.
We considered optimizing growth to attract new business, while implementing “green” planning to reduce the impact of growth on rivers, groundwater, flora and fauna. The result was a groundbreaking consensus about how best to grow the county, the law known as the 2030 Land Resource Management Plan.
“Jobs” were a key element of the plan. Unmanaged growth jeopardizes the creation of new jobs. Poor zoning decisions can lead to second- and third-place choices for the use of our valuable land. We are a first-rate county — we deserve first-rate jobs. Breaking with the plan costs us jobs.
We also recognized that making zoning and land-use exceptions for special interests hurts the county, and we were determined to stop these bad practices. But we haven’t stopped. The county board continues to cave in to special interests, ignoring the mandate from the community to focus on our common goals for growth and prosperity. Ironically, the board often cites “jobs” when they violate the LRMP. But they are only getting a few short-term construction jobs (sometimes), as they eliminate the potential for many more jobs.
The LRMP isn’t a simple two-page brochure listing lofty ideals; the plan is more than 200 pages long, with specific goals and strategies to meet those goals. The LRMP is our playbook for success, and the county board has thrown the playbook out, risking our plans for job creation and economic growth.
We need to get back into the game and follow the 2030 Land Resource Management Plan. Voters need to hold our local officials accountable when they do not follow the plan.
Steve Schultz is Winnebago County Board member in District 3.
From the July 10-16, 2013, issue