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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
Phillips plat still bad idea (10/07/2007)
By John Edstrom

It was disappointing, but not particularly surprising, to see the City Council vote to approve the preliminary plat for the Phillips development out in Pleasant Valley. This time, at least, the council did not vote in lockstep with City Hall and the Mayor, which is a positive development. In voting nay to the project, council members Deb Salyards and Gerry Krage stressed its financial dubiousness from the city's standpoint, which must pay for the long "string" of sewer and water out to the "balloon" of the Phillips project, in a time when there is a large inventory of unsold lots in the area, and a going on two-year slowdown in home building.

This year, according to MLS figures, nine lots have sold through Oct. 6. Last year's number for that period was 11. Clearly, another 88 brought on line in the Phillips project will add to a glut. From the Winona taxpayer's standpoint, when will the city ever get paid back for its investment, its extra investment, in stringing services out into Pleasant Valley? Especially when there are already plenty of lots available to enable growth and added tax base without spending anything additional?

Ordinarily, one might think City Hall could be trusted to keep track of such considerations, but then City Hall is currently plotting yet another referendum to raise taxes necessary to complete infrastructure required by its last adventure, the retail development on the East End which was originally sold as an industrial park. Let it be remembered that that project, now supposedly requiring another special new tax, was built in the first place with special tax dollars. So it is good that someone on the council is finally starting to watch a buck.

However, there are other important considerations that bear reiterating, perhaps even more important in the long run. Councilman Breza pointed out that the development would enhance land already disturbed, while Borzyskowski referenced many other developments that the council had approved and which brought investment dollars into the city. These remarks conveniently ignore the issue of "string and balloon" annexation and a basic question of fairness. Other developers have bought land and developed it according to the existing rules. They have unsold inventory that must now compete with the new Phillips lots which, it can be easily argued, have been unfairly subsidized by city government. To whose benefit and why?

The longterm residents of Pleasant Valley, who chose to live in the country and build according to township rules, are now forced to live cheek by jowl with much denser city development, in an area which shelters a delicate trout stream, and just showed itself subject to catastrophic flooding. Why should their interests be sacrificed to one development. To whose benefit?

Can anyone now come along and buy cheap land, and then be enriched by special treatment and investment from the city? Why would he get such consideration? From whom or what individuals?

Councilman Borzyskowski spoke glowingly of the dollars that developments bring to the city, and of course that is an important consideration for those who make a living here. But there is the question of living here, which is of utmost importance to those of us doing it for the long run, and which is of a consideration that far outweighs short-term financial gain. If we destroy the basic charm of our river town home, with its pretty valleys and bluffs, by filling it up with chock-a-block construction and ill-considered sprawl (for whose benefit?), everything will be worth less, in every way, in the future.

Some of the people who are entrusted with city government are becoming aware of this, but there's a long way to go.



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