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Summary of Conditions and Issues

From Small Group Discussion at the Public Meetings on October 18 & 20, 2004

Introduction

The City of La Crosse Planning Department, with assistance from the La Crosse County Planning Department, held two public meetings in October 2004, to facilitate discussion on the major issues and challenges facing the Southeast La Crosse and Town of Shelby area. Those in attendance at these meetings were randomly assigned to one of six smaller discussion groups, each composed of six to eight people. The discussion group topics were:

Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Cultural Resources

Housing, Building, and Economic Development

Transportation

Parks, Recreation, and Open Space

Utilities, and Public Facilities

Intergovernmental Cooperation

Each smaller group discussed and recorded their major discussion points and issues of concern and then presented a summary of their discussion to the larger group.

This report summarizes the discussion topics of each of the smaller groups. The issues are organized by the discussion group topics and have been further divided into categories covering similar concerns. The issues are stated as questions, suggestions, or concerns, as they were stated by participants in the discussion groups. These statements and questions along with data gathered in the visual preference survey and mail in survey will be used to guide staff research, and the development of the specific goals, objectives, and actions that will guide future development decisions in order to achieve the plan goals.

1. Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Cultural Resources

Natural Resources

Residents indicated a desire to protect the steep slopes and bluffs in the Town.

Stormwater management was identified as an issue that needs to be addressed in the plan.

Water quality was identified as an issue that needs to be addressed in the comprehensive plan.

Groundwater recharge and quality was identified as a concern by residents. What can be done to ensure that groundwater is clean and safe and being recharged and not overdrawn?

Who is responsible for oversight of the water resources in the area, from water quality to access?

Preservation of trees was discussed. Questions revolved around the extent to which trees and forested areas can be preserved.

Residents have indicated that the local deer herd is negatively impacting landscaping and yard plantings.

There was strong agreement by all to protect the bluff tops and coulees from future development.

Agriculture

There is general concern for the long term viability of agriculture in the region, especially in the presence of threats from development. Methods to preserve agricultural land while allowing development need to be addressed, however, education must also come into play as many opinions voiced on this subject tended to be contradictory in nature.

Most residents indicated support for agricultural preservation, as well as reluctance to limit an individual owner’s development rights. How can agricultural preservation and property owners’ rights to develop be balanced to allow for the preservation of prime agricultural land?

Residents felt that the current rules for development on steep slopes are too lenient, resulting in too much development on steep slopes. Should the buildable slope rule be amended to discourage development on steep slopes and bluff tops?

Residents indicated a desire for individual privacy at one’s home, as well as awareness that large individual lot sizes contribute to a greater erosion of the area’s rural character. What tools are available and who is responsible for regulating residential lot sizes? How can ˝ acre or smaller lots be required, encouraged, or enforced in the future?

Much of the "prime" agricultural land in the Town of Shelby has already been developed. Questions regarding "prime" agricultural land revolved around whether the remaining lands should be protected from development, or whether it is too far gone.

Cultural Resources

The majority of residents are interested in cultural resource preservation, but are unaware of what cultural resources exist in the Town. How are cultural resources identified? Who conducts the inventory and creates the list? What should be preserved?

Should the preservation of farm outbuildings be incorporated into future developments? If so, how will this be paid for?

What can be done to educate the general public and developers about the cultural resources in the area?

How can an archaeological survey of the entire study area be initiated and paid for?

2. Housing, Building, and Economic Development

Housing

Several people noted that there are separate distinct neighborhoods within the plan area, each with their own character and different issues. These distinct neighborhoods include the State Road/Hagen Road/Wedgewood area; the Highway 14/61 and Waterford Valley area; and the Southern Bluffs School and surrounding area.

What is the impact of different types of development on local property taxes?

Some participants mentioned that Town residents enjoy benefits of City provided assets such as streets and infrastructure, the La Crosse Center, festivals, the Loggers, etc. without sharing in the cost of providing them.

There was concern that new residential developments are solely large lot/large homes that are expensive. What can be done to ensure that affordable housing is provided within new developments and how should affordable housing be included?

How can a variety of housing choices (size, type, cost, rental vs. ownership, etc.) be ensured in the future?

Most people did not like the large lot residential development that has been occurring (i.e., greater than 1 acre). Should there be a lot size limit on new developments? If so, how should this be implemented? If not, can open space and prime agricultural lands be preserved through lot layout?

Some mentioned that mobile homes are affordable housing and should be encouraged in the area. Is there a consensus on this idea? Should mobile homes be endorsed as affordable housing? Should there be minimum design guidelines, lot sizes, and sewer and water requirements, for mobile home parks?

There was discussion about the aging of the population and their future housing and living needs. Is there a model for rural assisted living centers (and other related types of facilities) that allows older residents to remain in the rural setting versus moving to the City?

Many people spoke in favor of the bluffland conservation program. How can the Town and County contribute to the bluffland preservation program being conducted by the City & the Mississippi Valley Conservancy?

It was suggested that larger lots should be allowed near the bluff tops, as long as construction is located away from ridges and forested coulees. This would assist in preserving views and open space on the bluffs. This could be done in conjunction with clustered development with the ridges and coulees as the large common open spaces.

Energy conservation practices were strongly supported. How can housing and other development be designed to reduce utility and energy costs?

Building/Design

There was a general agreement that future developments need a mix of uses and building types including larger lots and smaller lots, building placements, and streetscaping types.

There does not appear to be much support for additional commercial or large scale employment centers within the planning area.

It was noted that the sidewalk and bicycle paths in the Town and the Southeastern La Crosse area do not connect at all locations. How can bicycle and/or pedestrian paths and sidewalks be included in all future developments?

Billboards were mentioned as negative impacts on the views and character of the area. Should there be special signage requirements for this area?

Other signage was also discussed and it was noted that there should be some consistency in the location, size, and type allowed in the area.

There was agreement that landscaping and site amenities should be included with all new developments to complement the character of the area.

Economic Development

The City and the Town have a seamless boundary in most places (can’t tell where the City ends and the Town begins). Should a buffer or green space separator be encouraged between the City and the Town? If so, how big and where? Who should pay the cost for acquiring and maintaining the green space?

There was general agreement that additional industry and business is not needed in the planning area.

There is a need for service level retail in areas near new development that will help eliminate some auto trips to La Crosse. How can convenience commercial be included in new residential developments and along major corridors? Are there any incentives that can be used to encourage this type of development in these areas and increase the likelihood of success for the business owner? Where should it be located?

There was not a clear feeling for or against adding tourist related businesses, such as hotels, near the shrine.

3. Transportation

The discussion groups would like to be better informed of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) long term plans for the widening of State Highway 35, and U.S. Highway 14/61.

The major State and U.S. Highways that run through the Town of Shelby and Southeastern La Crosse are a concern for the future, primarily in the areas of bicycle and pedestrian crossing safety, vehicular access, vehicular and pedestrian safety at major intersections, and increased speeds associated with highway widening. What can be done to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety on the State & U.S. Highways?

Bicycle and pedestrian safety is not very good throughout the planning area and specifically along and across the State & U.S. Highways.

The major intersections are difficult and unsafe to cross on foot or by bike.

It is often difficult to get onto the State & U.S. Highways from adjacent neighborhoods.

Certain residential development types have less impact on the transportation network than others. How can these types of developments be encouraged or even mandated by the City and the Town?

The pedestrian transportation network is currently incomplete and does not provide continuous paths throughout the planning area.

The signal timing on Losey Boulevard and Mormon Coulee Road is poor. How can signal timing along the entire length of these roads be coordinated?

The discussion groups were not convinced that public transportation is a realistic alternative in the outlying portions of the planning area. Small mass transit vehicles, instead of the large buses, would be the best first step.

Some participants felt that High School and college students should be discouraged from driving to school because they park on the main streets and cause unnecessary traffic congestion in the City.

Some participants mentioned that they would like to see an alternative route to travel from the Mormon Coulee area north to the Interstate/West Salem area, without having to go through La Crosse. Are there any realistic alternatives for north-south travel on the eastern side of the Town?

4. Parks, Recreation, & Open Space

Parks

It is difficult to walk and bike to Goose Island Park.

Many residents are not familiar with the park facilities offered in the Town of Shelby.

Camping should be removed from Goose Island.

The trail system in Goose Island Park should be improved to foster greater use by local residents.

How can additional parks be provided in the planning area?

Is there land available for new parks? What funds can be used to acquire this land?

Should additional access points be provided for fishing? If so where?

Is there a way to track how park impact fees paid by developers are being spent?

Is there a requirement for the construction of new parks with new residential development?

Recreation

The pedestrian facilities (sidewalks and multi-use paths) in the planning area are not always interconnected. How can the pedestrian network be improved?

Should sidewalks be required in new developments?

Where are different types of recreation activities needed within the planning area? For example, where is children’s play equipment needed? Where are recreation fields needed? Where are running, walking, and biking paths needed?

Is there a need for additional boat access points on the Mississippi River? If so, where?

Open Space

The majority of residents agree that there should be no new development on the blufftops. What methods are available to ensure that there is no new development on top of the bluffs? Are there areas that are more susceptible to development?

How can the City and the Town best protect key sensitive areas and important wildlife habitat?

What preservation and enforcement tools are available to protect trees from new development?

5. Utilities and Public Facilities

Utilities

Sewer service is more desirable for Town residents where it is cost effective to install.

Will City sewer service cost more for Town residents?

Can sewer service be required but not water?

How much additional capacity can the La Crosse Municipal Sewer Treatment facility handle?

Is there a way to get sewer and water service without annexing to the City?

The City and the Town should have an agreement to fund sewer capacity projects and allow connection for all residents regardless of location.

How can or should ground water quality be monitored in areas with a high density of septic systems?

Shared septic systems for residential developments are a good idea. Can this be required? If so, what is maximum number of units that can be connected to one system?

In general there is a desire to explore and provide incentives for the use of renewable energy (particularly wind and solar energy). What types of incentives are available to developers and residents?

Participants were surprised to learn that stormwater runoff flows directly to the streams and rivers, and is not treated before it does so. Is there a method for passively treating stormwater runoff to reduce pollution prior to entry into natural watersheds?

How can the construction of retention ponds and natural filtering of storm water be required and paid for?

Public Facilities

It would be nice to have a new fire and police station located further to the east in the Town to better serve the outlying portions of the Town.

What funding mechanisms are available to build and staff a new fire station?

Who will provide the police and fire staff necessary in a new facility?

6. Intergovernmental Cooperation

The discussion groups felt that there are too many layers of government and too many inconsistencies between the different levels in terms of development standards and what is allowable.

How can the Towns, Villages, Cities, and Counties, coordinate governmental permitting in an effort to reduce the levels of bureaucracy that exist and to create consistent ordinances and regulations?

There should be a regional plan that is followed by all level of governments.

Can the different levels of government agree on consistent regional planning goals? What is the mechanism to create a regional approach to planning on issues that affect the entire County?

We should look at models of regional planning or regional government that would address multi-jurisdictional problem solving.

Is there a desire by the electorate to reduce the number of government entities in the area?

What type of boundary agreement can be developed that will prevent future litigation between the City and the Town?

Can the City provide sewer and water service without annexation?

What needs to be done to address (stormwater) drainage issues that cut across jurisdictional lines?

Updated:   10/08/2009                                  

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