Beginning at 7 PM last night, after an immediately prior Planning Commission meeting, Common Council and the Planning Commission held a joint public hearing to consider proposed changes to Whitewater’s residential zoning code.
The meeting lasted until about ten, with further consideration of the changes scheduled for Tuesday, March 18th.
A few remarks, below, on last night’s meeting.
A well-organized, public process. Tuesday’s meeting was well-organized, orderly, civil, and transparent. That’s true of this entire process of rezoning: it’s been publicly announced, commented on, and advanced over a multi-year period in a transparent way.
It’s simply false to imply (as did the Banner‘s publisher on Monday) that this has been a process-deficient effort. Nothing’s been hidden, nothing’s been rushed.
A process like this is proof that Whitewater can deliberate over contentious issues thoroughly and civilly.
Unfounded pre-hearing worries over students at the public hearing. One sometimes reads, but more often hears, all sorts of narrow, provincial fear about students or student housing. Among those concerns, consider this absurd gem, again from the Banner:
….In addition the Whitewater Student Government (WSG) Senators evidently have been invited to this meeting – From WSG Facebook “We will have a special meeting tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. Afterwards every senator and board member will head downtown to City Hall for the Whitewater Zoning Rewrite meeting at about 7 p.m. We want to ensure Whitewater students are represented”….
Got that? Someone invited the Visigoths inside Rome’s city walls. Oh dearie me, there goes the empire…
These remarks are both condescending and unbecoming of a free place.
First, they assume that representatives of student government needed to be invited, as though they were incapable of reading the City of Whitewater’s website and following developments in the city in which they reside on their own initiative.
(It’s even stranger that those who have earned a salary at UW-Whitewater think so little of the students who attend, and who are, after all, the means of their very sustenance.)
Second – and more significantly — those who reside in the city have a right under law to attend a municipal public meeting. They don’t need an invitation – the failure to provide one cannot serve as a basis for exclusion from a public meeting.
Attendance is a right, and it matters not in the least what a local publisher thinks or frets about the matter.
A sensible decision to continue the meeting. It was a long night, because many exercised their right to speak, and then participants reviewed methodically the contents of the proposed changes. Continuing the remainder of the review again soon is a practical decision.
It’s contradictory to complain (erroneously) that this process has been a closed one and then whine that the open meetings involved are taking too long.
Understanding the consequences of market changes. Some of those who spoke last night recognized that although they would have preferred more single family homes in their neighborhoods, market changes in those areas now mean that it’s economically advantageous to sell their homes as apartment residences.
That’s rational, and follows a similar pattern on Tratt Street.
Parties favoring restrictive zoning overlays. I’m strongly opposed to allowing those not advocating restrictions for their own neighborhoods to impose restrictions on others’ neighborhoods. Property owners in a neighborhood should be the ones to propose encumbering their properties and others’ homes – petitions should not come from the city manager, politicians in town, etc., not feeling the weight of those restrictions themselves (there and then, in that petition).
The Right’s problem in Whitewater I’m a libertarian, and so neither Republican nor Democrat, neither of the Left nor Right.
Although the Right in Whitewater hasn’t asked, I’ll offer them some sincere advice: you’re going to need a new generation of local voices on the Web, because your current right-of-center publication just can’t carry a political argument well, in either reasoning or composition.
Whitewater will always do better with many rather than few. I have always hoped for, and believed in, a city of many diverse opinions.
It doesn’t matter that they’ll differ from mine – it matters first that people may express themselves, and second that by doing so they’ll enrich the city.
Whitewater is not one thing, it’s many things.
I find the idea of trying to sum the city into one number sometimes rigid, often silly, and always unworthy of an American marketplace of ideas.
Still, conservatives, on politics you very much need new standard-bearers in the city. You and others will both be better for it.
But of last night’s meeting – well done, I’d say.