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Friday, April 07, 2006

The view from Mound Road

When I need to drive to Lake Geneva from our offices in Delavan, I typically take Mound Road east. It’s quiet and un-crowded. There’s a small bridge where the road crosses a creek, which at some undermined spot upstream becomes the Delavan Lake inlet.

I continue on to Highway H, which takes me in to Lake Geneva the back way, from the north.
Coming back, if I have time, I prefer the leisurely route to the south of Geneva Lake. Just past Big Foot Beach, I’m quickly out of the city and into the country. There are barns and fields and cows grazing off in the distance. It doesn’t really seem like it’s the gateway to one of southern Wisconsin’s top tourist destinations.

I was on Mound Road Wednesday morning and I made sure to commit the view to memory because, as Mike Heine reports in Sunday’s cover story, the view could be very different in a few short years from now.

I’ve never felt it is this newspaper’s role to take a side in the inevitable tug of war over development.
There are those who will welcome these huge residential developments for the benefits it will bring to the tax base and the economic livelihood of our communities.

There are others who will decry the destruction of what are now quiet rural areas—the very environment that draws people to Walworth County.

Sunday's cover story gives the debate some perspective.
Our great advantage in Walworth County is that we haven’t screwed things up—yet. And we won’t if we’re careful and thoughtful about how we proceed.

Development is an unpredictable science. One of the issues in the Elkhorn mayor’s race, for example, was how to balance residential and small retail. That’s a difficult balancing act for any community.

Yes, there have been some missteps over the years. The benefits of jobs and tax revenue that were to flow from Delavan’s dog track were never realized; however the whole state fell for the mirage of easy money that dog racing promised.

There is great prosperity in Walworth County, but there is great need as well. Escalating home prices far outpace wage growth in this area. The old saying goes that if you work in Walworth County, you can’t afford to live here—not exactly accurate, but there’s a grain of truth.

Walworth County is an attractive and popular place to live. I doubt we could stop growing if we wanted to. But if we engage in rigorous debate, political compromise and visionary thinking, we can make the most of the benefits of development while keeping the downside to the minimum.

I’m not quite sure what my drive down Mound Road might look like 10 years from now, although I am quite certain it will be very different. My hope is that it will remain one of my favorite drives in Walworth County.
~Dan Plutchak, editor

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