NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I’m generally opposed to zoning changes, especially in residential areas. When people buy a home they should know what the rules are for what can and can’t be built nearby. Zoning sets out those rules.
The people who live in the Fountain Hills development have every expectation that future development near their homes would be residential. Never in their wildest dreams did they think a National Guard armory would be built down the road. They have every right to oppose a zoning change for the project. They have a strong argument that this project is out of character with their neighborhood.
The Wausau City Council will vote on the zoning change next month, and neighbors should to do anything they can to fight the proposal.
But they are making one mistake.
Residents at Fountain Hills have invited city council members to their homes. They want to meet with the decision-makers, while also giving them a close-up look at the neighborhood. I don’t think the residents have anything improper at heart, but this kind of meeting is inappropriate. It probably doesn’t pass muster with the state’s open meeting laws. Government bodies must conduct their business in public. The time, place, and agenda of government meetings must be posted. The appropriate forum for Fountain Hills residents to voice their concerns is at a public hearing at City Hall.
Let’s not forget there are probably people on the other side of this issue. Other interested parties have a right to be heard. There are dozens of men and women in our area who serve in the National Guard. They’ve been based at a small, run-down facility that needs to be replaced. They may support a zoning change for to allow for new construction. And they have a right to voice their opinions without the impression, real or otherwise, that council members were influenced in private.
The issue is also important to the news media. Access to decision-makers in public is a critical component to a free press.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau