Racine-area commuters received good news when the proposed Culver’s at the intersection of Highway 38 and 31 got approval for a zoning change to move forward.
The proposal still has to overcome a few other hurdles, but the Caledonia approval was a big one. It was the right decision.
While about 80 people packed Caledonia’s village hall, many in opposition to the plan, the business did end up prevailing, helping Caledonia slowly but surely change its reputation from the Village of No to, hopefully, the Village of Yes — at least sometimes.
Caledonia has developed the reputation locally as the Village of No because of the number of times it has rejected development plans for a Walmart or other businesses. With the closure of the Kmart at 5141 Douglas Ave., area residents needing basic necessities have to travel to get them.
Culver’s is not a basic necessity (although some may debate that). But it is a community amenity. It’s a fun, quick family restaurant for custard or a fish fry. It adds to the community. It also adds to the tax base, as business advocates pointed out at the Village Board meeting on Monday. Matt Montemurro, the president and CEO of Racine Area Manufacturers And Commerce, added that Caledonia’s “residential tax base won’t be able to keep up with the actual costs of police, fire (or) public works” without new business.
He continued by saying: “By inviting and welcoming businesses into this community, you invite and welcome jobs.”
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Opponents, some of whom live near the proposed development area, brought up numerous concerns. But most of them were unfounded. For one, a flyer distributed to Caledonia residents claimed: “Caledonia is planning to cover every square mile with urban use.” That’s a big stretch. Even if the Culver’s has some peripheral effect, development is never going to cover the entire village.
The intersection of highways 31 and 38 is a busy intersection, and that makes it perfect for development. Opponents said there are less disruptive places to put the restaurant. That may be true, but Business 101 tells you that you put a new business where there is the most traffic. Constructing a new business at a busy intersection is not covering “every square mile with urban use.”
When residents move into an area, there is no guarantee that area will stay unchanged forever.
The farm field or empty field in the back may eventually be new apartment buildings or a new company looking to expand.
Government officials need to take into account how development affects the environment and the community as a whole. In this case, Caledonia and Mount Pleasant are doing the right thing, allowing development at an already-busy intersection. It just makes sense.