Growth or Sprawl?
A partial view of the 64 acres of land, located on U.S. Highway 10, looking to be purchased by the city of Stevens Point. Photo by Ross Vetterkind

Growth or Sprawl?

The city of Stevens Point purchased 64 acres of land off Highway 10 in the hopes of developing the area in the future.

At the Aug. 7 City Council meeting, the council authorized the option of a $590,000 purchase for 64 acres of land consisting of 53 acres of open land and the adjacent about 11 acres of property, which includes a single-family home and outbuildings.

According to a report from the city’s department of community development, the Bickford Family Trust is listed as the seller of both properties. There is no official plan for the property, according to the report, but the city could use it for future development.

First District Alderperson, Tori Jennings, said, “Since the surface water is under four feet, any type of development will be very expensive. Additionally, due to the shallow depth, there will be no basements, decreasing the possible value of future houses by $25,000. The development will require new infrastructure and the city of Stevens Point will be responsible for implementing and managing it.”

The discussions surrounding future development of the lot have led to concerns about environmental degradation and suburban sprawl.

“It is uncertain how developing this land would impact the surrounding wetlands and ecosystems,” said Jennings.

Ninth District Alderperson Mary McComb said, “The land was bought to maintain control of that corridor. This is land banking in a way and I would like to see it preserved as a conservation area but understandably that is highly unlikely. I don’t think it is a good prospect for development due to the high water table.”

Should the land be developed, the prices of houses could range between $120,000 to $150,000 said McComb.

University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point geography and geology associate professor Ismaila Odogba said “Stevens Point has a growth mindset assuming that all growth is good but if you build low income houses, you attract lower wage earners and therefore have lower tax revenue. Even though there are sensitive areas on the property, the city has to have a return on investment.”

Odogba is conducting a capstone course where students are tasked with analyzing the land and recommending three options to the city planning commission for development. The options could be either residential, commercial or a mixture of both. Students will be able to gain professional experience and use Geographic Information System technologies with the aid of GIS faculty associate Christine Koeller.

Koeller and Odogba advised Yoon Bin Bae, an undergraduate student who researched tax revenue for land parcels in Stevens Point and Portage County. Their research found evidence of suburban sprawl as properties closer to the city core, near downtown and Main street produced more tax revenue than newer developments when revenue was standardized by the acreage of land a development consumes.

The study also showed that 3D models are very powerful communication tools. We do not look at the world from above looking down which is the view of many 2D maps, we look at it from the side, Koeller said.

Koeller said, “Nature does not respect political boundaries. If the wetlands are drained, it can impact other surrounding sensitive areas. We need to focus on infill infrastructure and maximising land currently available.”

 

Michelle Wilde

Reporter

Michelle.J.Wilde@uwsp.edu

About Michelle Wilde

Senior Psychology and International Studies major. Coffee has replaced my blood.

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