Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More On The Public Policy Forum Land Wealth Report

The Public Policy Forum's study about per-capita property wealth in southeastern Wisconsin that I posted about a couple of days ago also contains some more interesting tidbits about the city-suburban divide in these here parts.

And The Forum posted some followup on its blog (who knew it had a blog?) about some previous prognostications about when Waukesha County might surpass Milwaukee County in property wealth.

(Plot-spoiler. It won't.)

But back to the report.Walworth County's passing Waukesha County on the per-capita wealth scale, regardless of how much real world importance it has, will resonate across Waukesha.


Because Waukesha County prided itself on being, by this one real estate measurement, the region's wealthiest county, and dropping to #2 position could spur more water-demanding, sprawling annexations pushed by Waukesha politicians across the county who will be obsessed with returning to #1.

Converting raw land to higher tax-generating lots and subdivisions is the way to win headlines, and the real estate valuation wars with Walworth, but annexations come with political and financial costs for infrastructure that sometimes zero out the tax-base gains.

One piece of good news for Waukesha County in the report: It's still home to the region's single highest valued municipality per-capita - - the Village of Chenequa - - where each resident in that "lake country" community counts for $923,000 in real estate value, according to the study.

Little wonder. Homes there must be built on lots no smaller than two acres if they front on the Village's lakes, and on no less than five acres otherwise.

Chenequa's codes are one of the region's best examples of exclusionary zoning - - a legal method of making sure that low, medium and even some nearly-upper class people cannot afford to move in next door.

In fact, you won't see any apartment buildings in Chenequa, or, for that matter, commercial buildings of any kind; the building codes rule them out.

Chenequa's homepage is really worth a visit.

The village tells its virtual visitors (and if you drive there, don't park on the residential streets, as that is illegal) that Chenequa was founded solely for residential purposes "so as to offer its citizens the peace and quiet and restfulness unobtainable in the city."

No wonder why some residents in the City of Milwaukee, or in any city, would find regional cooperation with suburban neighbors like these such an uphill climb?

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