Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Road To Sprawlville Chapter XVIII: Tear Out That Corn, Now!

The Village of Wales, in Waukesha County, would rather have a vacant lot than seven acres of corn growing there.

That's because Wales can collect more property taxes on the vacant land, zoned commercial, than it can collect if the same parcel of land is in agricultural use.

The owner says he won't ask to pay taxes at the lower rate: he just wants to grow corn on the property, put the crop to use as cattle feed, and then replant the acreage with grass.

But the Village powers-that-be want the land returned to its potential commercial use immediately, before this year's corn is ready to be harvested.

In other words - - get that corn off those seven acres and make that vacant lot vacant again.

I've been out that way a few times. In fact, Chapter IV of this occasional series, The Road To Sprawlville, was a trip to "Cow Corner" in Wales, where the need for an office building and a coffee shop jeopardized another small piece of agricultural land.

It's a pretty area and it's got a famous Frozen Custard Stand, LuDuc's, but like so many small Waukesha communities across the Kettle Moraine, Wales' rural heritage is giving way to subdivisions and related development.

Still, this all sounds more about local politics and the exercise of power than it is about whether seven acres of corn is out-of-character for the village..

Regardless, it makes you wonder why, in this day and age, some government officials would be willing to have several thousands of dollars of perfectly good feed corn deliberately go to waste?

And why they would make the case that a vacant lot is a better land tenant in their small but growing Village (in the 2000 census, 2,523 residents, on 2.4 square miles), than a small field of corn.

Thanks to Darryl Enriquez of the Milwaukee Journal Story for an interesting story.

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