The Coulee Region has had its share of costly border battles.
Cities and towns have sued each other. They’ve ignored each other. They’ve duplicated services and wasted money and opportunity for developing a stronger region.
That’s why the boundary agreement between the city of La Crosse and town of Shelby is so important for the future of our region.
Proponents say the agreement — if approved by both entities — will mean both the town and city can grow property tax revenue and provide more opportunity for residential and economic development — development that has gone to other parts of the region in recent years.
Shelby Town Chairman Tim Candahl said: “For the last 30 to 40 years, we’ve watched growth and development in this area move to the north, so we’ve decided to take it upon ourselves to see what we can do to help each get some growth into the south side.”
The agreement both acknowledges and tackles some of the boundary issues that make no sense.
Take the notion of town islands.
There are parts of Shelby —- the area around Ward Avenue and South 28th Street, and the area around Cliffside Drive and Crown Boulevard — surrounded by La Crosse.
As La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said of those islands: “From a providing services perspective, they make no sense.”
But borders can change. More important, our leaders can change how we work together to serve citizens in an efficient, collaborative manner.
Hours of work on this complex agreement should set the proper town for intergovernmental collaboration — and pay off with increased efficiency.
The agreement accomplishes some key objectives.
It sets a blueprint for future development. It makes it clear to developers and service providers alike what the growth will look like — and how best to develop responsibly. Some areas limit annexation — and other areas will require it. But the work on this agreement should mean that legal fights will be a thing of the past.
It acknowledges that services come with a cost. Shelby residents have been taking their children to La Crosse Parks and Recreation programs and paying the higher, nonresident fees while paying no charge for using the La Crosse Public Library because they’re already paying for being part of the county library system, for instance. Beginning in 2020, the town will pay the city roughly $30 per Shelby household for services, increasing each year, and Shelby residents will be charged La Crosse rates — instead of the nonresident rate — for any city services they use. “From the city, that was very important. Not so much for the dollar amount, but just the recognition that the city has been providing regional services, and now we’re actually receiving something to put toward those regional services,” Kabat said.
Some of the details in the proposed agreement won’t be popular. But we’re impressed with the give-and-take that took place to develop the document.
We’ve seen an increase in boundary agreements in recent years — the village of Holmen and town of Holland last spring, as an example. That’s a positive sign and a trend that needs to continue as our region tackles such important issues as regional transportation and urban sprawl.
There will be a public hearing at 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at Central High School in La Crosse.
Clearly, this a multifaceted agreement that requires scrutiny. But it certainly appears that it’s a very encouraging step for growth and collaboration in our region.