Highway Department plans good for everyone

CONSOLIDATING THE COUNTY HIGHWAY Department headquarters and Elkhart Lake and Plymouth sheds in the town of Plymouth is a good idea – and will be a plus for taxpayers and residents not just locally but throughout the county.

The county made the plans public last week when they sought rezoning from the Plymouth Town Board for the 38-plus acre parcel in the town of Plymouth on the southwest corner of the intersection of State 67 and County J.

Plans call for eventually closing the Elkhart Lake and Plymouth sheds, as well as the department’s 1950’s vintage offices and garage on North 23rd Street in Sheboygan. The proposed $20 million complex – along with current sheds on Sheboygan’s north and south sides and in Cascade - would give the department an efficient four-corners approach to its task of maintaining the county’s road system.

The proposal ran the gamut of up and down in one night before the town, with the Zoning Commission recommending denial of the rezoning before the Town Board unanimously approved the rezoning.

A number of valid and reasonable concerns were raised during the public hearing before the Zoning Commission which led the commissioners to reach their conclusion, although by the margin of just one vote.

Safety was one concern, both the potential for county trucks and other vehicles to add to traffic congestion on County J and State 67, and from salt storage and other issues at the site.

Traffic impacts would be minimized, however, by placing the entrancetothesiteonCountyJagooddistancefromtheintersection with State 67. Additionally, the heaviest traffic in and out of the site would not be at the same times as the heaviest traffic to and from adjacent Road America on both County J and State

67, whether one considers time of day, day of the week or time of year.

Issues such as safe salt storage and other potentially hazardous materials are carefully and closely monitored by the state Department of

Natural Resources, county Transportation Director

Greg Schnell assured the board. Those measures already safely protect residents in the county and around the state at other highway facilities and same for neighbors of this site. should be the

The largest issue raised was the concern over the loss of farmland – a reasonable and understandable concern.

Unfortunately, not all farmland is going to remain farmland forever and, while the effort must and will continue to save as much farmland as possible, it has to be recognized that some will continue to be lost to good purposes. This will be a good purpose.

The town earlier rejected a rezoning for the same parcel when a residential subdivision was the plan and that was right. This proposed use will create a lesser impact than a residential development would have.

The new complex will also enable the county to return three existing facilities – in the town of Plymouth, the village of Elkhart Lake and the city of Sheboygan – to the tax rolls by the selling the no-longer-needed buildings.

More importantly, it will make the Highway Department more streamlined and efficient, better able to serve the needs of all county residents in clearing highways in the winter and repairing and maintaining them year-round.

That is a greater good that we call can benefit from and support.

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