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A new battle concept for comprehensive plan hearing: Listen

Halverson (click for larger version)

A public hearing on Lake Geneva's comprehensive plan will be held during the regular city council meeting of Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. The Comprehensive Plan and proposed amendment, which is for the Geneva Ridge Joint Venture 710 acres on the southeast side of the city, are available for review at city hall or on the city website at cityoflakegeneva.com, which also includes other information on the topic. Written comments on the proposed amendments should be submitted before the public hearing date to the city clerk.
August 10, 2011 | 07:54 AM
Spyro "Speedo" Condos and I haven't always agreed.

I often see him outside his restaurant when I'm going to take a lakeshore walk and we have short conversations. Last Saturday, Speedo and I had one of these sidewalk conversations. I commented on how nice I thought the bridge looked; he didn't totally agree with me — which is, as I said, not all that unusual.

"I'm a heritage guy," he said.

He went on to say that while it was nice that the bridge was completed, he wished it would have been done with a greater sense of history -- with bricks, maybe, like Delavan's main street; or at least more stonework that matched up with the Riviera. I looked over my shoulder as we talked and brought the Riviera into view.

We did agree that the night lights look good, but he felt that some forward looking bridge designers, who also had a sense to look to the past, might have done a better job. As someone who also considers himself a "heritage guy," I had to reassess my thinking. He's right, I decided. As nice as it looks, it could have been done with a better sense of history.

This brings us to the real subject of this column: The upcoming public hearing on the city's comprehensive plan which is for the 710 acres of property owned by Geneva Ridge Joint Venture. The developers are asking the city to change the Comprehensive Master Plan to what it was shown on maps for years — basically an urban growth area.

It's an age-old debate: "progress" vs. "heritage." The battle has often become ugly and hearings like this tend to rekindle old fires.

Sometimes change is bad. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes we mistake change for progress; sometimes we take it as a step forward. It's an easy subject to misread. The city council hearing will, no doubt, bring these emotions to the surface.

The "sides" are already organizing, but I propose a different path: Listening.

Sometimes we fall back on knee jerk reactions or past experiences. We learn from our past experiences but we can also be fooled by them into thinking all similar experiences result in the same conclusions while ignoring nuances that separate the new experience from the last one. To take old experiences and see them in new light is what's called wisdom.

Even if you aren't moved to the other side listening can serve a function. If you can agree as far as you can and then explain your own position, it only makes your perspective more convincing.

On the other hand, when we come in with preconceived ideas and forget to listen to the opposition we often create, or feed into, a shooting war which just hardens the other side and rarely sheds true light on a subject.

Speedo and I left on good terms the other day. And it took a few minutes of re-evaluation to change my mind to his perspective while keeping the seed of my own. The bridge does look nice, I decided, but it could have been better.

Maybe next time around we'll disagree. Such is the spice of life and, if done civilly and with an open mind, it can also be makings of progress. I hope the public hearings are handled the same way — with smart conversations and open minds, and a handshake when all is said and done.

Halverson is the general manager of the Regional News.

Editor's Note: There was a correction made to this story online, making it slightly different than the editorial that appeared in the Regional News. The developers of Geneva Ridge are asking the city to change the Comprehensive Master Plan. They are not asking for a zoning change of the property.

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