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Facebook can be a messy place. But sometimes it results in some interesting discussions. That was the case recently, when I jumped into a thread started by Lone Tree Mayor Jonathon Green.
Let me begin by saying that I really like and respect Green. He is a good guy, an excellent mayor, and I consider him a friend.
I am also a big fan of the current Lone Tree Council. It is full of good people who just want to make their town a better place to live and are willing to take a few slings and arrows in the process.
Where the mayor and I seem to disagree is on the matter of development in the rural areas outside of Lone Tree.
A bit of history: southern Johnson County is generally home to better farmland than northern Johnson County. Boards of supervisors dating all the way back to 1960 have acknowledged this fact, and thus directed development to the lower-quality land in the north.
Our most recent discussion of this took place as a part of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. While the general idea of continuing to maintain our best farmland as farmland remains, there were a couple of allowances made.
Previous plans were very map-based. Under the current plan, we can make an exception for a given parcel.
If you have a piece of land that is not good for ag and meets a couple additional criteria, it can be rezoned to residential. You just need to identify the spot and begin working with the Planning Department. I don’t think this has been publicized very well yet.
Meanwhile, Green and others feel the Comp Plan is inherently unfair. They feel unnecessary regulations are hindering the growth of the Lone Tree Community School District, and they are wondering why the southern portion of the county is treated differently than the northern portion, crop suitability numbers aside.
I understand this argument, but I disagree on several counts. First, as stated above, hopefully landowners will find a bit more flexibility in the new plan.
Secondly, people can already move to the Lone Tree School District, and I hope they do. There is a great deal to offer.
There are existing homes and existing lots for the construction of new homes. If you want to do some smaller scale agriculture, the county can accommodate that outside of town.
Thirdly, I think the focus on county land use policy is a bit of a red herring. Focus on the great K-12 school all in one spot – no bussing!
Focus on the fantastic new fitness center. Focus on the proximity to large employment centers in Iowa City and Muscatine.
Focus on the quaint downtown. There is just so much to like about Lone Tree that the focus on this very minor issue detracts from the real issues. Lone Tree is a great town with a great school. Let’s sell it, just not in 10-acre pieces.
Fourth, I worry about CAFOs on small lots. Under current county rules, 40 acres would be required to operate a CAFO. Take away the 40-acre rule, and I am not certain of the impact. Why risk it?
Fifth, a vast majority of voters have asked the board to preserve farmland. So long ago, the board made that the law of the land. How does anyone benefit by trading productive farmland for a bunch of 10-acre yards? We must weigh the desire of these families to live on an acreage versus the desire of farmers, environmentalists and others to keep farmland as farmland.
I have stated my case. I am open to listening to new information. I think the challenge is articulating what would be a better policy, and why.
If someone can make the case to me, I’ll reconsider my position. I simply haven’t been convinced yet.
Meanwhile, I am committed to helping the city of Lone Tree and the Lone Tree Community School District to grow and to thrive.
I hope they will contact me if they need anything. And if you are looking for a new place to roost, consider Lone Tree. You’ll like it.