City may reduce industrial lands

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Responding to a decline in demand for factory expansion as well as an apparent need for more apartments, the city is considering a plan to reduce the amount of land available for industrial use by 125 acres.

Under a proposal that came before the Common Council Nov. 14, properties that are south of State Highway 91 between Clairville Road and Highway 44 would be taken out of an industrial classification.

Oshkosh has a large inventory of industrial land, including almost 2,500 acres in the south and west parts of the city, according to information provided to the Plan Commission. City planners estimate that the available supply throughout the city would meet expected industrial growth needs for 229 years.

By contrast the city has only 241 acres of vacant land available for residential development.

If the land use change is approved, a Mosinee developer is expected to move ahead with plans for a 144-unit apartment complex spread across 10 buildings.

The city’s industrial sector has continued to expand as measured by total employment. But the number of establishments fell by 36 percent from 2002 to 2012. City officials aren’t sure what is going on but think that manufacturers are either expanding at their existing sites or buying other facilities.

Meanwhile the city’s population has not grown as rapidly as projected, and one factor may be a shortage of appropriate housing.

“We’ve seen modest growth in industrial but not a great deal,” said City Manager Mark Rohloff. He said the land use change “could help stimulate some growth” in the residential and commercial sectors.

But two council members, Deputy Mayor Steve Herman and Councilor Debra Allison-Aasby, signaled that they would not support the change when it comes up for a vote in two weeks.

They questioned the wisdom of putting apartments in an area where a new railroad yard has been located, in part to keep it away from residential neighborhoods.

Photo: Satellite image of the affected area via Google Maps.

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Miles Maguire

Miles Maguire is the author of Advanced Reporting: Essential Skills for 21st Century Journalism. He was the founding editor of the Oshkosh Community News Network, a nonprofit online news organization whose work was cited as a notable innovation in journalism in the 2005 Knight-Batten Awards. Send questions, comments and suggestions to miles.maguire@yahoo.com.

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