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9:50 AM Sat, Jan. 19th

Cantlon: Dells to become a parking lot? Residents vote?

If you haven’t followed details of what’s proposed for development in the Dells, it includes a hotel/resort/spa. Almost 50 acres are intended for the resort, carefully chosen to be smack in the middle of one of the most picturesque areas. In other words it’s no small thing. Now what would a big, busy resort absolutely have to have? Parking. Lots and lots of parking. A big chunk of the prettiest part of the Dells turned into a parking lot. Joni Mitchell’s song literally carried out, “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot”.

Of course that doesn’t even count another 120 acres of condo-like housing, which will need its own parking.

Maybe council will use the leverage it has to protect the Dells. (The developer has a lot of additional territory it will want to develop and get annexed, and the privilege of joining the city is almost critically, almost unbelievably, valuable, in water rights and other ways it vastly increases profit.)

If not, if the proposed deal doesn’t seem like a good one, just FYI, you can force a public vote on it.

It’s state law that almost any decision by any municipality can be challenged by its residents if they gather a bunch of signatures in a short time. It puts the decision on hold until a public vote is held.

It would be an unfortunate way to decide things, but if it happened once, no doubt future council decisions would be very sensitive to what residents want.

Of course that assumes a majority would reject a deal that develops the Dells. That’s not at all clear, but there obviously is a lot of buzz of concern among residents about it. It would certainly clarify things, one way or the other, to hold such a vote, wouldn’t it?

So it is up to residents. Scratch that. Not “residents”. It’s that subset of residents who register, vote, sign petitions, and beyond that, get involved. If you’re not one of them, might as well stop reading now. The funnies are on page 5B. If a majority of residents don’t like whatever Dells deal happens, but it happens anyway, it’s not a failure of council, it’s a failure of residents. A failure of complacent or slow-to-act residents.

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at tomcantlon.com.