ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES ELEMENT
The Town of Wheatland is located in west Vernon County in the Mississippi Valley in southwest Wisconsin. The Town borders the eastern bank of the Mississippi River and is largely part of the Rush Creek Watershed and the Bad Axe River Watershed. As of the 2000 United States Census there were 533 people residing in the town. The Wisconsin Department of Administration estimated than the town population was 631 in 2008.
The town conducted a property owner survey, referred to as the 2009 Comprehensive Planning Survey (Appendix 1); to ensure public awareness and solicit participation in guiding the town’s planning process. The town’s property tax roll revealed 591 land owners and 38% of them were not full time residents of the town. Interestingly, there was no statistical difference between full time resident property owners and those who own property within the town but are not full time residents. Although property owners raised concerns which will be addressed in the comprehensive plan, 79% of the respondents rated the quality of life in Wheatland as good/excellent. The 2009 Comprehensive Planning Survey revealed a significant percentage of these seasonal residents were attracted to the town for its scenic beauty, natural resources, recreation, and potential as a future retirement site.
The majority of the town can be generally described as rural. The town contains the unincorporated settlements of Red Mound on the Highway 82 ridge, and the settlement of Victory located along the Mississippi River on Highway 35. Overall, the town is primarily rural, contracted agricultural farms, and woodland intermixed with low density residential development.
There are 27.62 square miles of land within Wheatland, with 1.10 square miles of this being classified as water area. A significant recreational and tourist attraction is the Black Hawk Park which is located within the town. Responsibility for this area is shared among several entities: town, county, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), United States Army Corps of Engineers, and private property owners. The town lies within the Mississippi Valley and benefits from the natural beauty and resources of the surrounding river bluffs and valleys which are part of the unique geography of the driftless region, “the land missed by the glaciers”.
1.1COMMUNITY VISION STATEMENTS The Town of Wheatland will maintain and enhance our sense of community, historical heritage, rural and agricultural life style, and sustain our natural resources and scenic environment. The Town of Wheatland will encourage economic and redevelopment opportunities that preserve and promote the integrity of our farm lands, natural resources, scenic beauty, and historical heritage. 1.2OVERALL PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT GOALS AND ISSUES
The 2009 Comprehensive Planning Survey and citizen input from planning meetings, revealed the need to address sustainability. A resounding 77% of the respondents indicated the town should be involved proactively in future planning. The citizens stressed that government needs be more efficient, improve responsiveness, and work together with other entities to avoid duplication and waste. Of particular concern to town residents is the protection of the unique natural resources of the area. 90.1% of survey respondents expressed the need to ensure the natural resources, scenic beauty, and habitat of the area, are protected for future generations.
The overarching planning goal for the Town of Wheatland is to develop and pursue plans and action programs which assure that the Town will sustain a high quality of life and respect the integrity of our area. The 2009 Comprehensive Planning Survey, citizen involvement at public meetings, and resulting discussion and analysis at planning sessions guided the following overall goals:
•Preservation of natural resources, habitat, and scenic beauty •Preservation of rural atmosphere and agricultural lands, including contract farms •Support well-planned and regulated residential development •Promote coordinated, shared government services and equipment •Improve maintenance and quality of local roads •Encourage redevelopment opportunities to improve tourism •Strengthen property values by preventing nuisance uses •Promote citizen participation to ensure unity of purpose 1.3DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS, POPULATION ANALYSIS, AND PROJECTIONS
According to US Census, 2000, the Town of Wheatland population experienced a significant drop from 1960 to 1970 of 15.1%. The population stabilized from 1970 through 1990 as shown on the chart below. Growth has remained steady for several following decades. The census reported a significant increase, 22.2%, in the town’s growth as of 2000.
Vernon County has experienced a moderate population increase of 9.32 percent from 1960 to 2000, with an estimated 2008 population of 29,719 as reported by the Dept. of Administration. The data reflected in the chart below indicated the Town of Wheatland’s population is clearly growing at a faster pace than the county as more residents are attracted to the area by the natural resources, recreation, and retirement opportunities.
The Wisconsin Department of Administration’s estimate of the town’s 2008 population is 631 and the state projects the town’s population to be 866 in 2030. Projections are also shown here for Vernon County to show the larger population growth context. Wheatland has a projected growth rate of 62.47 percent from the year 2000 to 2030, compared to the total County’s projected growth rate of 24.13 percent for the same time period. The Town of Wheatland’s growth rate is relatively significant compared to other local governmental units in the region.
The state’s population projection method is based substantially on historic trends. The state reports that their projections are not based on development programs, planning, or emerging trends that could affect growth for any given community. It’s possible for there to be greater population growth for the town based on the continued growth of nearby job centers and the private investment in development. For this reason, the state’s projections, reported above, should be used primarily for reference purposes and not as targeted growth goals of this Plan, and such projections should be subject to thorough re-evaluation based on the results of the 2010 U.S. Census of Population.
The level of future growth for rural housing can be increased by continued preferences for scenic, rural, open space living in combination with town growth policies and area job development. The assets associated with the Mississippi River are assumed to be a major influence on Wheatland’s population growth. Population growth forecasts are always based on a set of assumed conditions. This Comprehensive Plan must assume that the character of growth, or lack thereof, will also be affected by national and state economic conditions.
The demographics characteristics table summarizes selected census data which describes the population of the town. The amount of data to be analyzed is in proportion to the size and growth rates of a community. Other demographic characteristics and projections are presented in the Housing and Economic Development sections of this Plan.
1.4IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS 1.Population Growth Rates – Wheatland has experienced moderate to significant population growth in recent years and this is expected to continue. The town benefits from the appeal of scenic home sites in the Mississippi River Valley, rural atmosphere, comparatively low cost of living, and close commute to jobs in the La Crosse metro area. This growth trend is expected to continue. 2.Aging of the Population – A significant demographic trend is the increase in the elderly population. The planning survey indicated that many baby boomers and seasonal residents plan to become full time residents upon their retirement. As the town’s elderly population expands there will be a need to plan for adequate senior housing options, rental and homeownership. Increasing numbers of elderly will require expanded wellness and medical services and related public accommodations for the housing, transportation, shopping services, and wellness facilities. Near the end of the present planning period, the 85 plus age range is projected to have quite significant growth which parallels state and national projections. The desire to “age in place”, meaning that more elderly may be remaining in their homes with specialized home health care, will require good rural road accessibility to homes in rural settings, particularly for health care and emergency response vehicles. 3.Location Potential – The Town of Wheatland is well situated for continued growth due to its location. The town borders the Mississippi River and benefits from two important watersheds, Rush Creek and Bad Axe. The town is in a very unique geological area in the Mississippi River Valley known as the known as driftless region. On the western edge of the town, the nationally recognized Great River Road, Highway 35, winds its way through the town. The highway provides easy access to local businesses, recreation, and a corridor to larger population centers. There are opportunities for redevelopment and expanded tourism. 4.Protecting Quality of Life – The planning survey indicated 79% of the respondents rated the quality of life in Wheatland as good/excellent. 80.5% of respondents supported preservation efforts for historic buildings and sites. 81% of respondents believe farmlands and the rural atmosphere should be protected from development. And remember, 90.1% of survey respondents expressed the need to ensure the natural resources, scenic beauty, and habitat of the area is protected for future generations. Clearly, the town citizens want to sustain and protect our high quality of life. Significant numbers of respondents expressed concern over blight and incompatible land uses negatively affecting property values. Many citizens are interested in a discussion of options on how best to eliminate nuisances, especially when they affect public safety. The town has expressed concern that there are no local codes and standards to protect and sustain these quality of life factors. Property rights are essential but must be balanced with the rights of other property owners and the community as a whole. The vast majority of citizens are clearly willing to work toward a common vision and strive to improve our community through unity of purpose and actions.