Paynesville Press - April 16, 2003

Community Perspective

Through-town highway route is best

By Peter Schoell

I am not on the Highway 23 Task Force, but I did - along with many others - attend the last meeting. I thought it was pretty clear from that meeting that the state wants to build a bypass around Paynesville.

From the article the mayor wrote, it sounds as though he is also in favor of a bypass, sighting an erosion of the tax base as a by-product of the through-town route.

Originally I thought Highway 23 was going to be a four-lane road all the way from St. Cloud to Willmar and to make all that traffic pass through Paynesville would be hard. However, the plan is for a two-lane highway from New London to Richmond, except for where it would bypass Paynesville.

The state's experts had compiled studies from other towns that had bypass surgery done to the main arteries. One result of the bypass was a 15 to 25 percent loss of sales in the business district.

Does this mean businesses can deduct that 15 percent loss from their property tax? I doubt this would ever happen.

Another point I find objectionable with any of the west bypasses is the entrance from the new highway to Washburne Avenue and to the downtown area. The proposal is to enter from the north via Lake Avenue. This entrance will bring traffic past the turkey barns straight for the elevators before making two right-angle turns and crossing the railroad tracks.

The west bypass routes will also divert traffic away from all the businesses on the west end of town. The people who took the risk and spent money to start a business in the proximity of Highway 23 will now find their endeavor worth less money. The loss of traffic will not only cause problems with lower revenue, which leads to job layoffs, but problems with the value of collateral for bank loans, not unlike the farm crises in the 1980s.

A final problem I see with the west bypass is the visual eyesore created by an elevated four-lane highway. I'm sure the people who have purchased lots in the new Wilglo Addition paid for land with a quiet view of the river. The bypass could devalue that land as well.

I always wonder when I drive past Rockville if the people who built houses that once had a woodsy backyard knew they would have a busy four-lane highway to look at and listen to in the future.

I see the east bypass as a bad choice, too, since it involves an elevated highway with a lot of overhead concrete, which adds to noise, creates a visual barrier, thereby lowering property values.

When property values go down tax rates have to go up to keep government services and schools operating. The mayor stated he was worried about eroding the tax base if a through-town route is selected. I see this happening with the bypass routes, too.

One thing the mayor didn't mention was that the through-town route will cost the city money in having to move and update utilities, so maybe his lack of enthusiasm is based on cost. Unless a mediocre new entrance is planned for Lake Avenue, a west bypass will cost the city or township money, too.

I am in favor of the through-town route similar to what Cold Spring and Spicer have selected for their towns.

Peter Schoell owns the Koronis Cinema in downtown Paynesville.

Do you have an opinion about the future route of Highway 23 through or around Paynesville? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 or e-mail him at to inquire about expressing your opinion.

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