Stick to the plan

Stick to the plan
How can Vermillion provide more affordable housing to people who want to move here?

Before we even attempt to answer the question, we have to begin with a definition.

"Affordable housing" means different things to different people. What John Doe, who lives above the bluff near Crawford Road might call affordable housing is likely what Jane Smith would call a dream. We should be considering a more precise definition of affordable housing, which may be why the term "work force housing" has recently become more popular.

The only reason we're bringing this up is it's an issue the "Crawford Woods" supporters cling to.

They can't stop calling Crawford Road "Dave Hertz's Road," as if he is a sole, evil source of all of their problems.

Yes, several years ago Hertz began a housing development (get ready for multiple use of the word bluff) at the bottom the bluff near The Bluffs Golf Course on Burbank Road.

Before Hertz hauled his first load of building material to the site of Midwest Homes, however, there was a general understanding in the Vermillion community.

Crawford Road would, someday, be extended about a quarter of a mile and connect with Burbank Road to offer city residents another north-south traffic link.

The original Vermillion Comprehensive Plan of 1965 lists "Extend and improve Cemetery Road from Main Street to County Road" as the number one priority street improvement project. Cemetery Road is the location of what is now known as Crawford Road, and every one of Vermillion's comprehensive plans has mentioned completing Crawford Road.

When Hertz was planning Countryside Addition in 2000, the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) listed Crawford Road as scheduled for 2006 construction.

The city, we believe, is obligated to support its plans for connecting Crawford Street with Burbank Road.

Opponents of the road have gone to great lengths to keep us preoccupied. When the city council failed to take action on the street construction, Hertz filed petitions to place Crawford Road on the ballot as a initiated measure. His action was designed to allow Vermillion citizens to decide, at a time when the city council couldn't, whether the street project should be completed.

What should have been a simple decision by Vermillionites has grown more complicated. Opponents of the road filed petitions of their own, calling for the area to be declared a nature preserve with a bike path. Never mind that no experts have conducted studies in an attempt to determine what would be of more benefit to all Vermillion residents – a bike path or a street.

One thing that's been lacking here for most of the year is an honest discussion about the value of producing affordable housing units in Vermillion, and an acknowledgment that it is work requiring a particular expertise. Specifically, we have to change the notion that it is somehow unethical for developers to make a profit by building affordable housing.

Building substandard housing is unethical.

But paying responsible developers a fair price for the work they do to build quality affordable homes is not.

Ask some developers why they don't produce affordable housing, and you're likely to hear responses like, "It's not profitable." "It takes too long." "It's difficult to work with communities and the city's bureaucracy."

We're sorry to say this sounds a lot like the Vermillion City Council's strategy.

We have visited the "Crawford Woods" area. Like other places along the bluff on upper Vermillion's southern edge, it is tranquil and beautiful.

We are also realists. Vermillion is a progressive community, and progress often includes sacrifice.

There was a time when farms in Clay County were plunged in darkness after sunset, and farm couples had to heat water on a stove for everything from a Saturday night bath to a pot of coffee.

Dams on the Missouri River that created large reservoirs, and power poles that changed our prairie landscape forever brought farms into the modern age, thanks to the REA and people who didn't resist change.

That same spirit helped transform thousands of acres of farm and ranch land in the state into the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and 1960s.

Vermillion is growing. We have new retail opportunities. We have more kids attending both K-12 and our university system. Other than health, education and safety, what is more important than housing?

This question should have been at the forefront of the Crawford Road deliberations earlier this year. There's no guarantee it would have halted a vote Tuesday on a "Crawford Woods" initiative.

It would have provided a much needed signal, however, from city leaders to Vermillion residents that they are truly serious about progressive development here.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at

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