Keep focus on the common good, not what divides.

IT SEEMS JUST the blink of an eye ago that Beloit and the Town of Beloit were enmeshed in a dispute over whether the township would be better off renaming itself and incorporating to facilitate a divorce from its relationship with the city.

There was near unanimous agreement among business and development folk that such a move would be divisive and likely would pose a setback for economic growth. A united community with the goal of prosperity for all is the better alternative.

Cooler heads prevailed. Beloit and the Town of Beloit resolved differences and reached an amicable win-win position. Not every historic issue is settled and not every raw nerve is soothed, but a path forward to a better future has been laid out.

SO, NATURALLY, the next dispute among neighbors gets teed up.

The Town of Turtle filed a notice of claim against the city, essentially saying Beloit owes Turtle a five-year extension of the existing boundary agreement. Last week the Beloit City Council rejected the claim, setting up the possibility of a lawsuit between the municipalities.

That would be a shame. That would be bad for all concerned.

On the immediate issue at hand—whether there should or shouldn’t be an extension—we will not venture an opinion. On the larger issue of what’s good for all of the community’s residents, we will.

FIRST, LET’S TAKE a step back in time and look at the results of the initial boundary agreement between the two parties.

Without it, the Gateway area—the business park and adjoining residential sites—almost certainly would not exist. As national economic trends made interstate highway corridors prime property in high demand for developers and investors, the east side of I-39/90 was a can’t-get-there-from-here zone of isolation.

That meant interested developers had no access. It meant officials could not market clearly desirable land. It meant potential jobs for area residents went on down the road. It meant the community could be sentencing itself to long-term stagnation.

Instead, stakeholders came together and worked out a sensible agreement that allowed natural growth a chance to occur while still respecting the wishes and privacy of Turtle’s more rural population. We think most would agree the result has been impressive, and something everybody can live with.

BUT SUCCESS IS a fragile thing, dependent as much on goodwill as it is legal language. It can take years of patient communication to build relationships and trust, and a couple of hothead moments to undermine it.

Mind you, we are not saying anybody on the town or city side of things is a hothead or has caused some irreparable damage to the relationship. We are saying all stakeholders need to guard against throwing up barriers to a workable solution.

Regular readers have heard this before: A bird flying over the community can’t tell where the various jurisdictions begin or end, and that includes South Beloit. Not much anyone can do about a state line, but other barriers on the Wisconsin side are more imaginary than real. Cooperation that benefits all concerned should be the paramount goal.

We recommend local leaders stand down the lawyers, and look harder for a way forward that best serves all the neighbors that comprise Greater Beloit. It’s February—Black History Month—and it’s worth remembering, in another context, Martin Luther King’s words: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”