V. of DeForest 5-Year Comprehensive Land Use Planning

11/30/12

To:                   DeForest Area Progressives

From:               John Scepanski

Subject:    DeForest Planning & Zoning Commission meeting 11/27/12

On Tuesday, November 27, 2012, I attended the Village of DeForest Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.  (Note FYI that this is a "commission," not a "committee."  There are important distinctions that matter in Wisconsin state law, which I can inform D.A.P. of at another time.)

Item #10 on the agenda was "Discussion/Presentation on Comprehensive Plan update, focusing on housing mix policy."  As you know, I had attended the previous P&Z Commission meeting as well, during which the similar discussion focused on building development phasing and transportation.  These P&Z discussions are preliminary to revision of the village's comprehensive land use master plan (commonly known as the comprehensive plan or the master plan).  The revision of the plan occurs about once every five years or so.  Typically, the Commission will schedule public hearings some time into the process to gather public input during its deliberations.  If D.A.P. desires, we might want to plan to offer some testimony at those public hearings.

Most of the discussion at this evening's P&Z meeting revolved around consultant Mark Roffers' draft policy on housing for the village: "Housing Mix Policy DRAFT 11/8/12."  The interest here is in defining and setting a goal for a percentage mix of single family and multi-family housing in the village.  The question is this: should the desired ratio of single family housing to multi-family housing be 65% to 35% or some other ratio or no stated goal at all?  According to Mr. Roffers, the current % of single family is about 60%.

Mr. Roffers and the Commission often refer to the "Future Land Use Map" in these discussions.  There is a corresponding "Map 2" (I think) in the FUDA report -- more of FUDA (Future Urban Development Area) later.  See the village website for the FUDA report and maps.  It is a good report, and I recommend it for up-to-date, sound, "progressive" land use principles.

Discussion included references to a "planned neighborhood" category in the plan, future multi-family housing, and high standards to be maintained in materials used in building, design, appearance, upkeep, etc.  Some of the discussion went like this:

Jim Simpson (Comm. member).              Has heard employers in the DeForest area complain that  affordable housing is lacking in the DeForest area for their employees.  Hard to get employees when they have to live elsewhere and commute too far.

Mark Roffers (staff consultant).             Developers in the current building climate and market seem reluctant to build multi-family housing (apartments, duplexes, etc.)  There seems to be a disconnect between the village's desire to promote more business development in the village and builders' reluctance to build more affordable, multi-family housing where workers can live close by.  There is flexibility, though, within single family development, along the lines of lot size, density of population, number of living units per acre, and so forth.

Simpson.          Can get a lot of living units on a smaller plot of ground if higher densities are approved, i.e., more families living on smaller plots of ground: e.g., five lots per acre rather than four lots per acre.

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There seems to be a dilemma here between the desire of the village to promote more economic development and the desire to promote relatively exclusive, single family housing (upscale suburban subdivisions, if you will).  Note, too, that the FUDA project resulted in DeForest residents' overwhelming preference for "compact" neighborhood design, which may also be in conflict with my perception of the commission members' preference for upscale single family residences.  I may be wrong at this preliminary stage, but it seems to me that upscale, large-lot, suburban-style, single-family residential development might conflict in other ways, too, with the FUDA results.

Q.'s for thought:

1. Will the P&Z Comm. conform to the residents' desires along the lines of neighborhood design, as expressed through FUDA, or will they choose another route when making comprehensive plan revision decisions about neighborhood design? 

2. How much attention will the Commission pay to the FUDA outcomes?  They are not obligated to pay any attention to FUDA at all.

I (John) am disappointed that there have been, as yet, no substantive references to FUDA at these P&Z Comm. meetings.  NOW is the opportunity to implement bold new, "progressive" FUDA-like ideas for the future of the village and surrounding territory, in my opinion.  We’ve missed so many opportunities in the past.  I hope we don't squander this one.

As you know, I like the FUDA report and think that it reflects mostly progressive land use ideals: more on that later.  In short, though, at this juncture I get the sense from sitting in on these two meetings, so far, that the DeForest P&Z Commission is not very interested in FUDA. 

Commission members seem to me not to have much enthusiasm when it comes to future land use planning for DeForest, which is okay, I suppose.  Status quo thinking seems to prevail.  That is pretty much as it has always been.  After all, status quo is status quo, and status quo can be either good or not-so-good.  Personally, I could wish for more imagination, though.  Maybe that will change at future comprehensive plan meetings.

DeForest has a lot going for it and can and could and may and might be unique in some wonderful ways.

                                   -end-

cc:        Mike Centinario, Kevin Brown


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