About 63 members of the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 17 listened to a 25-minute presentation from City Planning Director Tim Semmann that was based on a Jerry Lee Lewis hit single from 1958.
The song was “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and the date of the song was significant, Semmann said, because it was a hit one year after the City of Sun Prairie was incorporated.
The reason the song is significant was the title of Semmann’s presentation, held in the Barrel Room at Buck & Honey’s: “Whole Lotta Planning Going On.”
Semmann reviewed most of the planning efforts that have occurred during the past year, including the adoption of the city’s 2019-39 Comprehensive Plan; the Sun Prairie Stronger planning effort surrounding the Main and Bristol street intersection; the city council’s strategic plan; Opportunity Zones; the city’s new bus service; and even the planning efforts surrounding the new high school on the city’s west side and the effort to tie Ashley Field into the city’s Sun Prairie Stronger planning effort being supervised by The Lakota Group.
City of Sun Prairie Comprehensive Plan
Semmann said the city’s previous comprehensive plan was about 10 years old.
“So the city, the mayor and city council under took a planning effort that’s been going on for about a year and a half, almost two years,” Semmann said. “And the result is here now — the plan itself. I must say the ink is still drying and we’re waiting for the final draft from our consultants, which should be next week at which point, we’ll be posting it online.”
Semmann said several amendments and changes were made before the council adopted the plan when it went from the steering committee to the full council.
“So look for that probably next week on the city’s website,” Semmann said.
The city planning director said in the new plan, there are some fairly significant changes.
“One of the biggest ones . . . I wanted to call your attention to is the neighborhood residential category,” Semmann said. The city’s last comprehensive plan had most of the areas identified as low density residential.
“And what that really meant is that generally these were the areas that were for one and two family homes,” Semmann said.
Not so in the new plan, according to the planning director.
“I’m just going to read quick excerpt from the plan it says, ‘the purpose of the NR or neighborhood residential designation is to achieve neighborhoods with a mix of housing types while also ensuring compatibility between different housing types and forms.’
“And then there’s several policies that follow. There are suggestions for things like accessory dwelling units to be allowed in those areas. Duplexes, those are are still allowed through conditional use permit right now, townhouses or rowhouses up to six contiguous units and there’s actually a density range called out from three to 20 units,” Semmann said. “So that’s a pretty big change.”
That doesn’t mean 20-unit apartments are going to start springing up around single family neighborhoods, Semmann said, because the city’s zoning code will need to be amended before that could happen.
“But what it really calls out for is a vision — that we look at how the city is providing housing in a little bit different manner,” Semmann said. “Because there, as I mentioned, there is a housing affordability issue. The other thing this does by allowing increased density within the current boundary of the city is . . . totally limiting outward growth, or sprawl. You don’t hear that word that much anymore. But I think if we can concentrate more development in the city, service delivery is going to be far more efficient. Hopefully — I don’t know if I’ll say less expensive — but I’ll say more efficient.”
Sun Prairie Stronger and Ashley Field
The Sun Prairie Stronger Plan has not been finalized, but a meeting set for Thursday night, Oct. 17, was scheduled to narrow the options, according to Semmann.
“So that’s been going on for a little while and that should be wrapping up here probably in a month or two,” Semmann said, referring to Sun Prairie Stronger. “And there will be a recommendation coming from that. Some of you may have attended those public meetings and seen some of these drawings already. But there are several iterations of proposals for [housing] density and [building] massing, different use types in here.”
Semmann said the specific site for the field involves the reorientation of the field from what is now east-west to north-south.
“But this is going to be about a 4,500-ish seat stadium. And it’s more than just a few bleachers — this is going to be more like a stadium. This is probably going to be one of the nicest, if not the nicest facility in the state and be an awesome destination,” Semmann said. “The hope is that this will be a regional draw or several different sports, not just football, it could be lacrosse, soccer and in addition, there could be events here as well. And that’s one of the reasons why . . . linking Ashley Field to the downtown to make this whole area a destination, not just for city residents but throughout the region.”
City bus service
One of the recommendations from the ad hoc committee on transportation was to establish bus service from Sun Prairie to Madison, Semmann recalled.
“So, as many of you know, this is kind of a historic thing for the city, having grown up here,” Semmann said. “Even when I was a kid, people talked about this a lot, but Sun Prairie is now linked to the City of Madison through Madison Metro for the first time in history. We have four routes, inbound and four routes outbound every day, Monday through Friday.”
Semmann said right now there’s a small circulator on the city’s west side that links up to the park and ride.
“But the hope in that longer term again, as mentioned in this plan that intra-city bus service is going to link into this service,” Semmann said. “And so as the city continues to grow, I think we’re topping 35,000 [residents] now, but as the city’s population continues to grow, so will the needs and wants of the city’s residents, so intra-city bus service is going to be looked at very soon here and how that service can get to our commuter bus service,” Semmann said. “So that’s, that’s really, that’s a big deal for the city.”
As for Opportunity Zones, well, stay tuned — or come to the Nov. 7 chamber luncheon. Semmann said there would be more about Opportunity Zones at the Business Appreciation Luncheon, where City Economic Development Director Neil Stechschulte and City Planner Sarah Sauer will talk about economic development and Opportunity Zones, among other things.
The Nov. 7 luncheon, scheduled to take place at the Hilton Garden Inn, will also feature the presentation of the chamber’s Community Business Leader award.