Sunday morning, as I was doing housework and listening with one ear to Meet the Press, I caught one somewhat surprising tidbit. U-Haul’s statistics of the top places people are moving to indicated that Madison, Wisconsin, ranks as one of the nation’s fastest growing cities.
That Madison is growing is no surprise, but its ranking among the other cities like San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale seemed significant. In my two-plus decades of reporting on Waunakee, growth has been a common thread through many of the stories, and clearly, it will remain to be for the Tribune.
Madison is a small city, surrounded by lakes, and can accommodate only so many homes, so people are coming to the suburbs, as well.
Growth was also a common theme in the presentations at last week’s Chamber of Commerce breakfast, where more than 100 business members showed up to hear updates about that organization, along with the Town of Westport, the village and the school district.
New members have joined the Chamber over its 40 years. What started with about 50 professionals is now up to more than 300. Last year alone, several businesses have opened in the village, including Animart, Home Again, BrightStar and Rainbow Child Care, those nominated for the Chamber’s Orchid Award. The award recognizes a building project that contributes to the promotion of commerce, economic development and the overall beautification of the Waunakee and Westport area.
In the Town of Westport, a study is underway to find the best means of alleviating traffic congestion on Hwy. M between Middleton and Hwy. 113, and the extension of the North Mendota Trail from Woodland Drive to Bishop’s Bay is planned, offering bicycling as a transportation option north of the lake.
In Waunakee, more development is occurring, including a Boston’s Pizza Restaurant at Water Wheel Drive and the Hovde apartment complex with retail space below now under construction. The new library rising at North Madison Street will better accommodate the growing community. The existing facility was built when Waunakee’s population was less than half of what it is today.
Waunakee schools are feeling the growth, as well. District officials have planned well, so the timing of a new building referendum remains uncertain, but maintaining and upgrading the current facilities is a more immediate concern.
Clearly, growth and change are concerning to area residents. In his talk, village President Chris Zellner presented statistics about the village, and perhaps in an effort to ease concerns, showed Waunakee’s growth is on pace with other Dane County communities.
Whether we welcome it or not, people are packing up U-Hauls and moving to the Madison area, so public officials should plan for it, and they are. For one, they’ve updated their comprehensive plans to identify new housing areas. That’s necessary to rein in housing costs.
They’re also planning for transportation upgrades, though in the case of Hwy. M, where rush hour traffic causes considerable congestion, the timing is a bit late. And they’re proactively planning for school facilities.
With the inevitable increase in population, that’s about the best we can hope for.