In a forward thinking, continually growing community, conflicts are bound to arise. That was clear at the July 30 Waunakee Public Works Committee meeting where much of the discussion centered around pedestrian safety in new neighborhoods and on Main Street, the oldest neighborhood of this nearly 150-year-old village.
Several residents with safety concerns attended the meeting, and others wrote letters with suggestions for improvements.
Each January, the Tribune publishes a story about the number of building permits issued for new homes. In 2004, before the Great Recession, 168 permits for new homes were issued.
At the height of the recession, the number fell to 58. The number is indicative of a time when many communities across the nation saw whole neighborhoods in foreclosure, so while growth slowed in Waunakee, the situation could have been worse.
Working with the Waunakee school district to keep growth at a manageable pace, village officials try to phase in new development and keep the number of new homes at an average of 125 per year.
Last year, the village issued 95 building permits for new single-family, below that average; in 2016, 101 new permits were issued. The village is growing, but not as rapidly as it did during the housing boom.
Dane County as a whole is also growing, so motorists are using Waunakee roadways, as well.
While a nuisance, the congestion is a symptom of a healthy economy in a desirable place to live. Pedestrian safety in all neighborhoods is also important, and village officials recognize the issue. In 2015, they made their first appeal to the Department of Transportation for a lighted pedestrian crossing at Water and Main streets but were denied due to its proximity to the nearby traffic light and the existing similar device at South Street.
With the Lamphouse Apartments on Main Street between Madison and Water streets, and a new library under construction a few blocks north on Madison Street, village officials appealed to the DOT, again, and again were denied. But this time, other solutions such as widened sidewalks or a pedestrian island were discussed, as this week’s Tribune story describes.
This seems to be a time of finding solutions for complicated issues, and fortunately, Waunakee residents and officials care about the community and its future. The hope is, through that cooperation and engagement can the village continue to be a fair and pleasant valley, the purported translation for the word, Waunakee.