Of the four resolutions brought forth to the DeForest Village Board at its June 16 meeting, only two had action taken.
The final resolution presented at the meeting was approved after a lengthy discussion, which involved trustees and DeForest residents speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Resolution 2020-046 was stated as, “a resolution embracing diversity an inclusion in our community and rejecting harassment and violence.”
Village President Judd Blau amended the resolution during the meeting to remove certain words and phrases, most notably about police brutality. All residents and trustees agreed that it made it sound like the DeForest Police Department had a history of violence to residents and brutality, which it does not.
Rather, the resolution was a statement that the village welcomes everybody in the human race, and will not tolerate any harassment or discrimination based on “a person’s race, color, national origin, age, disability, religion, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, spousal affiliation or sex.”
The resolution further states that “DeForest wants community members and visitors to see DeForest as a diverse and inclusive village to live, work and play.”
Several residents spoke on the topic during the public comments, with viewpoints that were for and against the resolution.
Two residents were in favor of the resolution — one was transgendered and another was in a same-sex marriage. Both said how they felt unsafe in the community and were discriminated against on multiple occasions — and often times don’t leave the house because of that.
Another resident in favor, one who was organizing a march on June 18, and put up flyers, had someone write on one of those flyers “keep this (expletive) in Madison.” He added that passing this resolution is “the right thing to do.”
Blau noted that while the resolution is just words on paper, the village needs to make a statement. And with the village welcoming to all, there’s no resolution or policy that will completely rid any community of injustice.
“If someone is bent on mayhem, destruction or murder, there’s no policy that is going to prevent them or stop them from doing that,” Blau said. “To not have this — and now these are more general broad descriptions, common vernacular that encompasses all people — it reaffirms we have been doing this for long time. It’s time to make a statement to residents and that’s where we are. Unfortunately we’ll never get rid of bigotry, prejudice and discrimination. It’s taught, and some people are just going to teach it, it’s unfortunate. All we can say is we aren’t going to stand for it.”
Trustee Taysheedra Allen stated that some residents were afraid to attend a village meet-and-greet pizza party because they felt they would be discriminated against.
Trustee Abigail Lowery, who brought the resolution to the board, said, “This is important to me because it’s important to our community. …People look to leaders to bring peaceful healing. Several different phrases were taken from the nondiscrimination policy from the Windsor board (which was approved). We need to look at the community with a multi-colored lens. I want us to be as welcoming as possible for those that live here.”
She added that while a lot of people feel safe, others don’t. Passing the resolution is “important for residents and those who visit and want to live here,” Lowry said.
Local resident Masood Akhtar, who came to the U.S. from India 35 years ago and later began We Are Many — United Against Hate, mentioned that while some don’t always see the discrimination, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. “One of the key things I learned when I came to the U.S. is that diversity is our strength, not our weakness,” said Akhtar. “Unity is our power, not uniformity.”
Allen said of the resolution, “We can’t lose sight of the heart of the resolution. This should not incite rage, it should speak to your heart. We want to include everybody and this is about us as a DeForest family and we should support policies that support this resolution.
“These are just words, but these words send a message that DeForest is a family and all family members are welcome. Yes it’s a piece of paper, but we are working together collaboratively. The village came together, listened to constituents and is moving forward. That’s louder than a piece of paper.”
The resolution passed 5-2.
The board also approved the bid by Nelson Excavating and Sons, LLC for a contract regarding the storm sewer project on DeForest Street. The project will increase the size of the storm sewer pipe between 512 and 516 DeForest Street to prevent flooding. The accepted bid was for $28,445.
During the Committee of the Whole meeting, staff — with comments from residents — talked about a similar situation on Dahl Drive from Southbound Drive to Rosemal Lane. On May 28, a storm that produced about three inches of rain in less than an hour, damaged a few homes. Staff is looking at further options to provide a safe and efficient overflow system to prevent future floodings.
“That stormwater pipe is not meant to handle the biggest and baddest storms,” Craig Mathews, an engineer with Vierbicher, said.
The sewer system was designed in the 1980s and no one had the vision of what might occur 30-40 years down the road. Mathews said things then developed around the area without knowing the system wouldn’t support those heavy rainfalls.
“A safe overflow route, that’s what is missing,” Mathews said.
The other two resolutions brought to the board June 16 were tabled by the board until its July 7 meeting. One was regarding whether or not the village should rejoin the Dane County consortium — the village has not been a part of the consortium for three years. The other was tabled because of a typo. The board was to take action regarding an intergovernmental agreement for cost sharing for the construction of the Windsor Road bridge. In the agenda, it was listed as the River Road bridge.
New development proposed for DeForest
Craig Frank of CF Investment LLC, was joined by his son, Cory, and Mike Caulkins of Schneider and Associates in a presentation to the board at the June 16 meeting. The presentation was for a proposed development in Lots 3-5 of Conservancy Place — located around the intersection of Innovation Drive and Conservancy Way.
The group is proposing to construct a few buildings, consisting of a four-story mixed-use building, along with apartments, condos and townhouses. The main building will be the four-story building, with an interior parking structure in the central part of the building and apartments around the outside.
It would provide a broad range of unit types, rent ranges and condominium prices. The total cost of the project is an estimated $30 million.
Craig Frank said that the units will be a mix of two and three bedrooms and range from 1,400-1,600 square feet. There would be over 150 multi-family units with “efficient layouts, two parking stalls per apartment, with private entry and storage,” according to Frank.
“This is very consistent with the village discussion about the site … having commercial frontage while also allowing for residential,” Frank said.
Craig Frank said his company just finished a 53-unit area in Sun Prairie, while also completing a project of town homes in Madison and there is a project in Cottage Grove similar to the one proposed to the DeForest village board.
No action was taken as the group was just scheduled to give the initial presentation.