Beautiful spot

Fall colors were just beginning to show during a recent morning walk on the Upper Yahara River Trail in DeForest. The village is looking to revise its comprehensive plan and trails and parks will be addressed in the document.

The first step toward revising the Village of DeForest’s comprehensive plan has been taken.

About 25 people attended a virtual information and input session on Tuesday, Oct. 13, to share their thoughts on the vision for DeForest’s future.

“We want residents to know that they know best what they want the community to look like,” said Michelle Lawrie, the village’s community development director. “We want them to know they can be involved in planning their community.”

The session provided an overview of DeForest’s comprehensive plan, which was last updated in 2015, and listed the village’s achievements in the years since.

There is also a community survey for residents to give their thoughts on the direction of the village. DeForest officials are hoping to use it to gauge community priorities.

So far, the village has received 470 responses. The survey closes Oct. 30.

Among the topics touched on in the survey are housing and whether residents feel the experience of living in DeForest has improved or declined since 2015.

“It asks the basic question of what would you like to see in the village,” said Lawrie. “We’re going to use it as a baseline to get excited about the events we have coming up that are associated with the comprehensive plan.”

Lawrie said she was running the chat room during the recent information and input session. She’s hoping more will show up for the next two sessions, which will touch on economic development and housing. Village officials are looking at a date in early November for the next one.

Housing is expected to get a lot of attention from citizens.

Regarding economic development, Lawrie said they are hoping to explain to residents what exactly that entails.

According to Wisconsin statutes, municipalities in the state are required to update their comprehensive plans every 10 years.

“But with so much growth and so much going on, there are so many differences between 2015 and 2020,” said Lawrie.

With all the planned developments for the village, DeForest officials felt it was a good time for residents and policymakers to review the comprehensive plan. Lawrie said policymakers want to know what the residents think so they can make decisions related to what residents want.

Corie Hoffman, the human resources and communications director for the village, said DeForest has hit a lot of the benchmarks identified in the 2015 comprehensive plan.

“It’s good to look at it to see what our next benchmarks and goals should be,” said Hoffman.

DeForest officials want to take the comprehensive plan chapter by chapter in its review. There are eight to 10 chapters in the current comprehensive plan. After housing and economic development, land use is another chapter to be studied.

“We want to do that so it’s not overwhelming, because it can be an overwhelming process,” said Lawrie.

The process of completing the revision involves gathering community input, public hearings and ultimately, village board approval.

Lawrie and Hoffman said the process would take about a year to get through all the chapters. The revisions could be approved by next fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the work. Hoffman said there may be more virtual meetings this time around and a greater emphasis on communicating with the public on why the comprehensive plan exists and how residents can get involved.

Lawrie said the hope is that the comprehensive plan will be a “living, breathing document,” and that some of the updates could be different than those approved in 2015.

One could be providing more assistance to small businesses so they can grow and thrive, said Lawrie.

Down the line, after the new comprehensive plan revisions are approved, DeForest officials want to keep the community more informed on what benchmarks in the plan the village is hitting. The hope is that residents will remember that what the village will do is based on the work that is being done on the plan.

The comprehensive plan is expected to be addressed by the village board’s committee of the whole at its next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

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