A number of residents of DeForest are opposed to a possible new development coming to Conservancy Place, which calls for dozens of single-family lots plus dozens more apartment units and townhouses for rent.
The two majors issued that have residents concerned are the overall density of the CF Investments development project and that a residential development will be constructed in a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district zoned for commercial.
Several residents spoke out about their opposition to the project at the July 7 village board meeting. Many more showed their disapproval in emails during the public comment section.
The maximum density for that area was initially approved at 10.1 units per acre, and currently, the development plans for anywhere around 24 to 27 units per acre. The plan was amended to accommodate 19 units per acre — which is still being exceeded.
There will be anywhere from 167-192 units on 7.05 acres of land.
Abe Degnan, who served for six years on the DeForest Village Board, was a trustee at the time this development was approved. He is also president of Degnan Design Builders, Inc. He is unhappy with the way things have changed and has spearheaded the group that opposes the development. He is concerned at the new density of units, especially after it was approved to have something way lower. Degnan addressed the village board on July 7.
“The 24 to 27 units per acre is totally inappropriate. It’s not even appropriate for 19 units per acre,” Degnan said.
The group is not opposed to the style and variety of homes being created, plus some additional commercial space, but rather they have a concern with how many units, and subsequently, how many families will be in a condensed area.
“We’re not opposed to mixed-use, but the density is too high,” Alison Kruse-Bowman said in addressing the board. “If it’s zoned for 19, then maybe keep it at 19. But (at 24-27 units per acre) you don’t find anything else like this in the neighborhood that looks like that.”
Kruse-Bowman added that safety was another concern. If 190 units were to be built, that would bring in 300 cars or more to the area that will likely bring in dozens of children. She concluded with, “We thought we were buying into a quiet neighborhood.”
Trustee Jason Kramar said that the board needs to do a lot more digging regarding the development before a next step is taken and that nothing has been defined yet. He appreciated all the comments and feedback from those opposed and assured them that their voices are being heard.
A second concern of the group is that a large residential development will be placed in a TIF district meant for commercial. Degnan believes that it will take 10-20 years for the village to pay off the TIF bonds, and he says it could impact community services, village services and recreation programs without tax revenue coming in. He also noted that taxes will increase for residents.
Currently the area is zoned for commercial, but areas can easily be rezoned to accommodate any proposed development.
“The commercial portion is minuscule,” Degnan said. “The original plan does not make it worthy for TIF money. We need to rein this in to bring it to community standards and be careful of TIF spending. We want make sure the board is aware of these things before this gets too far underway.”
Julie Wankowski, along with her husband, Dave, were two other residents to speak against the development at the board meeting.
“We vehemently oppose,” Julie said. “That TIF district is completely inappropriate for the residential development of this nature … It does not fit into the character of the neighborhood. It’s not a suburban development, it’s more urban, like something you’d see in downtown Madison.
Kenneth Bowman was another resident who spoke in opposition of the 27.4 units per acre being proposed and wondered what the benefit to the community was with the current proposed development.
“This is taking away from the original cultural design. It’s overbearing and massive,” Bowman said. “What it has morphed into causes many concerns.”
Degnan would also like to see the 70 percent-30 percent ratio of owned lots to rental properties remain, as it was proposed to the board in 2003 when he was an approving trustee for the project.
Village President Judd Blau asked Degnan how he would account for the changing landscape of the project and the Professional Development Plan (PDP).
“The developer is now proposing a more dense development than what was originally proposed. I don’t think that landscape should change,” Degnan said.
Blau said he was asking questions to those opposed to get a better understanding of where residents are at to find the best interest for all DeForest residents. He assured all those who were opposed that this development “will run through all the necessary processes.”