‘This is a big moment for Fitchburg’: City leaders update 20-year comprehensive plan

The city of Fitchburg is updating its comprehensive plan for the future, which will guide growth and development decisions for the next 20 years.

“We’re always trying to be looking 20 years ahead to get to the desired future, said Sonja Kruesel, city planner and zoning administrator. “In the most succinct terms, we like to say, ‘Where and how is growth going to happen?'”

“This is a big moment for Fitchburg and anyone who cares how it develops in the future,” Robert Procter said, adding that now is the time to start building the foundation, especially when it comes to housing.

Procter is the government affairs director for the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin and represents the coalition Fair Housing Fitchburg, which is advocating for more attainable housing in the city for everyone from senior citizens to millennials.

“The housing in Fitchburg is very expensive,” he said. “We often ask people, ‘Do you want your kids to live with you until you can buy a house?’ Most say no. Well, they have to live somewhere. Right now, housing all over Dane County is too expensive.”

With finding housing proving difficult for many, Procter said he hopes Fitchburg citizens will get involved before the city’s plans are set in stone.

“Too often, and this is understandable, a person gets involved when a project goes up next door to their property,” he said. “Usually, that’s too late if we want good discussion about growth in the city.”

Fitchburg is revising its comprehensive plan in accordance with a 10-year update requirement by state law.

The city has been collecting feedback from residents, some of whom have expressed a desire for a city center and maintaining Fitchburg’s rural character, according to Kruesel. Planners must also keep in mind the best ways to continue urban development, which may mean adding commercial nodes, along with learning from the past while considering the future of neighborhoods.

“It’s very apparent by our existing development patterns that decisions made decades ago continue to impact people today,” Kruesel said. “(We have) those historical development patterns when Fitchburg was a township and the city of Madison had development pressure at our northern edge, so you see a lot of high-density, isolated and concentrated residential uses in that area without, for example, walkable access to commercial or schools or transportation opportunities.”

Kruesel said finalizing the plan is a process.

“It’s big,” Kruesel said. “You’re balancing a lot of competing factors.”

With an estimated population growth of 5,000 per decade, the plan also means laying the groundwork for housing needs.

“Our comprehensive plan and recently adopted housing plan continue to encourage a balanced mix of housing and complete neighborhoods where people can move up the ladder,” Kruesel said.

Procter wants to make sure that ladder has space for everyone, encouraging residents to attend an open house Wednesday night.

“What we need is more housing, and it needs to be planned well,” he said. “This is the most important time to really have a say in what type of projects will be coming forward in the future.”

The city has a scheduled open house in the City Hall Council Chambers to answer questions about the plan from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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