Citizen Wausau

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A New Home for the Womens Community, FINALLY

by on January 26th, 2009

Although the Women’s Community lost its first battle against the forces of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) in their first proposed location, last Tuesday night the Wausau Planning Commission unanimously approved the first step in the process for a different location.

For those who may be unfamiliar, the Women’s Community has outgrown its current location (which is a sad fact to begin with).  They had found what they thought to be an ideal location not far from NTC.  The size of the parcel worked, it was located in a residential area (as they want those people they are housing to feel “at home”), it was close to shopping and schools and it was on the bus line. It had everything they were looking for.  Everything that is, except for welcoming neighbors.  As a matter of fact, well over a hundred neighbors (some of them more than a half mile, or more than six city blocks away) signed a petition.  It was democracy in action.  Almost all of them stated they appreciated and respected what the Women’s Community does, they just want them to do it somewhere else.

Their new home is going to be on a parcel of land donated by Aspirus near the intersection of 32nd Avenue and Hilltop on the west side.  Let’s compare this new site with their original one:

–    Both are in the immediate vicinity of primarily single family housing
–    Both are close to schools
–    Both are in areas where the larger area has a mix of uses
–    Both are in the City of Wausau, but just on the edge of city limits

The primary differences are that 1) this current parcel is zoned as a Unified Development District where the NTC location was zoned single family and 2) the majority of neighbors in this new location do not oppose the use.

As far as the zoning issue, in almost every case, when new vacant land is annexed into the City of Wausau, it comes in as a default zoning of Single Family Residential R-1.  However, it is not unusual that if the landowner has a specific “vision” for the property, they can make their request for annexation contingent on a specific type of zoning.  Otherwise, the property remains R-1 until the specific use of the property is determined and it gets rezoned at that time.

Unified Development District (UDD) zoning allows for a mix of uses on a specific parcel.  In this case, the plan was for medical offices, long-term care facilities and other medically related uses (which makes sense as it was owned by Aspirus).  At the time this zoning was approved, it would have had to also go through the whole public hearing process.

The public hearing this last Tuesday was to make changes to the already approved UDD plan.  They were basically moving around where some of the buildings were going to be and allow the Women’s Community as one of the uses.

To some extent, NIMBY-ism does exist in this new neighborhood as well.  The first resident of that neighborhood to testify opposed this, with the argument we heard all too well from the last time – we admire what they do but we want them to do it somewhere else.  Concerns that were brought up by those opposing the shelter included safety concerns and emergency response times (the Wausau Manor domestic violence homicide was in this general area), general safety and traffic.  I also heard one person with the argument I hear often in these hearings – that the parcel is vacant, they like it vacant and they don’t want ANYTHING built there.

However, in the end, reason prevailed.  There are many more steps in the process, however the Women’s Community got past the first one.

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