Public listening project aims to center public vision for Madison’s future growth

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Every 10 years, the City of Madison is required to update its comprehensive plan, which is essentially a mission statement detailing the city’s plans and priorities for growth. To make this revision process more accessible to the public, the city created a public-listening project titled Imagine Madison. 

Since the fall of 2016, Imagine Madison has gathered residents’ opinions through a variety of in-person events and an online survey. Imagine Madison’s mission is to gauge the public’s visions, opinions and priorities for Madison’s growth.

“Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in daily concerns, but we’re looking at the things we need to consider looking out 10 or 20 years down the line. We’re looking to the horizon, and not just looking at what’s in front of us,” Brian Grady of the City Planning Division said.

One of Imagine Madison’s central priorities is getting feedback from a wide range of people of all ages and different demographic groups.

“We want to represent the overall will of the community,” Grady said.

Imagine Madison gathered public opinion on six different Madison-centric areas: “land use and transportation,” “neighborhoods and housing,” “economy and opportunity,” “culture and character,” “effective government” and “green and resilience,” which pertains to sustainability.

The City of Madison must consider all six of these areas when deciding how to grow the city and how to use its land effectively, Grady said. These choices and priorities are exactly what the updated comprehensive plan

One of the biggest pieces of feedback the city found was a demand for affordable housing and a wider range of housing options for people at all levels of income, Grady said.

“We build a lot of homes on the edge of the city, and we build a lot of apartments, but we don’t build a lot of other types, which are in demand,” Grady said. “We need to diversify the housing stock.

Other areas of top concern are transit, sustainability and maintaining Madison’s unique culture.

The updated comprehensive plan, in addition to establish consistency with what people should expect from city growth, should also be shorter and much more accessible.

“It’s a very thorough update. Each phase we have draft materials, and people are weighing in. We’re making a lot of changes, and we’ve learned,” Grady said.

Imagine Madison is now in its final phase, having wrapped up its online survey on January 1. The public can still offer comments via the project’s Facebook and Twitter page.

For the next three months, the city will consider all the public opinion and write a full draft of the comprehensive plan. This draft will be available once more for public comment before being reviewed and approved by the city.

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