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Sauk County panel postpones action on housing loan fund

August 3, 2018

Geick

A Sauk County panel wants to hear more from local municipalities before setting aside funds that would help people build apartments into their homes.

The Sauk County Board’s Economic Development Committee voted 4-2 on Wednesday to postpone action on a $1.2 million revolving loan fund for accessory dwelling units.

Two committee members from Baraboo, Supervisor Scott Von Asten and Board Chairman Peter Vedro, have championed the proposal, saying it fits with a concept called Smart Growth. The goal is to boost living density in pedestrian-friendly downtown areas, make downtown housing more accessible to young professionals, and limit urban sprawl.

But other committee members have resisted the idea, saying it lacks details, such as a specific process for approving the loans. They also say there is no indication that an increase in the number of downtown basement and above-garage apartments is something municipalities within the county desire.

“I haven’t heard one local government leader say, ‘We’d like the county to do this,’” said committee member Marty Krueger of Reedsburg. He made the motion to postpone action on the loan fund until the committee’s Aug. 20 meeting, so input from municipalities can be solicited.

Sauk County Community Liaison Jared Pinkus said he was aware of only two communities within the county with zoning codes that allow construction of accessory dwelling units: The villages of Prairie du Sac and Spring Green.

The city of Baraboo’s zoning restricts such projects. However, city officials are set to begin the process of reexamining zoning regulations in the coming months.

Baraboo City Administrator Ed Geick, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, told committee members the outcome of that process likely will determine whether the city is on board with the county’s proposal. He said the city won’t have an answer before the county panel’s next meeting.

“But the basic concept – as we’ve talked about it with staff and with the mayor – it’s generally a good idea, we think,” Geick said.

The proposal is to use county savings to create the fund, so it would not impact the county’s property tax levy. Governments use revolving loan funds for a variety of purposes, such as helping local businesses open or expand.

Von Asten and Vedro voted against postponing action on the fund. They said concerns about a lack of specifics is premature, and inserting money in the county’s 2019 budget would allow staff to begin the process of developing guidelines for the project.

“We could vote against tabling this,” Von Asten said. “We could vote for the motion (to create the fund), and we could still have those community leaders come in and talk to this committee before we get into any of the specifics of how this would actually function.”

Supervisors who voted to postpone were as follows: Krueger, Wally Czuprynko of Lake Delton, Bryant Hazard of Baraboo and Bob Newport of LaValle.

The Sauk County Development Corp. is preparing a study that will examine the housing availability issues plaguing certain communities, the results of which are expected to be released in the coming months.

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