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Neighbors worried about housing development
In Boscobel
Wendi Stitzer and pine trees
Neighbors want these trees (left) to remain standing. Whitney Stitzer (right) said she and her neighbors oppose the new housin development.

BOSCOBEL - Residents of Boscobel’s Pine Shores Estates are concerned about the city’s plan for their neighborhood. At issue is a large stand of mature pine trees that not only gives the subdivision its name, but also screens it from a salvage yard next door.

The trees grow on 7 of 10 lots that the city is proposing to purchase and develop into housing for workers at the nearby industrial zone. But residents worry about what life will be like if the trees are cut down.

“It would be awful,” said Whitney Stitzer, who lives with her husband and two children in the subdivision.

“It would be a horrible view. Why would you expose that junkyard?”

The city is entertaining different ideas for how to protect both the residents and the salvage yard, according to City Administrator Misty Molzof.

“Anybody who develops it would have to tear down the trees,” Molzof said. “We could put up a concrete wall. We could put up a fence. I think the most attractive option would be a natural berm with pine trees.”

Moreover, the city argues that the forest is past its prime.

“It’s in rough shape,” said Mike Reynolds, Boscobel’s City Engineer and Director of Public Works. “They’re at least 50 or 60 years old. There’s a lot of dead stuff. I wouldn’t build a house under them.”

Also of concern to neighbors is the idea of multi-unit rental housing in the subdivision, according to Stitzer.

The city has an accepted offer on the land, contingent upon it being rezoned as R-2 zoning, which allows dwellings with up to eight units each.

The current owner, Shimpach Enterprises, is petitioning the Boscobel planning commission for the zoning change.

A public hearing takes place in council chambers at 6 p.m. on May 9.

Lack of worker housing

The impulse behind the city development is a shortage of mid-priced housing for area workers.

“Housing is our greatest challenge, period,” explained Ron Brisbois, Executive Director of the Grant County Economic Development Corporation.

“Businesses are hiring people from outside the area, they want to come live here, but the homes are not here.”

In Pine Shores, the city wants to build housing that would be affordable for workers in the industrial park—in the $140,000 range according to Molzof. 

“It’s not incomebased housing following poverty guidelines. It’s workforce housing based on median wages of workers in the industrial park,” she said.

The housing development is one of several projects resulting from an expansion of a Tax Increment District (TID) the city designated in 2005.

A TID essentially diverts land taxes for city development. Normally, real estate taxes are divided between the city, local schools, and other entities. In a TID, the city must reinvest some of the money into the district instead.

In this case, the original TID was used to develop sites at the industrial park. As of January 2020, the improvements to the park had increased its value by about $3.9 million, according to a report prepared for the city by Vierbicher Associates, Inc. of Reedsburg. In 2024, the TID will end, freeing about $90,000 a year that is currently tied up in reinvestment.

In early 2020, the council voted to expand the scope of the TID to include, among other things, a $200,000 investment in developing worker housing within half a mile of the industrial park.

If the council approves rezoning, and the purchase goes through, the council will likely give the land to the local housing authority, according to both Molzof and Brisbois. The housing authority would work with a developer. The eventual sale price of the lots would be recaptured by the housing authority to re-invest in new projects.

What the actual housing might look like is unclear at this time. 

“After the purchase, we’ll look at feasibility and pricing,” said Molzof. “I think we all have the same idea moving forward that it has to be a workforce housing project.”

Beyond that, details including the size of units or whether they would be rentals, are undetermined.

The other side of the fence Joe Napp, who bought J&J Recycling and Salvage with his brother a little over two years ago, is skeptical of the plan.

“I’m not saying I hate the idea of getting more housing and getting more people in the city,” he said, “but I don’t think they have any room to put this earth wall up between us.” 

He’s also concerned that increased visibility will come with increased security risk. The salvage yard has been there for years, he said—long before the housing development. And he credits the trees with helping everyone get along.

“I’m worried about nosey people and the grief they might cause me,” he said. “There are probably 600 vehicles in here. People are going to get sick of seeing it out their windows, and then they’ll complain, and complain, and complain until they make us take it out of here.”