see also: West District Findings - West District Recommendations
One of the more recently-developed parts of Madison, the West district has a significantly lower density than the neighboring Near West. Some of the larger green spaces in the area, such as Elver Park and University Ridge Golf Course, attract visitors from across the region. Smaller parks, such as Owen Conservation Park, Walnut Grove Park, Garner Park, and High Point Park, offer more local and neighborhood appeal. Whatever the size or appeal, taken together these open spaces are an important environmental asset. The West's rivers--Black Earth Creek, Pheasant Branch Creek, and Sugar River--provide additional open space and natural areas.
The West district's original development consisted of country style homes, many of which were occupied by professionals associated with the University and with government. Over the past few decades, growth has increased the district's density, but the country style and feel remain part of the character of its residential areas. The beltline highway (originally built as a two-lane roadway from 1948 to 1953) divides the West district, highlighting the City's development over time. While the beltline once constituted Madison's southern and western periphery, urban growth has since crossed the highway and expanded to the point that a greater portion of the West district is now outside the beltline. West Towne Mall (built in 1969) and the surrounding commercial and retail enterprises now lie near the center of the district. The mall itself contains nearly 1.5 million square feet of leasing area and is surrounded by more than 7,800 parking spaces. Bustling commercial corridors line almost every arterial in the West: Whitney Way, Gammon Road, Mineral Point Road, Odana Road, and Junction Road. Many of these commercial areas are characterized by big-box and mall-type development, which contributes to the problems of stormwater runoff and vehicle congestion.
The district is bordered to the north by the City of Middleton, to the east by the Near West district, to the south by the City of Fitchburg and the Town of Verona, and to the west by the Town of Middleton. Neighborhoods within the district range in age, size, and density. Some of the larger neighborhoods include Spring Harbor, Wexford Village, Parkwood Hills, and Faircrest. South of the beltline are the neighborhoods of Orchard Ridge, Allied-Dunn's Marsh, Meadowood, Greentree, Prairie Hills, and Stone Meadows. These neighborhoods vary widely in age and character. A rapidly-growing area lies to the west of the beltline. Much of this new development is commercial and office space, but include at least two neighborhoods, Junction Ridge and Blackhawk. Additional new development is underway on agricultural land located just inside the city limits. Approximately 50,173 residents live in Madison's West district, which covers roughly 23 square miles of predominantly residential (single-family, multi-family, and condominium) land uses.
District Planning Goals
A number West district neighborhood associations have addressed through their plans the issues of natural area and open space preservation, the reduction and management of stormwater runoff, and the reduction of traffic volumes while increasing of alternative transportation options.
Protection and Increase of Natural Areas and Open Space
Protection and preservation of natural areas and open space are addressed by (1) identifying land for the establishment of open space and/or natural areas, such as in the Blackhawk Neighborhood Development Plan, and (2) adopting policies for neighborhood development, such as in the Highpoint-Raymond Neighborhood Development Plan. In addition to these general goals, some neighborhoods have adopted more specific actions to increase natural areas and open spaces, such as The Highpoint-Raymond Neighborhood Development Plan, which suggests expanding Elver Park.
Reduction and Management of Stormwater Runoff
The neighborhood development plans in the West propose the development of a drainage system to protect rivers and watersheds in this area. Proposed actions for this goal include: (1) developing a drainage and detention system (Elderberry Neighborhood Development Plan 1994); (2) using natural land covers to reduce and manage stormwater (West Side Neighborhood Development Plan 1999); and (3) educating residents in this area about how to reduce and manage stormwater runoff in their backyards (Orchard Ridge Neighborhood Survey Response 2004).
Reduction of Traffic Volumes and Increase of Accessibility of Alternative Transportation Methods
Traffic congestion in West Madison is a final important issue addressed by many neighborhood plans, which call for measures to increase alternatives to auto travel, such as the creation of two new transit routes within walking distance of district neighborhoods (Blackhawk Neighborhood Development Plan 1994) and the continuation of bike path development (Highpoint-Raymond Neighborhood Development Plan 1997).
The physical characteristics and neighborhood goals of the West district provide a variety of opportunities for promoting ecological sustainability. The abundance of open space is an important asset that can form the basis for new conservation efforts, including the possibility of a new, 25-acre natural area. Increasing traffic volume will likely continue to be a major challenge, one that is closely tied to the character of new commercial developments, but this issue can be addressed in part by acting on existing neighborhood goals for greater transportation alternatives. Adopting limits on impervious cover can also influence new development while reducing stormwater runoff. Neighborhood recommendations for drainage systems and residential lawn-care education can be complemented with reductions in impervious cover on public land. The analysis that follows examines land use in the West district and discusses some of these issues in greater detail.