I am Denise Fenton, running for re-election to the Appleton Common Council in District 6. I didn’t grow up here, but my husband Kelly and I chose Appleton as our home when we moved to the Fox Valley because it combined the best of big city access to arts and culture with a small-town sense of community and friendliness.
As an alderperson, I have worked and will continue to work to make sure that Appleton is a community that attracts newcomers to the area and makes our citizens proud to call Appleton home. I support projects like our new library, which I hope will become a hub of the developing College North neighborhood.
I will work to continue and expand our city’s sustainability efforts, and work to make sure that those and all city policies are developed with a focus on equity. I co-sponsored the resolution that created the Climate Task Force and served as a member of the body for its two-year life.
Appleton’s biggest need, and my first priority, is affordable housing. We have to look at all options, including zoning and transportation changes, to make sure that everyone can have safe and comfortable housing within their means.
What are your plans/ideas to increase affordable housing in Appleton?
In order to increase the amount of affordable housing in Appleton, we are going to have to encourage, and change our zoning to allow, denser development and more multi-family structures. These would include changing setback requirements, lot coverage maximums, height maximums and parking requirements. The vast majority of Appleton’s development has occurred in subdivisions with large homes on large lots on the north side of the city. Many studies have shown that this kind of development is among the least valuable land uses, both in terms of value and tax revenue. The League of Wisconsin Municipalities has just introduced a zoning guide that offers recommendations both for building code changes and community education on the changes. Appleton should study and begin to implement some of these ideas. I am proud to have been an advocate and co-sponsor for a big change that we have already made – allowing people to build Accessory Dwelling Units on their property. These units can address another vital component of the lack of affordable housing – the ability of seniors to stay in their long-time homes either by having family or a caregiving aide on their property, or by being able to rent an ADU or the main house in order to afford taxes and/or upkeep on their homes.
Do you support the creation of a Climate Specialist Staff position, as recommended by the Climate Change Taskforce, for the City of Appleton?
I do support having a dedicated staff position for sustainability/resilience. I know that this is going to be a difficult goal to accomplish, as we do not have support from the mayor at this time. While I appreciate that the city has a long history of sustainability efforts and can boast some great accomplishments, such as the recent installation of solar panels on the Municipal Services Building, I believe we could do more. There will be arguments that we cannot afford another staff member, but I think that by bringing in a person who has experience in grant writing and is familiar with all of the funding sources available, especially with new funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and (hopefully) future legislation, the position could generate more funding than the cost of the position.
What is your priority for how Appleton should utilize American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds?
The most important use of ARPA funds is to help people recover from the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.
Appleton divided the $14.9 million in ARPA funding into two tranches – $6.9 million in the 2021 budget (amended) and $8 million in the 2022 budget. I agreed with and voted for the allocation of the 2021 funds – for broadband in the new library budget, for COVID relief above the CARES Act funds, lost city revenue, direct aid to non-profits, and for lead pipe mitigation, including replacing service lines on the homeowner side at no cost.
The funds to be received in 2022 have been allocated more generally, but I supported the proposed allocation of the largest portion – $3 million – to affordable housing and housing support. I also supported the earmarking of $1.5 million for early childhood development, childcare, and families. The 2022 funds will be distributed via grants. I was glad that there were listening sessions where citizens could provide input on the use of the funds. There is also an online tool here: https://appleton.abalancingact.com/arpa where you can give feedback on the fund allocation and provide notes.