As part of the 5 year update of the Town of Menasha Comprehensive Plan, a scientific survey was conducted to illicit responses on many planning and Smart Growth related issues. A total of 600 surveys were distributed to Town residents, using a random sample, and there were 212 responses (35% response). There was close to an equal return rate by both residents of the east and west side of the Town, with 99 east side and 106 west side respondents (7 surveys did not indicate). The majority of respondents have resided in the town over 10 years and live in a single-family home.


The first survey question, which inquired on whether the Town should promote higher densities in areas served by adequate infrastructure in order to prevent sprawl, had about an even split in its responses. For example, 20.75% agreed and 21.7% somewhat agreed with the survey question for a total of 42.45 % agreeing in some manner. On the other hand, 32.55% disagreed and 9.91% disagreed, for a total of 42.46% disagreeing in some manner. The state Smart Growth legislation does encourage and provide potential benefits for communities that implement higher densities. There will be public hearings that will further examine this issue, such as presenting visuals of different density types.


The survey results indicated that the Town has a sufficient amount of rental housing (72.64% agreeing in some manner) as well as safe and affordable housing densities (72.65% agreeing in some manner). Therefore, the survey results show that the Town should work to maintain its current ratio of single-family to multiple-family. As of January 1, 2001, the Town had 68% single-family developments (single-family home and mobile homes) as opposed to 32% multiple-family developments (multi-family & duplexes). With the recent expansion of single-family developments, as well as future subdivisions being proposed, this ratio will alter more to the side of single-family as opposed to multi-family.


In terms of economic development issues, the survey showed that the Town should attract larger corporations (66.98% agreeing in some manner), retail development (53.77% agreeing in some manner), and promote private industrial parks (61.8% agreeing in some manner). Furthermore, the survey results indicated that the Town is growing at a comfortable rate, with 83.02% of the respondents agreeing in some manner. From these survey results, it can be concluded that the Town should continue to promote and regulate development at its current pace.


Another important planning issue addressed through the survey involved environmental/open space topics. First, the survey strongly showed that the Town values the environment and air/water quality (96.23% agreeing in some manner). Environmental corridors (78.19% agreeing in some manner), reserving more open/conservation spaces (71.7% agreeing in some manner), and the continuation of trails (80.66% agreeing in some manner) were all strongly supported by the respondents. In addition, 58.49% of the respondents agreed in some manner to have more landscaping along major streets. The only issue that was about evenly divided (49.06% agreeing in some manner and 45.76% disagreeing in some manner) was whether every resident should be within walking distance of a park. It should be noted that the Town does require every new subdivision to dedicate an area for an open space or park. Overall, these responses showed a strong support for environmental and open space issues.


The responses about drainage and railroad crossing problems were closely divided. For example, 47.7% agreed in some manner and 45.76% disagreed in some manner over drainage problems in their neighborhood. Concerning railroad crossing problems, 40.56% agreed in some manner and 55.19% disagreed in some manner. These responses were then obviously based on the specific location of the respondents.


Concerning transportation, the respondents were strongly in favor of reconstructing arterials and collector streets as growth mandates, with 89.62% agreeing in some manner. This result then supports the Town reconstructing certain roads or construct new roads in order to accommodate increased development and safety concerns. Furthermore, 58.02% of the respondents approved in some manner of the public transportation. There was little disagreement on this issue but there were more “no responses” (30.19%), which indicated that these respondents most likely did not use or were unfamiliar with the available public transportation.   


In sum, the survey results showed that there was a majority response (50% or over) or close to it for many of the questions (e.g. trail expansion, continued development practices, the amount of quality of housing types, intergovernmental cooperation, etc.). There were a few questions that had evenly distributed responses for either agreeing or disagreeing in some manner (e.g. density issue). The survey was a good starting point since it allowed the Town to get a general grasp on how its residents feel about many important smart growth related planning issues. The upcoming public hearings will break down all these issues and allow residents to comment on them in further detail.