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Old 08-03-2012, 07:13 PM
 
Location: Madison, WI
14,968 posts, read 19,682,705 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MidwesternBookWorm View Post
Glad you found it useful! On to your new questions...



I don't think I've ever seen a non-paved road in Dane County, other than on private farmland. They may exist, but I've never encountered one in the 13 years we've lived here. Plowing in the winter is usually fast and efficient (though there have been a few notable exceptions); when my younger kid lived in Marshall, she took a county highway in from Marshall to Madison, and never had any issues with snow in the winter. She could usually make the drive in about 20 minutes, on all but the worst winter days.

If you travel farther afield, up in the more rural northern part of the state, you can find gravel or dirt roads, but this area is pretty well established in terms of infrastructure. If you look at a map of Wisconsin, it's a sort of misshapen left mitten. If you draw a line from Green Bay at the base of the thumb down diagonally to the corner of the state closest to Iowa, roughly 2/3 of the state's population is in that lower right-hand corner. The rest of the state is much more sparsely settled, and you are likelier to find more rudimentary infrastructure, especially on county and village roads.



Sun Prairie definitely has an individual character. The city as a whole has invested a lot of time and effort in establishing and maintaining a community feel, and it works really well. Our elder kid prefers to shop there than to drive into Madison, even though it's less than a 15-minute trip.

Monona has a history of being more of a bedroom community to Madison, but in recent years they've worked hard at establishing themselves as a community in their own right. I think they have real potential to continue that, if they can just get over the feeling that they're Madison's orphan step-sister.

Cottage Grove is an interesting mix. The original city center is very much the rural village, little shops and restaurants, farm supplies and the like, but in the past maybe 10 to 15 years, there have been several quite large (and to my eyes, pretentious) developments pop up in what used to be farmland. I don't know how they're faring since the economy tanked, but for a while there, it looked like Cottage Grove was aiming to be the new yuppie destination of Dane County. I wouldn't go so far as to describe it as schizophrenic, but there are definitely two very different and distinct faces to Cottage Grove.

McFarland is a nice small city, has a small town center, some business and shops, but I haven't gotten the sense that they really have a lot invested in developing the kind of self-contained Main Street feel that some other communities have. Caveat: I also am not as familiar with McFarland as I am with some other communities on the east side, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

Marshall is a nice little farming village. It does have its own identity, but they're really struggling to keep the town center afloat. They lost their only grocery store a couple of years back, and the businesses are working hard to keep people walking in the door, but it's tough. One reason why it's more affordable, of course, but sadly, it doesn't bode well for the community's future.

Waunakee (northeast of Madison) is definitely a bedroom community all the way. For folks who like to live where there isn't much noise or activity, it's ideal, but if you want a city that has a sense of its own identity, Waunakee would not be at the top of my list.

Oh, and then there's Stoughton, about 15 miles or so south of Madison. Now, that's a community that really has a strong identity, a whole lot of history and a real sense of what they are and what they want to be. I know several people who live there, and in fact we regularly get tickets to the events at the Stoughton Opera House (in preference to the gigantic Overture Center in downtown Madison) because we enjoy it so much. It's a very Norwegian community - if you have a hankering for lutefisk and lefse, you'll find it in Stoughton.



Very true, and I think Madison does well in that regard. Not perfectly by any means - this is, after all, the land of deep-fried cheese curds, bratwurst and an astounding array of good beer - but in comparison with other cities of similar size that we've lived in, I think Madison earns high marks for both environmentalism and health/wellness.



The only one of those I've mentioned that comes close to that range would be Sun Prairie, at about 29K. Stoughton has a population of about 13K, Waunakee is around 11K, Monona, Cottage Grove and McFarland are between 7K and 10K, and Marshall is less than 4K.

One thing you haven't mentioned that I should probably bring up is politics. I had the experience of living for eighteen years in a community (in a different state) where nearly all of the population embraced the diametric opposite of my own political views, and I found it a terribly isolating and frustrating experience. Some people have described experiencing the same thing living in Madison. Madison is an extremely left-leaning community, and to a lesser degree, much of Dane County leans left as well. That may or may not be a problem for you, but I would be remiss if I did not bring it up at least briefly.

Keep those questions coming!
Ok, what is the housing stock like for Stoughton, Waunakee, Monona, Cottage Grove, and McFarland like in terms of rentals? Which one would have the most options. I know you expounded on some of the housing options in Sun Prairie. In terms of overall desirability which one do you prefer over the others if given a choice? I like the fact that most towns surrounding Madison try to keep their own identity. This is quite refreshing compared to other places I've lived in the past.

"I don't think I've ever seen a non-paved road in Dane County, other than on private farmland. They may exist, but I've never encountered one in the 13 years we've lived here. Plowing in the winter is usually fast and efficient (though there have been a few notable exceptions); when my younger kid lived in Marshall, she took a county highway in from Marshall to Madison, and never had any issues with snow in the winter. She could usually make the drive in about 20 minutes, on all but the worst winter days.

If you travel farther afield, up in the more rural northern part of the state, you can find gravel or dirt roads, but this area is pretty well established in terms of infrastructure. If you look at a map of Wisconsin, it's a sort of misshapen left mitten. If you draw a line from Green Bay at the base of the thumb down diagonally to the corner of the state closest to Iowa, roughly 2/3 of the state's population is in that lower right-hand corner. The rest of the state is much more sparsely settled, and you are likelier to find more rudimentary infrastructure, especially on county and village roads."

I think I recall reading somewhere that Wisconsin has more paved road miles in rural areas compared to nearly any other state in the US. So, the state is obviously spending money maintaining a lot of road miles. Where I live now I need AWD due to all of the varying road types I encounter that are on steep hills. Wisconsin seems very similar to New Hampshire given the fact that the majority of the population lives in the southeast 1/3 of the state.

Politics: I'm burned out on politics and will remain an Independent for the foreseable future. In generally I lean fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I know Wisconsin is more fiscally liberal and has more taxes than I'm used to in NH (we don't an income or sales tax). In terms of COL, Madison looks to be a bit more affordable in terms of housing costs for both rentals and houses if this position works well for the longer term. How expensive are property taxes in Dane County and do you see those costs downshifting to renters?

I appreciate your in-depth analysis of the Madison area
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Old 08-03-2012, 08:14 PM
 
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Glad you appreciate it, but I'll warn you that we're approaching the limits of my knowledge! I have pretty decent knowledge of Madison and very good knowledge about the east side of Madison, but to be completely honest, the extent of my knowledge of the suburbs is a lot less comprehensive.

So with that as a warning, I'll start with a disclaimer: the following are my impressions, and should be taken with a grain (or perhaps a large chunk) of salt.

I know there are rentals to be found in Stoughton, Monona and in Cottage Grove. I do not know a lot of details about the rental market in any of those communities, beyond the fact that they exist. A former colleague has lived and rented in Stoughton for a number of years; as noted upthread, a young couple who are very good friends currently rent in Monona; and we have acquaintances who have rented in Cottage Grove in the past.

My impression of Waunakee has always been that most residences there are owner-occupied. It has never come across as a place that has a great many rentals to offer. I have gotten a similar impression of McFarland. And of course I could be all wrong in both cases.

Stoughton, as noted earlier, has a deeply rooted heritage and a long and honorable history. A lot of the single-family housing stock is early 20th century vintage, but there are newer homes and apartments to be found as rentals. You are likely to find more contemporary construction available as rentals than historic buildings, which generally means better amenities.

Monona is, well, I like the city, but it's just a little on the shabby side. That doesn't bother me, mind you, but the buildings there tend to be a little older, a little less updated, a little more cookie-cutter and less unique - in short, there is some reason for the city to feel like Madison's orphan step-sister. My sense is that you'd find plenty of rentals available, but many or most of them might be pretty basic places. Not that that's a bad thing if you're looking for a one to two year rental to get a sense of the area before buying, just don't expect the fancy places there.

Cottage Grove has in the past been largely owner-occupied, but my guess is that more are available now as rentals than might have been the case in the past. Again, though, note the wording - that is my GUESS, not an absolute.

As for my own preference, if I were going to live in one of the suburbs rather than in Madison itself, I would either choose Sun Prairie or Stoughton, depending on where I worked. For me, probably Sun Prairie has a slight edge, but only because of the proximity to Madison; I like Madison a lot, and I like shopping, working and playing here, and if I weren't living in the city, I'd want to live near enough to easily get to events here. However, if I were retired, I might very well choose Stoughton; it's not all that far from Madison, and I really like the community and the sense of history and roots there. I'm guessing that of the two, Sun Prairie might have a bit more to offer in terms of housing options.

Your comment about Madison looking "a bit more affordable in terms of housing costs" is not one that I see often, to be honest. As Midwestern cities of this size go, it's a pretty spendy place to live. But I recognize that in comparison to the east coast, it could seem much more affordable than we perceive it here.

Property taxes are also fairly high for the Midwest. On the other hand, you get a pretty fair bang for the buck; the money doesn't all go to line the pockets of the mayor and city council, but is actually spent mostly to benefit the city and its citizens. For Madison itself, expect to pay about $3,500 per year on a $150K home. You can look up any address in the city, or a range of addresses, at the assessor's website here: City Assessor - Property Lookup - City of Madison, Wisconsin.

Unquestionably renters bear a portion of the property tax costs. That is part of the management company's cost of doing business, and if a company wants to stay in business, they need to recover all those costs. So yes, you're likely to see those costs passed on to renters. On the bright side, if you are a renter in Wisconsin, you can get a tax break on your income tax bases on how much rent you paid, so it's not all doom and gloom.

Let's see, I think that covered all your questions? You'll be back with more, I am sure - or at least I hope so! Take care, talk soon-
The BookWorm

Last edited by 7G9C4J2; 08-03-2012 at 10:59 PM..
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Old 08-04-2012, 03:45 AM
 
Location: Chapin SC
3,000 posts, read 3,547,104 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MidwesternBookWorm View Post
My impression of Waunakee has always been that most residences there are owner-occupied. It has never come across as a place that has a great many rentals to offer. I have gotten a similar impression of McFarland. And of course I could be all wrong in both cases.
correct on Waunakee, little for apt's in that area and what duplexes exist could fall out of the OP's range. Same would be for the Deforest area as well though they do have more rental then Waunakee ( that was our home location for 20+ years). And as my wife made the Defo-south Madison drive each day for 17 yrs, i'd also recommend to the OP for looking at the east or south burbs such as Sun Prairie or Stoughton since their job locations is on SE side. Both are close enough to what Madison offers where transit time really isnt an issue. We had friends in both "cities" and they were quite happy with their locations.
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Old 08-04-2012, 04:40 PM
 
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MWBW gave you a good summary of the communities you asked about.

If you prefer small towns, Sun Prairie is probably the best match for you because of your price range. Rents are higher in the other communities and Madison proper is even more so.

Just to give you a feel for what you can get for your money.... My friend Kathy (not her real name) rents a 2 bedroom on East Washington, near the high school for 810 per month. She has to park on the street, doesn't have ac (just one really pathetic window air conditioner for the whole apartment), she has to hike up a steep set of stairs to get to her apartment, doesn't have laundry in her unit (in fact, she has to go outside and through a side door to the basement to get to the laundry), her kitchen is so small there isn't room for her microwave so she perches it on her refrigerator, there is no dish washer and while her heat is included in her rent, the landlord keeps the heat at 65, the second bedroom isn't big enough for more than a twin bed (forget about a dresser or nightstand) and there is always something broken in the place. That and the fact that it is on one the busiest streets in the city, so you've got constant traffic noise.

I would second Josh's endorsement of Barrington Place. I haven't been in that complex for about 5 years, but it was very nice then. Laundry in unit, central air, elevators, contemporary decor, lots of closets and decent square footage for the price. It looks like they start at 810 for a one bedroom.
Eastside Madison Apartments | Barrington Place Apartments in Madison, WI 53718
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Old 08-04-2012, 05:20 PM
 
Location: Madison, WI
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Thanks for the advice all. I do appreciate the recommendations and will look into each suggestion

The closest complex I've found near work is "The Cottages" in McFarland off Taylor Rd. Is that a good area overall? It appears to only be a 3 mile one way commute which would be ideal.
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Old 08-04-2012, 05:54 PM
 
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Well, as noted above, I am not terribly familiar with McFarland, though in general I understand it to be a safe area.

Not to be nosy, but were you looking for a "mature" complex? The Cottages is classified as Senior Housing, which should mean that you wouldn't have to worry about pot-smoking neighbors having loud parties til all hours, but could also mean other challenges instead.
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Old 08-04-2012, 10:14 PM
 
Location: Madison, WI
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Originally Posted by MidwesternBookWorm View Post
Well, as noted above, I am not terribly familiar with McFarland, though in general I understand it to be a safe area.

Not to be nosy, but were you looking for a "mature" complex? The Cottages is classified as Senior Housing, which should mean that you wouldn't have to worry about pot-smoking neighbors having loud parties til all hours, but could also mean other challenges instead.
Whoops I didn't see that classification. I'll keep searching for more possible options.
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Old 08-05-2012, 09:49 PM
 
Location: Middleton, Wisconsin
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Originally Posted by Megan1967 View Post
I would second Josh's endorsement of Barrington Place. I haven't been in that complex for about 5 years, but it was very nice then. Laundry in unit, central air, elevators, contemporary decor, lots of closets and decent square footage for the price. It looks like they start at 810 for a one bedroom.
Eastside Madison Apartments | Barrington Place Apartments in Madison, WI 53718

Thanks for the additional endorsement. Quite honestly I've become so tired of apartment hunting in Madison. I plan on staying where I'm at for a while. I also had strict standards. Granite Stater, This was my guidelines, don't know what exactly you want but.

Central Air
Pool
Clubhouse
1 bedroom
Wanted fireplace with vaulted ceilings, (I got it btw!)
Safe area (That depends on who you ask) I like living by office parks as it's not as residential and seems overall quieter. I live at Deer Creek in Middleton and I'd say if I wanted something like it on the east side, no doubt Barrington Place would be my choice. I'd rather spend a little more a month and not worry about my neighbors or property crimes et cetera. MWB summed things up very well.

If I were you I'd consider Middleton,too. Before I moved to Madison I didn't have one area right away. I looked all over. Quite honestly from what you've said I'd rule out Waunakee or DeForest, the just feel to far out to me. Sun Prairie is growing like crazy and has a lot going for it. As MWB said it feels like it's own city. Middleton to me feels more clean cut, minus a few areas. All together it's a fairly quiet burb in my opinion. I have to agree that Monona and Mcfarland seem kind of shabby, not dirty just old...
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:20 PM
 
Location: Madison, WI
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Originally Posted by JoshB View Post
Thanks for the additional endorsement. Quite honestly I've become so tired of apartment hunting in Madison. I plan on staying where I'm at for a while. I also had strict standards. Granite Stater, This was my guidelines, don't know what exactly you want but.

Central Air
Pool
Clubhouse
1 bedroom
Wanted fireplace with vaulted ceilings, (I got it btw!)
Safe area (That depends on who you ask) I like living by office parks as it's not as residential and seems overall quieter. I live at Deer Creek in Middleton and I'd say if I wanted something like it on the east side, no doubt Barrington Place would be my choice. I'd rather spend a little more a month and not worry about my neighbors or property crimes et cetera. MWB summed things up very well.

If I were you I'd consider Middleton,too. Before I moved to Madison I didn't have one area right away. I looked all over. Quite honestly from what you've said I'd rule out Waunakee or DeForest, the just feel to far out to me. Sun Prairie is growing like crazy and has a lot going for it. As MWB said it feels like it's own city. Middleton to me feels more clean cut, minus a few areas. All together it's a fairly quiet burb in my opinion. I have to agree that Monona and Mcfarland seem kind of shabby, not dirty just old...
I will look into Middleton. I was under the impression that Middleton was a little more pricey overall compared to other parts of the city, and it was opposite of where my job was on the far east side of Madison. (Tradewinds Pkwy) off the beltway. Barrington Place seems somewhat spendy as well compared to other nice apt complexes a few miles away in Sun Prairie. In terms of ammenities I'm not looking for a pool, clubhouse, or fireplace. I'm mainly just looking for a well maintained newer complex that is safe and convenient to work starting out. In terms of size Sun Prairie is what I'm probably looking for as I generally prefer small cities in the 25-50K range in population. The nearest city to where I live currently is 45K so that is in my comfort zone. I'm not really interested in being right on top of the University with all of the students and extra noise, although I do appreciate having easy access to the cultural amenities. Do you know anything about Weybridge Apt complex or Gateway Terrace Apt complex in Sun Prairie?These appear to be good overall, but it would be good to have on the ground confirmation.
Gallina Companies - Apartment, Commercial and Retail Rentals in Madison, Green Bay, Appleton, DePere and many other Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida communities.

I will be in the area a few weeks from now looking at all of the possibilities along with the $$ costs of moving in general!

Thanks for your input! I enjoy all the great pictures you've posted in the state photo thread as well.

Last edited by GraniteStater; 08-07-2012 at 05:03 PM..
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:46 PM
 
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Middleton is a really nice city, and I would have recommended it as it has a lot of what you're looking for in terms of community feel, size, and so on, but the commute to your workplace would be a real pain, to say nothing of costing you plenty in gas and vehicle wear & tear. My kid who lives in Sun Prairie commutes to Middleton for work, and she is on the road a good 45 minutes each way, longer in the winter. You'd also be pretty much stuck with using the Beltline, and the Beltline at rush hour is not a fun experience.

I don't know any details about the management company involved, but both of the Sun Prairie apartment complexes you mention are in very good neighborhoods and would be well worth considering. If the rent is in your range and they have a vacancy, you go a long ways and do a lot worse.

As far as the management companies are concerned, I am also going to give you another link that I'd strongly encourage you to visit. The Tenant Resource Center is just a fantastic resource for renters in the area, and while they focus on Madison, they do cover all of Dane County. Think of them as a kind of Better Business Bureau for landlords; they primarily help with mediating tenant/landlord disputes, but in the process, they quickly figure out which landlords are the good guys and which are not. I'd suggest that you call them rather than emailing, though, as they are a totally volunteer-run organization, and sometimes emails get overlooked. They're also really busy at this time of year, since the annual "Turnover week" (when all campus-area apartment leases end and start) is fast approaching.

Let us know when you'll be in town - good luck with getting all the details figured out!

Last edited by 7G9C4J2; 08-06-2012 at 08:12 PM..
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