A proposed 108-unit rental apartment complex cleared its first hurdle toward development. Milton’s plan commission recommended and the city council approved a request made by Capital Asset Investments, LLC, to rezone just over 13 acres of land, changing the designation from agricultural to planned unit development (PUD).

The commission and council met April 3 to accommodate the April 2 general election.

Council approved the measure after a first reading, waiving the second and third readings, with a contingency that the developer files a certified survey map (CSM).

PUD zoning is used to “promote improved environmental design by allowing for greater freedom, imagination, and flexibility … (allowing) diversification and variation in the relationship of uses, structures, open spaces, heights of structures … as a comprehensive and cohesive unified project,” City Administrator Al Hulick wrote in a memo to the plan commission.

The rezoned parcel, located on the city’s south side, south of Woodcrest Lane and west of Parkview Drive, is part of a larger 47-acre piece owned by Capital Asset Investments, which is owned by Mike and Diamond McKenna. The land was formerly part of Pierce Farms and was purchased from Mike Pierce in August 2018, Pierce told the Milton Courier in December.

Hulick told members of the plan commission that a general development plan had been submitted by project co-developer Illinois-based Yost Enterprises to help facilitate decision-making. A more detailed developer’s site plan would be provided at a future date. The April 3 decision, as brought before the commission and the council, involved whether to grant the zoning change from A-2 to PUD, and not the specifics of the project, Hulick said.

Yost Enterprises CEO, Jeremy Yost — accompanied by Glen Eriksson, a civil engineer and principal with Eriksson Engineering Associates, LTD, Milwaukee, and Todd Wiltse, with Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects, Chicago — attended the plan commission meeting, which included a public hearing. Yost and Eriksson also attended the council meeting.

Dubbed Red Hawk Apartments, preliminary plans show a two-phase project. A first phase would occupy 7.6 acres and include three 36-unit buildings, ranging in size from approximately 6,000 to 8,000 square feet, two of which will include one- and two-bedroom units, and a third with one- and three-bedroom units, and 208 parking spaces, with 118 designated as surface and 90 designated as garage. A recreation area is included as part of first phase development, with the possibility of a larger recreational area which would be built on land within phase 2, but constructed, would the city request it, as part of phase 1. Land reserved for development in phase 2 includes 5.12 acres. Building and parking footprints within phase 2 are not designated on the general development plan. A community building is indicated as part of phase 1.

Public comments

Describing her home as the closest to the proposed complex, Amy Bass, 373 Woodcrest Lane, cited concerns about privacy, noise and safety during the public hearing.

Bass told commissioners that she and her family had moved into the home just over three months ago, and learned only four days after their offer to purchase was accepted about “unique changes and growth next to us.” Bass described herself as a former student at Milton High School, and a mother of children in the district. While she supported area growth, she said, she had concerns about changes in noise and safety that might follow if her now dead-end road would be connected, as shown in the project’s general development plan, to Blanche Lane, bisecting Parkview Drive.

The dead-end road was of specific value to her family, she said, due to her son’s special needs.

Citing the proximity of a proposed parking area which would be built along a shared property line with her home, she asked about plans to erect a noise and privacy barrier.

Gary Tolocko, a town of Harmony resident and Bass’ father, expressed concerns about costs associated with such improvements as sidewalks and infrastructure, asking commissioners if families within the neighborhood would be asked to bear those burdens. He described Woodcrest Lane as “rough" and in need of repair.

Speaking from the podium during the public hearing, council member Lynda Clark said she was in support of the development. A homeowner in the Brown Heights subdivision, her house was built in 1994, she said. Brown Heights is located on land adjacent and east of the proposed Yost development.

Clark said she was in support of a zoning change for the rental development, noting that she had friends no longer living in the city because they didn’t have access to the types of rental property they were looking for. She, too, talked about proposed road configurations, asking if the city had plans to make surface repairs to Blanche Drive, which, the general development plan showed, would connect with Woodcrest, creating a four-way intersection, as the two roads met with Parkview.

Commissioners weigh in

Plan Commissioner Larry Laehn asking whether adequate sanitary sewer was in place to handle the city’s new developments.

Hulick said a utility feasibility analysis would be required as part of a “specific development plan,” as stipulated within the development ordinance and required by the city as the project moves forward, and the city had no concerns about the capacity at the wastewater treatment facility, even with the addition of 108 new apartment units.

Commissioner Dave Ostrowski asked if any of the apartments would be designated specifically for senior citizens, whom he defined as 55 and older.

Yost said the units would be available to anyone who passed a standard background check.

He assured commissioners that his team would appropriately address any storm water issues, citing his company’s experience with building “multiple developments” throughout Wisconsin and Illinois.

Director of Public Works Howard Robinson asked about a schedule of events, noting his interest in utility planning. He would have preferred a more detailed general plan, he said.

Yost said one would be presented to the city within the next few months. He was looking to start construction in June, he said.

Answering questions about water, storm water, and sanitary sewer infrastructure, Eriksson said the project would follow Milton’s criteria. He said water mains and easements were in place along the rezoned parcel’s north and east property lines, and the project would connect to those sources. In terms of storm water management, he said, there is drainage on the property that will need to be addressed, requiring detention, infiltration and treatment, all of which will be designed in accordance with DNR criteria, which is also Milton’s criteria, he said.

Addressing sanitary sewer infrastructure, Eriksson cited the city’s commitment to building an offsite lift station, which, he said, he understood would be located on property south of the proposed apartment complex. The complex would require connection to the lift station, Eriksson said.

Hulick said bids for the lift station had been returned to the city and were on the evening’s council agenda for discussion. The lift station would be able to serve 227 acres, including the Yost project, as well as any potential subsequent Red Hawk Farms residential subdivision phases that might be proposed by Forster Construction.

The station will likely be constructed along Parkview Drive near or adjacent to the YMCA, Hulick said. He described the station’s construction as a long-term plan held by the city for over a decade.

Addressing comments made by Bass and Tolocko, Commissioner Ethel Himmel said that while some answers were available to their questions, some were still pending, but would be answered.

Developers pay for sidewalks, she said.

Hulick said Woodcrest Lane was already on the city’s “short list” for rehabilitation.

“But we don’t want to repair it and have it torn up by development,” he said. Any improvements made to the developer’s parcel would not bring assessments to area homeowners, he said.

“When we repair Woodcrest, if sections of it need curb and gutter in front of your home, you might pay an assessment, but that would be independent of this,” Hulick said.

Noise and privacy buffering would be included as part of a site plan, Hulick said. The developer was aware, after hearing public comments, of the concerns and would hopefully make provisions, he said.

Mayor Anissa Welch suggested review of city ordinances relating to development, which, she said, were on the city’s website.

“City staff will answer your questions, and if they don’t have the answer, they will find it. It is a complicated process to have a major development like this,” Welch said.

“It has been 15 years since Rock County has had a development of this scale,” Hulick said.

A supportive collaborator

“Who wouldn’t want to be in a community where progress and changes are actively happening? If someone wants to invest in our community and provide affordable housing, it’s a good thing,” Bass said in a follow-up interview.

A resident of Milton, “on and off” for the last 25 years, Bass said she came to the public hearing out of a concern for the safety and well-being of both of her children, but changes, she said, are often harder for her 16-year-old son with autism, Connor.

For Connor, Bass said, comfort is found in privacy and quiet.

“I’m not going to change the world and how it operates for Connor. He has to be prepared to integrate into the world the way it is, but I want him to have a comfortable and safe living space, with minimal stimulation, quiet, and minimal distractions,” she said.

After attending the plan commission and council meetings, she said: “My biggest take away was that Mayor Welch, and the committee heard what I was saying and were very receptive.

“We want to welcome great people who want to live here. They will be our neighbors, and we are welcoming of that, but we want some give-and-take on the plans,” A barrier to block noise and stimulation is her biggest concern, she said.

“Let’s work together in a collaborative way to be good neighbors together,” Bass said.

Moving forward, Bass said: “I will be watching closely. I feel confident that good things are happening and I intend to be as present as possible.”

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