A Feb. 4 request to reconsider a plan to build new apartments near Cabela’s in Prairie Lakes met with the same fate as it did on Jan. 21 — rejection — but for different reasons.
But the rejection came with claims and counter claims between an alder and Mayor Paul Esser, who told alders that if a tie vote occurred, he would vote in favor of the apartment development proposal.
The FC Land-proposed 166-unit apartment complex to be constructed just west of Cabela’s met with an approval recommendation from both city staff and the Sun Prairie Plan Commission. Alders decided during their Jan. 21 meeting to postpone until a traffic study is completed in May.
But District 1 Alder Steve Stocker asked alders to reconsider, saying the delay due to the traffic study was not right.
Stocker said the traffic study would only be studying Prairie Lakes Drive and not Hoepker Road, where most tenants could exit and enter the development.
“I think if we were voting to postpone based on the traffic study,” Stocker told alders, “the traffic study is not going to give us a true picture.”
Stocker, who told alders there were just three things that would provide less traffic than an apartment building, said delaying the development until the completion of the traffic study was not appropriate.
He asked alders to remove the item from the table and reconsider it. But he also said he previously told his constituents he would vote against it because of their vocal opposition to more apartments being constructed in Sun Prairie.
Community Development Director Scott Kugler acknowledged the traffic problems in the area.
“We think this is a good spot for density,” Kugler told alders.
District 3 Alder Maureen Crombie previously publicly opposed the development, citing concerns from Providence neighborhood residents, traffic problems in the area and already high population density.
“Just by the fact that we approved Prairie Lakes and many of the items around it,” Kugler told alders, “we are going to have traffic.”
Director of Public Services/City Engineer Adam Schleicher said there are things that can be done to mitigate traffic concerns in the area. “But I don’t think this one development,” Schleicher added, “will change the traffic in this area.”
“I hope everyone listened to that,” remarked District 4 Alder Mary Polenske, who missed the Jan. 21 vote.
Similar to the Jan. 21 vote, City Council President Bill Connors recused himself from voting.
Connors recently became executive director of Smart Growth Greater Madison (SGGM), and said during the Jan. 21 meeting he did not want to give the appearance of a conflict of interest. The group’s website is more specific, calling itself an “advocacy organization for Dane County Real Estate Developers.”
SGGM’s website said the group was founded in 2003 by a group of local real estate developers “as an entity to represent the voice of the real estate developer community.” SGGM also includes commercial and residential developers, and has added associate members including general contractors, architects, engineers, law firms, and insurance companies, according to its website.
On Feb. 4 Connors gave the same reasons, and recused himself from the discussion and the vote.
Crombie told alders during the Feb. 4 council meeting that there were some members of the Sun Prairie Plan Commission who wanted to vote against it. That caused Esser to bristle.
“They didn’t talk to me and I chair the plan commission,” Esser said to Crombie, adding that he was offended she brought up the commission.
“They actually talked to me about it,” Crombie responded. Developer Ron Fedler sat in the audience and scoffed loudly.
“I don’t know that,” Esser said, adding that Crombie selected which plan commissioners she talked to. “They never talked to me about it.”
During the discussion, District 3 Alder Mike Jacobs said he talked with residents who said they would actually prefer a retail development there.
In the end, Stocker, Crombie, District 4 Alder Al Guyant and Jacobs voted no; and the motion failed on a 4-3 vote with Connors abstaining.
The rejection of the apartment proposal could allow a much more intense retail development — one which generates more traffic than the proposed apartment complex — according to previous discussion by Kugler. Examples included a gas station-convenience store, a pharmacy, and an auto parts store.