A number of requests from developers of Bear Tree Farms were shot down Thursday by the Windsor Village Board.
Previously, the Windsor Plan Commission had recommended denying the proposed re-zoning and reconfiguration changes to Phase III – concerning 34 acres in all – of the development, which included plans for a private community of 75 detached single-family condominium units and clubhouse, and the village board followed suit.
Citing parking, public safety and environmental issues, Trustee Monica Smith said, “This would have a huge adverse impact on adjacent properties.”
Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to approve a resolution denying the Bear Tree Farms’ application.
There was a public hearing June 11 before the plan commission on the matter. Trustee Brad Mueller was at that meeting and said there was a “relatively passionate discussion.”
Mueller added, “Everybody that spoke, who wasn’t the developer, wasn’t in favor of the changes.”
The proposal included a request to vacate Honeycomb Lane and Honey Bee Court, along with parts of Eagle Mound Pass, Ramshorn Drive and Grouse Woods Road. The developers were also asking for a preliminary replat and rezoning, targeting The Highlands portion of the development. A senior housing oriented project near Windsor Road was part of the plan, according to Mike Calkins, an engineer who is the business unit leader with Snyder & Associates.
Calkins said that the changes were contemplated in August 2019, after the village’s approval of the Covered Bridges development in the fall of 2018.
In its resolution denying the preliminary replat, condominium plat and rezone was a summary of comments from the public on the proposed changes that critiqued several aspects of the proposed changes.
Among them were concerns about additional traffic due to an increase in population density, which would affect safety. There was also an issue with changes in traffic flow related to vacating dedicated roads. Also, the addition of condominium, two-family and multi-family units and lots could negatively impact the property values of current residents’ properties.
Current residents of Bear Tree Farms have also contended that they bought their properties based on original plans for the development, and that the proposed changes would negatively impact them. They’ve also claimed that the developer has failed to communicate future plans for the development with them.
A number of other reasons for turning down the proposed changes were included in the denial resolution. The first was that the units, common elements and private roads on the condominium plat “conflict with, and encroach upon, rights-of-way previously dedicated to the village.”
There were also a number of ordinance requirements that the rezone didn’t meet, including deficiencies relating to minimum lot areas and widths, lot coverage, setbacks, residential density, off-street parking, screening and landscaping, and signage.
Still, Windsor’s Deputy Administrator and Director of Economic Development Jamie Rybarczyk said the proposed uses were consistent with the village’s comprehensive plan.
Rybarczyk also noted the potential for increased traffic.
“As the development builds out, there would be additional traffic on roads, and that’s always a concern,” said Rybarczyk.
With regard to increased density, Rybarczyk said no study has shown that it has an impact on property values. However, Rybarczyk also said, “It does seem as it gets more and more dense, it becomes less and less appealing to buyers.”
There have also been concerns about stormwater management. Rybarczyk said developers are working with Dane County to remediate them.
Windsor Village Attorney William Cole said village board approval of the changes came down to two things: Are they consistent with the comprehensive plan and are they consistent with village ordinances?
A letter from attorney Angie Black was included in the material presented to the village board in taking up the matter. Cole summed it up by saying the letter opined that critics of the changes didn’t have a lot of substance to their arguments or the facts behind them.
Black wrote, “The Development provides Windsor the opportunity to ease the existing housing gap in Dane County in an orderly and well-designed manner, while not changing the existing character of the Windsor community, and providing an increase to Windsor’s tax base. While residents of Windsor deserve to have their voices heard, we strongly urge the Village to uphold its duty to make its decision based strictly on the facts, applicable laws and regulations and, most importantly, the Village’s own comprehensive plan. And most importantly, we urge the Board not to deny the pending applications based on unsupported arguments which have problematic and potentially pretextual undertones.”
Resident Tyler Kerr, who submitted correspondence from Bear Tree Farms residents requesting denial of the development’s proposals, spoke at Thursday’s village board meeting.
Kerr said the community was not opposed to multi-family dwellings. However, he said Bear Tree Farms residents were sold on a plan with more single-family units. In addition to other concerns, the letter expressed concern over the impact on the school system, noting that while the exponential growth the school district is experiencing could be beneficial as far as additional programs and resources, it could also have a negative effect.
“Change happens, but this is drastic change,” said Kerr.