Sun Prairie city council alders on Feb. 16 approved a conditional use permit (CUP) to convert a former parsonage into a virtual training center, but after an attempt by two alders to have the council reject the CUP request made by the McKenzie Family Boys and Girls Club.
The council approval occurred despite another unsuccessful attempt by neighboring homeowner Ted Chase to persuade alders that they were going against the intent of the municipal code by approving a different use other than the SR-4 zoning already approved for the single family home, located at 222 Windsor St., that is directly on his property line.
“Just to let you know,” Chase said, referring to the fact that he resides in the home his parents built, “I’ve been around the block a few times here and am very familiar with the neighborhood.”
Chase reiterated his presentation to the Sun Prairie Plan Commission from Feb. 9, when he pointed out many of the same CUP inconsistencies with the city’s municipal code, which states SR-4 properties should remain residential despite other development in the area.
Chase, whose home is located immediately to the east of the former parsonage at the corner of Windsor and North streets, included the definition of a buffer yard in his presentation.
“Bufferyards shall be located along (and within) the outer perimeter of a lot wherever two different zoning districts, or two different development options within the same zoning district, abut one another,” Chase said. “The words ‘shall,’ ‘must’ and ‘will’ are mandatory.”
Ordinance 17.32.090 regarding landscaping requirements for bufferyard requires basically 10 feet of separation with a six-foot fence and foliage, but the parsonage is not in compliance with that.
“If you comply with part of the code,” Chase asked, “are you complying with the code?”
Jake Brown, Assistant Vice President of Operations for Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC) said he believed the new training center will be “a win-win” for the city and the neighborhood.
The club held neighborhood meetings that included a tour of the new facility that will allow BGCDC to make construction trades videos and other appropriate grade-level videos for BGCDC members.
District 4 Alder Al Guyant moved to deny the permit, and his motion was seconded by District 2 Alder Theresa Stevens.
“My troubled dad got one thing through my head — ‘people are only as good as their word’,” Guyant told the council.
He said a pledge when the CUP was approved for the McKenzie Family Boys and Girls Club was made that the home would remain a single family home.
That was changed about two years later, when BGCDC attempted to open a teen center — a request that later changed to become a skilled trades training center, and now, a virtual training center.
In addition to the letter to the council that pledged to keep the former parsonage as a single family home, Stevens said the club itself has only 30 children — instead of the 176 BGCDC had assured would be there to use the facility.
Stevens also pointed out Chase was supposed to be involved in picking out the fence for the buffer yard and to date has not been.
“I’m a no,” Stevens said.
District 1 Alder Steve Stocker attempted to draw a comparison between the BGCDC permit and waiving requirements for the Colorado Commons apartment building.
Stocker contended that alders supported that departure from city standards but not this one. “I”m seeing a correlation here but not the logic,” Stocker said.
“The difference is a plan is what we hope it will be,” Stevens said, “and a code is the law.”
Alders were unconvinced though, pointing out the benefits to the community.
The permit request received a letter of support from Rev. Jenny Arneson, Lead Pastor at Sun Prairie United Methodist Church, who pointed out a similar zoning change the church went through to change its former parsonage to allow small group meetings and guest accommodations for an occasional visiting clergy person.
“The zoning change has not caused sound issues or additional traffic in the neighborhood and has allowed the house to be used in a positive way to enhance our ministry,” Arneson wrote. “By having our church-owned house used, it has not sat dormant and has been cared for with regular upkeep, maintenance and outdoor landscaping, which has been good for the neighborhood.
“I believe a change in zoning for the house next to the Boys & Girls Club would have the same positive result for them and the surrounding neighborhood,” Arneson said.
The church is located along North Street, less than a half-block from where the McKenzie Family Boys and Girls Club and the former parsonage are located.
After voting against denial on a 6-2 vote, the council approved the CUP on the same 6-2 vote, with Stevens and Guyant voting no. But District 1 Alder Terry McIlroy was able to make some changes to the CUP before approval that will require Chase to be involved in selecting the fence to be installed by BGCDC, and for all resolution language to refer to the new facility as a virtual training center.