Bringing back nearly the identical proposal, developers Chad and Ron Fedler successfully pitched an apartment complex near the Cabela’s store in Prairie Lakes with a 5-3 Sun Prairie City Council vote on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
But the successful vote was not without strenuous objection from the two District 3 alders in whose district the new apartments will be constructed.
The council acted on an identical Sun Prairie Plan Commission approval recommendation vote on Oct. 13.
According to a report from City Planner Sarah Sauer, the General Development Plan (GDP) will allow a multi-family residential development with 152 dwelling units on a 3-acre site located at 2965 Hoepker Road, west of Cabela’s and south of the Costco gas station, if the city council gives final approval.
The proposed development includes two, four-story multi-family buildings with both underground and surface parking and will consist of a mix of efficiency, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment units. A commons/clubhouse building with an outdoor pool separates the two residential buildings.
City Planning Director Tim Semmann told alders during the Oct. 20 council meeting that even though it was the same proposal, developers FC Land requested reconsideration of the general development plan denied by the Sun Prairie City Council in February due in part to parking concerns related to a requested variation from the required onsite parking standards, but also due to objections over traffic generated by the apartments.
After that February denial, Community Development Director Scott Kugler pointed out that if commercial development was allowed on the parcel — which is allowed by right — the traffic count on nearby Hoepker Road and Prairie Lakes Drive would be far worse than an apartment development.
According to city ordinances, an application which has been denied, either wholly or in part, shall not be resubmitted for a period of 12 months from the date of denial except on grounds of new evidence or proof of change of factors found valid by the zoning administrator.
FC Land provided new data regarding parking demand and utilization on similar multifamily developments under the same ownership and management that was not included in the original submittal.
The original GDP requested in January consisted of 152 units with 252 onsite parking stalls. Given the unit mix of apartment units, 267 onsite parking stalls were required by city ordinances.
District 3 Alder Maureen Crombie asked to know why the proposal was back before the council earlier than a year, and Semmann explained that not only did the parking study demonstrate the need for fewer spaces, but the applicants also recorded a video that demonstrated the need for fewer spaces in their existing Sun Prairie and Fitchburg apartment complexes.
District 1 Alder Steve Stocker, who was one of two alders who voted against an approval recommendation during the plan commission meeting, asked why FC Land was not building along Main Street. Stocker pointed out the Fedlers have entitlements to construct 660 apartment units on Main Street.
Chad Fedler explained the apartments near Cabela’s were much more marketable because they are within walking distance to Prairie Lakes. As a demonstration of the popularity of similar units, Fedler pointed to FC Land’s The Abbey and The Springs, an apartment complex located within two blocks walking distance of Prairie Lakes.
“We think this location is a better location,” Fedler told alders.
He also said it is more sustainable in a number of ways: Walkable, bike-able given the bike path that is there, and it is located near a Madison Metro bus route.
Stocker said those arguments could also apply to Main Street. He wondered if building those units hinged on the Colorado Commons apartment development.
“No,” Chad Fedler replied, “not necessarily.”
District 2 Alder Bob Jokisch asked whether Semmann was satisfied with the fewer number of parking stalls in the proposal.
“Parking is one of the areas that we have consistently received requests for variations from,” Semmann said, adding that request may be made as part of the planned development process.
District 3 Alder Mike Jacobs wondered aloud why the developers reached out to other alders and not to Crombie and him. “I call that an end-around,” Jacobs said, “and it smells bad. Real bad.”
Jacobs said if the Fedlers were building anywhere outside of his district, he would have to go out of his way to vote against their apartments. But because it’s in his district, he was opposed.
Jacobs also reminded alders about a statement made by Ron Fedler that if the development wasn’t approved in January, the development could not be constructed.
The alder wondered what happened between then and now that made the project capable of being constructed.
Chad Fedler said he could not specifically answer that, but pointed out an entire construction cycle has passed, and that costs now may allow the project to be completed.
When Jacobs asked who determined the standard for parking — the developer or the city staff — Ron Fedler replied that it was city staff who made the recommendation.
Ron Fedler said city staff was fine with the 23 space variation in this instance. “We brought it back to 5,” he added, referring to the reduction of five spaces from the previously proposed plan.
Stocker, Jacobs and Crombie voted against, but all other alders voted in favor on the roll call vote, which means the proposal is now approved.