The Waunakee Plan Commission heard its third apartment proposal in 2021, this one at the Woodland Crest development just north of Peaceful Valley Parkway and west of Simon Crestway.
Konner Kearney of Forward Development Group, with Jessica Vaughn, a senior planner with JSD Professional Services, presented a concept plan for a 94-unit, market-rate multifamily building, hoping to learn the commissioners’ concerns during the Sept. 13 meeting. The three-story building would include nine studios, 55 one-bedroom and 30 two-bedroom apartments on approximately 2.57 acres, according to a memo from JSD to the commission.
Kearney described the architecture as “modern agrarian,” noting conceptual amenities would include a community room, business facility and a courtyard with grill stations. Underground parking is also included in the plan, along with some above-grade parking.
The plan will require exceptions to the zoning code to allow for the building’s height, which exceed the 45-foot limit, along with setbacks and retaining wall height.
Village staff explained that the building’s gables added height to the structure. Plan commissioners expressed some concern about the building’s height as it was situated on the property.
But plan commissioners seemed more concerned about the recent influx of multifamily housing. Commissioner and Trustee Gary Herzberg said he liked the look of the building, but added in the last five years, the village has approved about 600 new apartment units.
In 2021 alone, 250 multi-family units have been approved at Heritage Hills off N. Division Street and the Village on Main at W. Main Street.
“I sometimes get concerned that our growth in apartments has been pretty aggressive in the last 5 years,” Herzberg said.
The Woodland Crest apartment discussion followed the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC’s) presentation of a regional development framework. Sean Higgins of CARPC presented six growth strategies for the region to help preserve environmental corridors and farmland, protect natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One strategy calls for building a mixture of housing types and options with walkable streets.
Plan Commissioner Chris Zellner noted that Waunakee had “kind of lagged” on apartments as compared with other Dane County communities. Commissioner Chris Thomas had asked Higgins how communities maintain a “small-town” feel as they increase their housing density.
Higgins suggested smaller homes or twin homes with less height and mass, along with walkable streets, pointing to Waunakee’s historic residential neighborhoods as an example.
During the Woodland Crest apartment discussion, Zellner noted that the commission wanted to keep that small-town feel.
“As I’m considering this, and I don’t know how I feel about it yet, do I want to have as large a facility as this is at this point? Are we at that point? Or do we want some smaller ones? I’m going to feel out the community and see how the community feels about that,” Zellner said.
But Zellner noted that the Laurel Apartments are nearby.
“Maybe that’s our section of town that is going to be a little taller,” he added, noting such large structures may not be appropriate throughout the community.
The commission has also heard about different types of housing options needed in Waunakee, Zellner said.
Zellner asked about the rental prices. The average would be $1.50-$1.80 per square foot, with the higher range for efficiencies, Kearney said. Studio apartments would be 500 square feet.
Asked about Waunakee’s apartment occupancy, Tim Semmann, Waunakee community development director noted that data shows Waunakee at 97%.
“Sort of the sweet spot is 95% occupancy,” Semmann said, adding anything higher creates demand issues.
“Several of the developers who are developing multifamily projects, I don’t think they’d be here if there wasn’t a demand,” Semmann said, adding that Dane County is about 1,000 units short.
Planning consultant Jason Valerius added that MG&E data shows Waunakee’s vacancy rate at 2.08%.
Commissioner Kevin Phelps asked how the multifamily housing growth fits the village’s comprehensive plan.
Commissioner Phil Willems recognized a demand for apartments among one population group.
“I want to speak for us old people. I think we’re awfully important,” Willems said. “I think we need more of this because too many people retire, downsize, and they move out of Waunakee. And I think that’s a waiting market to fill up some of those places.”
Zellner added that the apartments’ price point is important, as well.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission approved a conditional use permit for Culver’s to expand the existing drive-through to two lanes. Staff recommended the addition of a sidewalk to the west entrance and islands in the parking lot. The commission approved a sidewalk location as requested by the Culver’s representatives with the recommendation that another sidewalk be added north of the building when the Hwy. 19 intersection is improved.
Dean Meier of Culver’s asked that the islands not be required, adding they obstruct the passage of trucks with trailers, boats and campers. The plan commission approved the conditional use plan without the ask Meier requested.