The Waunakee Plan Commission will begin considering a repeal of a section of its zoning code that restricts rezoning to maintain a ratio of 25 percent multifamily homes to 75 percent single-family homes.

The change was recommended by the village’s Community Development Authority, who after two meetings, determined that the code fails to clarify whether the ratio is applied village-wide or to each new housing project. CDA members also found no other Dane County community has such an ordinance in place and that is has the effect of “pushing multifamily units to commercial zoning, particularly downtown,” a memo to the village board states.

And, the memo notes, the village has a higher percentage of single-family homes (68.7) than most of its peers and a higher percentage than the county (53.6) and the state (66.5).

The memo also points out that “there is a growing recognition of an affordability problem in Waunakee’s housing stock,” and adds that the ordinance impedes developers who wish to build homes to address the affordability problem.

Changes to the comprehensive plan would expand existing language to provide more specific direction on how the village could take action toward more affordable housing. One addition to the comprehensive plan would encourage providing both rental and owner-occupied units affordable at or below the Area Median Income.

Several policies are suggested, as well, such as the use of Tax Incremental Finance District funds to support income-qualified housing units within TIF districts, encouraging the use of income-qualified rental units supported by tax credits, and development of co-housing and cottage court formats.

Another amendment to the comprehensive plan would seek that as neighborhoods develop and redevelop, a balance of housing types, sizes and price points be included. Neighborhoods would be roughly 65-80 percent single-unit, detached housing, and the remainder would be attached.

“Development review would emphasize the importance of building, site and neighborhood design to integrate varying housing types effectively,” the new language in the comprehensive plan would state.

At Monday’s plan commission meeting, Village Engineer Kevin Even told commissioners that each of the subdivisions currently proposed have all included a multifamily component.

“It’s a way of integrating different housing types and costs throughout the neighborhood without creating pockets of all estate-type housing,” Even said.

The ratio of single-family to multifamily homes within those proposals is about 75-25 percent, Even said, and is consistent with the market place.

Several apartment projects are teeing up, including 701 W. Main St., where tax credits are being used to build multifamily housing along with some workforce units.

Other multi-family projects are proposed in Arboretum Village, with 50 units. Woodland Crest, which Even said is more a commercial development, has 150 units of multifamily; Heritage Hills which was recently approved, includes 200 multifamily units. In Kilkenny West, 150 units are anticipated as multifamily, intermixed, Even added.

“So if you look at the single-families that are teed up in that period…and you look at that ratio, we’re at about somewhere around that 75 to 25 now; we’re actually probably a little heavier over that 75,” Even said.

Even said the market is driving a mix of housing type within subdivisions.

Plan commissioners asked for some of the information that CDA members had considered, and that they take time in making any changes.

“I’d hate to do anything knee-jerk,” said Commissioner and Village Trustee Phil Willems.

Commissioner and Village President Chris Zellner also serves on the CDA. He said the CDA had long discussions on the changes and were mostly in consensus, with only one member voting against them. Later in the meeting, Village Administrator Todd Schmidt noted that the only person to vote against the changes felt the comprehension plan adjustments need to accompany ordinance changes.

“I think it’s good for us to start the process. I’m in favor of moving it along,” Zellner said.

Plan commissioners asked if CDA meetings were recorded and if they could view videos. Schmidt said like other committee meetings, they are not recorded. Schmidt said he could provide materials presented to the CDA to plan commissioners, mainly memos from Even, Schmidt and planner Jason Valerius.

Amending the comprehensive plan is a fairly lengthy process, attorney Bryan Kleinmaier said. First, the plan commission would convene a public hearing on the zoning code and then make its recommendation to the village board, which would convene another public hearing. An additional meeting may be held at a staff level to gather more public input.

The zoning change would also require a public hearing process before the plan commission and village board. All issues could be addressed at the same schedule, Kleinmaier said.

“At the staff level, we do want you to move forward with this. There has been a lot of discussion on it,” Kleinmaier said. “We don’t know what the changes would be if any… The rubber has hit the road, and we need to make some decisions.”

Asked about the timeline, Kleinmaier said it could be taken to the village board in September or October.

Pressing the changes are the number of developments proposed with multifamily components. Developers are waiting for the outcome of the policy changes.

“We’ve put language in annexation agreements or other agreements with these parties where they’ve acknowledged that they have to wait to see what the village is going to do as it implements the housing study,” Kleinmaier said. “These people have been patient, and we’ve been talking to them.”

But Kleinmaier said village officials will need to provide more definitive answers about its 25:75 multifamily housing ratio.

Kleinmaier strongly recommended the village repeal the ordinance, saying, “We’re an island as a municipality having this ordinance.”

“Even if we have this in our policy, we do not need to have this as a code,” Kleinmaier said.

The commission asked that information provided to the CDA be shared with the plan commission for further discussion.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission:

-took no action on a proposed amendment to the comprehensive plan that addresses downtown redevelopment along Main Street and its effects on neighborhoods north and south. The village has had redevelopment proposals, particularly for the 200 block of West Main Street, and requiring that retail be located on the first floor may not be ideal. But development interest in the village has slowed since the onset of the pandemic, so the changes are less urgent.

-approved a conditional use permit for Reis Properties to allow a hair salon in a multi-tenant building.

-approved a conditional use permit for Octopi Brewing to exceed the 45-foot height limit by 8 inches for a “tank farm.”

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