Heritage Hills

Veridian’s Heritage Hills, with the first phase under construction, is one example of a subdivision with a mix of both single- and multifamily housing. Waunakee’s plan commission is considering a policy that provides flexibility when consider development projects.

A long-standing ordinance in Waunakee requiring a ratio of 75% single-family homes to 25% multifamily could soon be repealed.

Plan commissioners came close to repealing the ordinance from the village’s code at their meeting Monday, but held off until staff could draft precise policy language to add to the village’s comprehensive plan instead.

Providing the rationale for removing the language from the code, Waunakee Public Works Director Kevin Even noted that Waunakee is “probably the only community to have such an ordinance.”

Village attorney Brian Kleinmaier said as he and village officials examined the ordinance over the past year, he has been concerned that it didn’t cover all of the zoning districts.

For instance, multifamily housing is allowed as a conditional use in areas zoned for commercial use.

Also confusing was whether the ordinance was intended to be applied project-by-project or village-wide, Kleinmaier said.

Kleinmaier said he considered other communities’ processes and found while others have ratios in place for single-family to multifamily housing, they are policies, rather than ordinances.

“It makes sense to tie it back to the comprehensive plan,” Kleinmaier said.

Two public hearings were held Monday evening, the first to repeal the ordinance, and the second to consider language to be added to the comprehensive plan. While no one requested to speak via Zoom or telephone, two citizens emailed their reactions. One, from Linda Ashmore, contained a number of questions which village staff addressed. The other, from Ann Lewandowski, generally supported the change.

Plan commissioners took no action to repeal the language from the code, saying they would prefer to first approve language to be added to the comprehensive plan.

The language to the plan they considered Monday stated:

“For new developments that include both single-family and multifamily components, the goal is approximately a mix of 70% single-family and duplex housing and 30% of other forms of housing (e.g., apartment buildings). This ratio is flexible, however, based on development review, which should emphasize the importance of housing, site, and neighborhood design.

For new developments that contain only multifamily housing (e.g., apartment buildings) or mixed-use development, no specific Village-wide housing ratio will apply. Instead, development review should emphasize the importance of building, site, and neighborhood design.

Redevelopment projects and senior housing projects are encouraged in the village.”

Even said the intent is to change the focus when reviewing projects from the ratio and the numbers to overall neighborhood design.

As a policy within the comprehensive plan, the village will have guidelines when discussing new development or redevelopment projects rather than hard, strict rules, Even added.

Still, an approximate ratio is included as a goal in the revised language.

“We said by neighborhood, and when we say neighborhood again, that doesn’t mean a particular subdivision or plat. It really means a region within the village,” Even said. “We want to have that cross section of housing throughout the village, not just concentrated in one particular area.”

The majority of plan commissioners said they were uneasy with the change in ratio from 75/25 to 70/30, noting likely, it would include a plus or minus 5%.

Commissioner Brian Wallace and others also asked how the policy would apply to a small single-family only development with 50 homes.

Both Kleinmaier and Even suggested that changes to the language in the policy could indicate that both single-family and multifamily only developments would be considered.

“I think that’s the language changes that Brian [Kleinmaier] was talking about to give you that flexibility that you don’t have to be held to 25/75. But that’s your starting point when you’re looking at a project,” Even said.

As a general rule, the village currently has that 25/75 ratio, he said. But Even said if a project comes forward with 3,000 multifamily units and would skew the ratio to 65/45, plan commissioners could note it would not be consistent with the policy.

The village’s planning consultant, Jason Valerius, then weighed in, saying he is not a fan of ratios of any kind, and encouraged the commission to consider a 70/30 guideline.

“To my mind and to my professional viewpoint, having a ratio that is, in effect, trying to have the number of attached or apartment type units that is lower than the state average is going out of your way to exclude people of certain incomes and, by extension, certain races, and that’s not something that people are going to see the same way, but I would encourage you to consider that,” Valerius said.

Plan Commissioner and Village Trustee Kristin Runge agreed, saying she preferred the 70/30 ratio, but added she was willing to compromise.

Still, with a plus or minus 5 percent, plan commissioners said the potential for a 65/35 ratio exists and is very different than the current 75/25 ratio.

Staff will present revised language for the plan commission to consider at its October meeting. Afterwards, if the plan commission recommends the change, it will go to the village board for a public hearing in November. The village board may then take action.

Zellner encouraged members of the public to email any comments to plan commissioners and to participate in the November public hearing.

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