A planning proposal for the area termed the West Business District in Waunakee, at Century Avenue and West Main Street, and the block just to the east, elicited reaction from residents during Waunakee’s Plan Commission meeting April 12.
At the same meeting, a request to rezone a residential property at 315 W. Main Street from residential to commercial highlighted some of the concerns.
The proposal from consultants Jason Valerius and Ed Freer notes that the village’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan identifies the area and shows a need for a plan focused on this location. The cost for planning is $50,000. Valerius also worked on Waunakee’s comprehensive plan.
“There are currently several redevelopment proposals or discussions underway in this area, with more anticipated in the coming years,” the proposal notes.
Among the residents raising concern during the public comment section was Linda Ashmore, who sought an alternative to the planning proposal favored more toward citizens than developers. She noted that residents’ concerns about recent large projects arose partly because they felt they were not being listened to.
As village staff introduced the proposal to the board, village engineer Kevin Even noted it was “food for thought,” adding the cost was more than he had anticipated.
“These planning objectives were identified in the comprehensive plan. These were the next steps in how we want some of these areas to develop,” Even said.
In talking to residents, Even said he sees consensus in the desire to preserve the corridor as a residential area, and the study could assist in that preservation. The process could be modified, Even added, as well as the cost.
But, if it is to proceed, it will need to be budgeted for.
“This was really to get the conversation started about some planning efforts that area really, needed in a couple of these key areas. And right now, this isn’t being driven by developers, but if we wait too long, we’re going to have to make decisions based on requests by developers,” Even said.
Valerius and Freer then presented the proposal, showing the 200 block of West Main Street, which he called transitional between residential and commercial, and the 300 block, along with that area of Century Avenue, the Central Business District.
Valerius stressed that the intention is to not see refill and redevelopment throughout the area.
“Though not stated as clearly as it should be, in some cases and some areas, I expect the outcome would be to affirm preservation,” Valerius said.
The project scope includes a resident focus group for the downtown transition area, along with one-on-one interviews with property owners and public meetings throughout.
Village staff are anticipating redevelopment proposals for Century Avenue, Valerius said.
“It was partly with that in mind that there was some discussion at the staff level to say, it’s probably time to get on with this planning process for thinking through what the community does and doesn’t want,” Valerius said, adding these development discussions ideally should come before the proposals.
Freer added that the intent is to establish a framework and set parameters for developers so “what happens with T. Wall doesn’t happen again.”
Wall had proposed an apartment complex at the 200 block of West Main Street on the south side that plan commissioner denied because it failed to comply with the village’s comprehensive plan. A lawsuit then ensued and was settled by village’s insurance company.
The plan would also establish expectations for residents, Freer said.
Plan commissioners seemed open to the planning process. Commissioner Chris Wallace asked about timing, and whether the transition area and West Business District would be planned separately.
The planners estimated a nine-month process with both areas planned in a parallel manner.
Commissioners Phil Willem and Chris Zellner, village trustee and village president, respectively, both said they envision homes preserved.
Zellner called the proposal expensive, adding, “we’re spending a lot of money on a small amount of the village.” The comprehensive plan cost was $90,000, he said.
Even, the village engineer, is due to retire in a month, and having the new position on board as the process is started is appropriate, Zellner said.
A case in point
A public hearing on a rezone at 315 W. Main St. illustrated interest in the area. In opening the public hearing, Even pointed out that home occupations are permitted without a rezone if the business owner lives in the home. In this case, the business owner would not live at the West Main Street home.
Angie Addison requested the rezone to operate her human resources business there. Addison said her intent was not to change the charming home. The business has two employees and has no other traffic. Addison said she has looked at other spaces but has an accepted offer on this one.
But a number of residents raised objections, citing traffic concerns, the need for starter homes in Waunakee, and the need to fill vacant commercial spaces.
Plan commissioners seemed wary of changing the zoning. Chris Thomas called it a “slippery slope.”
Others said they would like to have a better understanding of how the area will develop.
After listening to the neighbors’ concerns and plan commissioners’ comments, Addison withdrew her application.
“What’s more important to me than owning that property is being a good citizen,” she said.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission:
-discussed a concept for the Woodland Crest Phase 2 plan for senior and multifamily housing, with input sought on density, particularly in terms of senior housing, how the project meets new guidelines and policies encouraging additional housing, height and retaining walls. The developer was advised to meet with neighbors to discuss the concept for the high-density housing plan.
-held a public hearing on a request by David’s Certified Auto Repair (DCAR) to construct an auto repair business on Lot 11 in the Waunakee Business Park.
-approved a site plan for the Villages on Main development at 701 W. Main St. The village board will discuss a developers agreement, along with Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) assistance at its April 19 meeting.