The Village of Waunakee will begin the process of repealing a zoning ordinance that requires a ratio of 75 multifamily housing units to 25 single-family units.

After a second discussion on the zoning ordinance Aug. 10, the village’s plan commission directed staff to begin the process of scheduling a public hearing before the commission before any action was taken, then schedule another public hearing and meeting at the village board level before that body takes action. The zoning repeal would also require changes to the comprehensive plan about the ratio.

Village Engineer Kevin Even told the commission that he had heard a clear direction from the Community Development Authority (CDA) to repeal the ordinance. The village’s attorney, Bryan Kleinmaier, said no other municipality in Dane County has such an ordinance.

Plan commissioner Chris Thomas asked for clarification on the multifamily definition and learned that it refers to housing units with three or more dwellings, but not duplexes with two. Asked what the village’s current ratio is, Even said it is at approximately 74 percent single family and 26 percent multifamily.

Thomas asked how developers perceive the ratio.

Even said they find it complicated and confusing as to whether it is applied on a project by project basis or village wide. Generally speaking, developers have looked to incorporate some multifamily housing within single-family developments, Even said, citing Veridian’s Heritage Hills off of Hwy. 19 between Division Street and Schumacher Road and Arboretum Village near Hogan Road.

“We think it’s more important that we put effort into finding when multifamily is appropriate to make sure it conforms to a neighborhood,” Even said, adding that plan commissioners and staff would look at an entire neighborhood for a balance between multi- and single-family homes.

Thomas asked if the ratio should be more than 25 percent multifamily.

Commissioner Kristin Runge, a village trustee and CDA member, said the CDA’s hope is that some kind of guideline would be adopted.

Commissioners then asked why the ordinance should be changed.

“From my perspective, we definitely want to get rid of the ordinance,” Kleinmaier said, adding that the village “kind of sticks out like a sore thumb right now” and that it is confusing. Revised language in the comprehensive plan could provide developers with more flexibility, he said.

Other communities have expectations but not ordinances. Kleinmaier said others allow the market to drive the housing types.

Asked if the ordinance has led to the village denying projects or requiring adjustments, Even said currently, single-family projects must be completed before other multifamily projects can begin.

“If we look holistically, we’re staying at a 25/75 ratio; we just don’t know which would come first,” Even said.

Runge added that developers could look at the ordinance and be prompted to build only single-family homes, and multifamily could be excluded.

“Let’s say we don’t have any new single-family homes coming in, and we needed an apartment complex for some reason — we’ve just run out of housing, we see a need in our workforce to provide 2- to 3-bedroom homes for rental…then does that prompt developers to look at existing neighborhoods and look at redeveloping neighborhoods where neighborhoods may not want to redevelop?” Runge said.

Runge added that the difference is an ordinance provides a “hard and fast rule” rather than a comprehensive plan, which offers a guideline.

The village’s planning consultant, Jason Valerius, then weighed in. He noted that currently, the most convenient zoning that allows multifamily is C-1D, where commercial development is allowed. Currently, the ordinance is pushing developers interested in developing attached units to downtown areas where they can be conditionally approved, he said, “which may or may not make sense for the village.”

Commissioner Chris Zellner, the village president, said when the comprehensive plan was revised 18 months ago, the village had few issues with the ordinance.

Zellner said the ordinance is not working for the community and is not sending “the greatest of messages out there with what’s being built as a result of it.”

Repealing the ordinance gives the village more flexibility with projects currently unable to move forward, Zellner added. He suggested the commission direct staff to begin the process of repealing the ordinance and changing language in its comprehensive plan, which will be a parallel process.

Commissioners then discussed what guidelines could be offered in the comprehensive plan, with housing goals ranging from a ratio of 70 percent single-family to 30 percent multifamily, to 66 percent single-family to 34 percent multifamily.

Even said staff could start with 70 percent multifamily and discussion could begin from there.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission:

-approved a site plan for the North Ridge Park Shelter.

-discussed updating the parking ordinance.

-discussed amending the comprehensive plan to address affordable housing. It would clarify affordable housing and include descriptions of strategies to consider for developers seeking to build affordable housing.

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