The audience section of the New London City Council chambers were filled last Tuesday night with residents interested in two separate zoning changes discussed Tuesday, Dec. 9.
The first public hearing was for the rezoning of vacant land west of 511 Partridge Drive.
The property owner, Darwin Handschke, was requesting the rezoning of his property from agricultural (A-G) to (R-4) multi-family district.
The change would allow for the construction of three twelve-unit apartment buildings.
The second public hearing was for rezoning of five parcels of property along E. Beacon Ave. from the current (M) manufacturing zone to (R-4) multi- family district, to allow for the construction of approximately 40 units of cottage style housing.
Mayor Gary Henke opened the first public hearing for the rezoning of property on Partridge Drive.
Chris Slater, president of development for Premier Real Estate Management gave an overview of the proposed market rate development of three 12-unit apartment buildings on the four-acre parcel.
The proposed development would include 36 two-bedroom apartments, approximately 1,100 square feet in size with attached garages. Slater said rent would range from $700-$900 per month.
He said their typical renters are age 55 and older with approximately 25 percent being younger qualified first time renters.
He said their developments typically have on site managers and a maintenance technician.
Premier Real Estate Management currently is developing 1,000 sites across Wisconsin. Slater said that they have a strong success rate in pre-leasing units prior to completion.
Engineer Tom Wood of Harris and Associates was on hand to show council members the design plans and proposal for the four acre parcel.
Pete Genteman, a resident at 531 Cattail Court, spoke in opposition of the development.
“We live in a subdivision that is in a protective covenant and we’ve got certain restrictions,” said Genteman.
“I talked to a realtor that said if this property goes up, our property value is going to go down at a minimum of $10, 000,” said Genteman.
He also had questions about water, sewer, curb, gutter and sidewalks. He asked, “Who’s going to pay for that?”
He also raised concerns over increased traffic in the neighborhood.
Slater said that he could only respond based on their experience in other communities throughout the state.
“What I can say is we’re going to build a really nice development,” said Slater. “We’re going to have professionals in that area, people that are paying rent of $800. We have strong rental standards that those residents need to meet and adhere to in order to afford our apartments.
“We take a lot of pride in our ownership and the product we deliver to residents, who are ultimately our customers. That’s the best I can do.”
Genteman responded, “I understand what you’re saying but it doesn’t change the fact that our property values would go down.”
He did not provide proof that the proposed development would decrease his property values.
Henke informed Genteman that the city reviews the need for any additional streetlights, improvements and or sidewalks.
“There are no special assessments for sidewalks in New London,” said Henke.
In regards to property value, the mayor informed Genteman that ‘we can’t predict what’s going to happen.’
“We don’t know, and neither does a realtor,” said Henke.
A few other residents who had been prepared to speak at the first public hearing said the issues they were going to inquire about had been answered.
The public hearing was closed.
The council later approved the rezoning of the four acres of land on Partridge Drive from agricultural to multi family, with an 8-1 vote. Fifth District Alderman Dennis Herter voted no.
The second public hearing was held for rezoning the property on E. Beacon Avenue from manufacturing (former Simmons property) to multi family.
Kevin McDonald vice president of development for Commonwealth Development presented the proposed development to council members.
They are proposing 40 units of cottage style housing on five parcels of land located on the south (former Simmons Parking lot) and north side of E. Beacon.
The single story units would have individual entries with attached garages.
“This development will have the look and feel of single-family housing, with the convenience of being rental units,” said McDonald. He anticipated the affordable housing project units would bring $600-$700 rent per month.
The proposal would include 24, three bedroom units and 16, two bedroom units.
They are also proposing a clubhouse with a community room, an on-site property management office, and a community exercise room.
Commonwealth currently has just over 30 of these types of developments in Wisconsin.
“We are a long term owner of the properties we develop,” said McDonald. “We like to have our eyes and ears in the communities we are in, and we like to be a good neighbor.”
Julie Blohm, a resident at 606 E. Beacon Ave. addressed the council.
She presented a petition of area residents who opposed the zoning change.
“When I purchased my home with a specific environment around me, at no time did I desire or anticipate being surrounded by multiple family affordable tax credited housing developments,” she said.
“The common theme here (among those who signed the petition) is we don’t want any more apartments or housing developments in our neighborhood,” said Blohm. “It doesn’t matter what kind they are, police can’t handle what’s here now, there’s enough traffic, noise, drugs and trouble around here already,” she said.
She also brought up issue with how people felt they were poorly informed of the zoning change. Blohm also said she and others had concerns about the property being contaminated from previous occupants.
Henke responded, “When the DNR clears a property, it’s clear. I am sorry. That’s the end of the story that’s it, legally.”
Blohm said, “That might be the end of the story for you, but it’s not for us.”
“The fact is that everybody doesn’t want this to happen,” she said. “There is a lot of land here, go where there is no opposition.”
McDonald said they would still have to do an environmental phase one study on the property. In addition, he stated that they have worked with the DNR on a number of Brownfield sites in the state and have been successful at restoring these types of sites.
Terry Dorschner, lifelong resident in the neighborhood, and adjoining property owner to the proposed project, raised a concern over the mixed-use manufacturing zone and residential. He also raised concerns with the infrastructure (namely the street) width and the affect of 60 or so additional vehicles using it on a daily basis.
“I’m not opposed to doing something with this property; New London needs the tax money,” said Dorschner. “I just want you to think about those issues like the street, utilities, the train tracks and existing business in the area.”
Later in the hearing, he stated he requests his alderpersons would vote no on the zoning change until a study was done on E. Beacon Ave.
Theodore Rudd, a resident at 514 E. Beacon, echoed many of Dorschner’s concerns regarding the street and parking issues that exist. He also was concerned about the environmental status of the former Simmons property.
City Administrator Kent Hager informed Rudd that the land has been cleared by the DNR.
“It took over $250,000 to get it to the point where the DNR gave their approval,” said Hager. “It’s all public record. You’re welcome to come and see it.”
Rudd closed his comments by stating, “I’m not in opposition to something being done, I don’t think this is the right thing.”
A few more residents had general questions for the developer. The public hearing closed.
Alderpersons Tom O’Connell and Lori Dean both said they wanted studies done on E. Beacon Ave. as part of the zoning change.
A roll call vote was taken and the rezoning passed with a 5-4 majority vote. However, Henke noted that if the petition was signed by 20 percent of the property owners within 100 feet of the property, the law requires a seven-person vote for passage.
“The petition will have to be reviewed by the city attorney. If more than 20 percent of the property owners on it are within 100 feet, then the motion fails,” he said.
Alderpersons Romberg, Besaw, Steinhorst, Way and Morack voted yes for the rezoning. Dean, O’Connell, Barrington and Herter voted no.