Village board denies rezoning request
By John Faucher
The Hortonville Village Board voted to deny a rezoning request for R-2 zoning on 20 acres of agricultural land off North Crest Drive on July 21.
The vote had been delayed by two weeks, after a heated public hearing on July 7, at which property owners from Mystic Heights subdivision objected to the proposed change.
At the July 7 hearing, Mystic Heights property owners raised questions about the landowner’s intentions, potential development layout, traffic patterns, possible environmental impacts and property values.
Their primary concern was that a residential development with two family homes would reduce property values in Mystic Heights. The average home in the subdivision is valued at over $300,000.
Petitioners of the R-2 zoning request Christopher and Ann Books stated their intentions to have a secondary access onto North Crest Street connecting to the platted Mystic Lane, and to have four to eight high-end “twindos” on the north end of the property with the remaining land to contain higher end single-family homes.
At the public hearing, Attorney Robert Sorensen stated that the development layout could not be a contributing factor in a rezoning decision, as a rezone cannot require that any conditions be met.
Village board members wanted more time to weigh in on the decision, and postponed a vote after the July 7 hearing.
All but two residents from the Mystic Heights subdivision attended the July 21 board meeting. Village Administrator Dianne Wessel informed audience members that the public hearing was held previously and that their comments could not turn into a back and forth dialogue with the board.
She asked attendees to keep comments under five minutes.
Maureen Olm, a resident in the subdivision, stated she is a Certified Public Accountant and has had previous experience with rental properties in a community she and her husband lived in prior to moving to the village.
She was concerned property values of the existing R-1 homes in the area would decrease if they allowed R-2 zoning next to Mystic Heights.
“None of us would have ever built there, had the village board voted to make that land next door into R-2 zoning,” said Olm.
Her husband, Todd Olm, gave some perspectives from his profession in law enforcement. Olm currently serves as assistant chief of police for the Appleton Police Department.
He discussed the differences in crime statistics and the number of police calls to rental properties versus owner occupied residences.
“I’ll be the first to say there is a need for responsible rental property and that it can work in communities, when communities are properly trained and municipalities are well thought out in their placement,” said Olm.
“My experience is that when you drop rental properties into zoned R-1 properties, that’s destined for failure. I’ve seen it in my career and it’s not fair to the people that live in those areas.”
Other residents expressed equal concerns over the potential for their property values to decrease and the fear of losing value in homes that they invested in as part of their investment portfolios.
Dan Pernsteiner told the board, “You have to expect us to feel threatened. This is a beautiful plot. This was zoned R-1 when all of us decided to build our homes here,” said Pernsteiner. “I encourage you to vote no on R-2 zoning here tonight.”
Later in the meeting, when the rezoning request came up for board discussion on the agenda, board trustee Peter Olk spoke first.
On July 7, Olk requested the item be deferred until the July 21 meeting to allow for more time in making the decision.
Olk told the board he had since taken time to go out and walk the proposed development site.
“It is a gorgeous piece of property,” said Olk.
He also looked at the existing properties within Mystic Heights subdivision, and he looked into other areas of the village he said might be better suited for R-2 development.
“I’m a little concerned that the R-2 zoning wouldn’t be good for the property,” said Olk. “Based on the research I looked into, R-2 zoning in town would be a better fit.”
Olk noted that there was property available in the southwest corner of the village for use as R-2.
Village President Traci Martens said she had similar thoughts.
“Personally I look at this with a great deal of weight, because I want to make sure we plan our whole village well,” said Martens.
“We certainly anticipate that we do need these higher end multi-family homes, we’ve had many request.
It’s an established need in our community, but we do need to plan that appropriately.”
“I’d like to see more use of the R-2 zoning that we do have instead of creating new,” said Martens.
She also noted that the village has a bypass planned to go through the middle of it, and that there will be a need to establish some corridors that will need buffers. Multi-family housing developments are often used as buffers between highway corridors and R-1 housing developments.
Trustee Jeff Schuh said that given the information provided and the concerns of property owners, he was in favor of R-1 zoning for the area in question.
A motion to deny the R-2 rezoning request carried unanimously.