City Council Defers Middleton Center Phase Three for Parking Review

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MTT News's picture
Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Common Council deferred approval of the finalized building plan for phase three of Middleton Center amid contention over proposed changes and the implementation of the overall development’s parking plan. 

The revised building plan submitted by developer T. Wall Enterprises calls for two buildings instead of the originally proposed three. The buildings would be on Terrace Ave., one would be multifamily residential and the other would be mixed use with commercial space in the ground level. Together the buildings would have a total of 65 units consisting of efficiencies, one and two bedrooms.

The plan also calls for changes to the parking plan which would deactivate some lift and slide mechanisms that were installed to meet the city’s parking requirements in tight spaces and eliminating parking credits for bike parking, bus passes and community cars.

Alder Robert Burke said he was concerned about the parking plan.

“Thirty apartment units, 40 bedrooms in those units and only 23 parking spots, does anybody else see that as a concern,” Burke said.

Director of Planning and Community Development Abby Attoun said because phase three would  now only be two buildings there is a one to one parking ratio with the number of apartment units. 

Attoun acknowledged the one to one ratio is below the requirement in city ordinance, but noted that many recent projects approved by the city have had a similar ratio. She added that Madison uses a one to one ratio and that Middleton should consider revising its requirement. 

As proposed Attoun said the plan would require tenants of one building to have to park their vehicle in the building next door. Attoun said that could have been avoided if it was possible to connect the underground parking but because of underground utilities it wasn’t. She said they also considered another level of underground parking but that was ruled out because of overall narrowness of the site.

Burke said he also did not like how the revised building plan called for parking stalls on the ground level inside the building.

Mayor Gurdip Brar said the council must look at the total number of parking stalls on the development overall. 

                  “I’m not going to park at your house to go stay at my house and that’s what I see here,” Burke said.

Adler Emily Kuhn said she felt comfortable with the parking because it was still on the same site.

Alder Susan West said she was worried residents would end up taking up available street parking.

Attoun said staff were not concerned about the number of parking stalls because there has been a surplus of stalls in phase one despite the building being nearly completely occupied. She noted staff is concerned about the way stalls are being allocated.

Attoun said stalls are being assigned to residents despite the plan saying the parking would be shared by all businesses and residents. She added that the lift and slide mechanisms are not functioning and too small to fit larger vehicles. She pointed out the parking plan requires the mechanism be repaired within seven days, but most of them have not been operating for much longer and T. Wall said it’s because the company that services them has not been available. 

Alder Kathy Olson said she wanted to hear an explanation from someone at T. Wall Enterprises.

“When this was approved the only thing we discussed was shared parking and now it is reserved for residents,” Olson said.

T. Wall Enterprises development manager Jon Hepner said there has been a disconnect between to parking management plan and the way that property management and leasing staff have been managing the parking.

“As we grew and new retailers came in they were sharing their parking needs for their customers and as our building began to fill up with multifamily tenants the property management and leasing staff were listening to the customers and reacting,” Hepner said.

Hepner said in the new plan they have agreed to remove all permit only parking from standard parking stalls, and put them only on the remaining lift and slide stalls. 

“The purpose of lift and slide was to meet the requirement and what we have found now is that there is a significant amount vacancy down in the parking garage and even with the removal of some of the lift stalls we will have 40 vacant parking stalls on a daily basis,” Hepner said.

Olson said in her experience she didn’t feel the underground parking appeared available to the business patrons. She said the gate at the entrance and the fact it is only one-hour parking does not work for people coming for dinner or to go shopping. 

“The customers weren’t asking for reserved parking, the lease team thought that would be a better approach and disregarded what the plan said,” Olson said.

Hepner said because the leasing happened so quickly the lease team did not have a chance to request an amendment to the parking plan. He said they may have also mistaken the requirement for a recommendation. 

“But you understood it and when the signs went up nothing was done about it and I’m guessing the people that signed the leases have a reserved parking spot,” Olson fired back.

Hepner said that was the case and that will continue to be. Olson said that was never part of the agreement. 

“We would have likely missed out on significant leasing opportunity and I share your frustration and wish we would have approached this in a different manner,” Hepner said.

Hepner said all they can do now is work with the city to amend the plan so it matches the use and is something with which city staff and elected officials are comfortable. 

Olson suggested the company conduct an interim parking study. Hepner said he disagreed because the current buildings are nearly occupied and there are nearly 40 vacancies and that amounted to a case study.

She responded if there are so many vacancy stalls then there should be no need to assign parking stalls for residents. Hepner said the idea was to keep convenient stalls available to retail customers. 

Olson said she was disappointed the company did not stick to the plan. She also said the bus passes were supposed to be for tenants rather than retail employees which is all they are been offered to. Hepner said in the plan it explicitly says for retail employees, not residents. He said because no retail employees accepted the bus passes they are eliminating the offer.

Brar said by visiting the site numerous times he could confirm there were a lot of vacant stalls throughout the day.

Olson said she would rather not change the plan until the development was complete.

Hepner said based on what has happened in phase one, they are confident the parking needs will not drastically change. 

City administrator Mike Davis said city will have more vigorous parking enforcement soon and that should be conveyed to tenants if they are parking on the street.

Davis also pointed out that the car share has not been implemented. Hepner said that was because the car share businesses have not agreed to have cars there. 

Olson asked what the city could do if the parking did become overcrowded. Attoun said the city could add a look-back clause in the TIF agreement. 

City attorney Matt Fleming said because the parking management plan is referred to in the TIF agreement the council would need to approve any changes to the parking plans, including retroactively approving modifications that were approved by the plan commission.

West made a motion to defer the building plan until more information could be provided, and compare the original parking plan to what is now being proposed and how it related to the TIF agreement. The motion passed unanimously.

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