Plan Commission Approves Rezoning for University Avenue Apartments

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MTT News's picture
Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Plan Commission unanimously recommends approval of a rezoning request for a proposed four story, 37 unit apartment building on University Avenue, called University Flats, at the site of the closed Sonic fast food restaurant 6413 University Ave. 

The project is being proposed the Commonwealth Companies. Kevin McDonell from Commonwealth said they are the seventh largest affordable housing developer nationwide.

The proposal would consist of 37 units of market rate and affordable apartments in a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, 31 of the units would be reserved for families or individuals earning 60 percent of the area median income or less, 20 percent of all units are reserved for veterans or people with disabilities.

During the public hearing residents spoke passionately both in favor and opposed to the affordable housing units.

Resident Betsey Day said it’s important that the city accommodate workforce housing in the city as much as possible.

“The workforce is you, the workforce is me, the workforce is anybody who doesn’t set their own salary,” Day said.

She said that the rezoning will provide more flexibility and make the project workable so that it can include workforce housing.

“I think we need to pay attention to the people that are trying to develop these properties and listen to what they tell us, what they have to do to make a project workable in the interest of workforce housing,” Day said.

James Iliff, a member Voices In Favor which advocates for the construction and preservation of affordable housing, said there is a lot to love about the project. He said he was especially glad to see 20 percent of units reserved for people with disabilities and veterans and the management office on site to address issues if they arise.

“This is will enhance life here in Middleton and provide affordable, safe, decent housing for people who might not otherwise be able to live there,” Iliff said. 

He spoke of author Mathew Desmond’s book “Evicted” noting that safe, stable, affordable housing impacts educational outcomes, professional attainments, health and civic engagement.

“I think we in Middleton have plenty of housing on the upper end of the price spectrum I think we need to attend to those on the lower end and really be mindful of how we can help make this a city that is inviting and welcoming to all people,” Iliff said.

Dave Parks, Middleton resident of 34 years, said he was absolutely against the project because it is, “the dumbest thing we could do.”

Parks said he didn’t read the details about the project but likened it to a project in Madison which provides supportive housing for homeless families. 

“Let Madison make those mistakes, why do we have to do that,” Parks said. “Let Middleton be Middleton, let’s keep this clean, keep it upper income is fine by me. It is better for our schools, it is better for people living here, it is better for business in town. I just think it brings a whole lump sum of problems, it’s a feel-good. You feel good when you do these good things for other people but in reality it’s not even good for our city, it is going to bring things down.”

Kevin McDonell representing Commonwealth made clear the project was not permanent supportive housing for homeless families. He explained the average rent would be about $1,000 a month and residents generally make about 2.5 times to qualify. He noted 60 percent of the area median income equates to about $60,000 in Dane County.

City council president and plan commission representative Dan Ramsey asked whether McDonell had reached out to neighbors. McDonell said that the architect presented the concept a couple months ago at a meeting arranged by the area’s council representative and he knocked on the doors of about 15 neighboring residences. He said that some people had questions but he did not encounter any opposition to the project.

Ramsey also asked about the unit mix. McDonell replied that half of the market rate units will have one bedroom and half will have two bedrooms. 

Director of Planning and Community Development Abby Attoun said that the applicant displayed the hearing notice and provided notice to neighboring property owners. McDonell said that he also spoke with the owners of the nearby shopping center, the future Scooter’s site, and the commercial property to the west.

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