Plan Commission Holds Public Hearing on Comprehensive Plan, Defers Twin Sunset Duplex Proposal

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By: 
Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The City of Middleton Plan Commission held its final public hearing for the city’s revised comprehensive plan which has been working through various public hearings and committees since 2019 when the plan commission approved a complete overhaul.

More than a dozen people spoke or submitted comments regarding various aspects of the comprehensive plan. 

Resident Robert Owen said the transportation section should address electric vehicle infrastructure and that the airport should not be exempt from reducing carbon emissions as the city moves toward its sustainability goals. Owen suggested the city create a low interest loan program for low-income residents to weatherize and make their homes more energy efficient. He added he would also like to see a plan to move away from burning natural gas for energy. 

Resident Anne Fischer said she is concerned about the sidewalks plan and asked that residents weigh in on where they are needed rather than have a blanket policy for the city. She said the cost of adding sidewalks should not fall on property owners.

District 1 Ald. Kathy Olson said she likes reducing parking minimums for residential buildings but does not support completely eliminating them. She suggested that the city could use reduced parking requirements to incentivize landlords and employers to provide public transit. 

Olson said the plan should include language in the downtown infill development goals recognizing the need to balance new development with the existing historic buildings and homes.

Resident Kermit Hovey said from his perspective as a passionate advocate for sustainability, he was pleased with the plan and hopes the city will live up to its goals.

A letter was submitted from the Town of Middleton asking to not approve the transportation section language relating to the Middleton Municipal Airport until receiving further input from the town.

Two Town of Middleton and Springfield residents asked that language related to the airport acknowledge the current adverse impacts on neighbors such as noise and environmental harm. Resident Bob Bartholomew also asked that more language be added about adverse impacts from the airport.

A letter submitted by real estate developer Terrence Wall suggested the city consider including language about creating a new TIF district for redeveloping University Avenue.

Following the hearing Mayor Gurdip Brar said he wants the sidewalk plan revised, asserting it is contentious and takes up a lot of staff and committee time. Brar said adding sidewalks is divisive among neighbors and the city needs to first have a funding plan and a way to solve the issue. Brar said he would consider appointing a citizens committee to review the issue.

Plan Commission member Dan Ramsey said he views the sidewalk map as an inventory map. 

Plan Commission member John Schaffer said the name should be changed from sidewalk needs and not include a priorities list. Ramsey agreed and said that was also the recommendation of the Pedestrian, Bicycle & Transit Committee.

Plan Commission member Jennifer Murray said she liked the idea of calling it a sidewalk gap analysis. 

Plan Commission member Mike Slavish said other issues could be considered in the sidewalk plan such street trees, the length of right-of-way and proximity to schools. 

Director of Planning and Community Development Abby Attoun said the document could keep the existing guidelines but add bullet points for other considerations as Slavish mentioned. 

Plan Commission member Randy Bruce asked about the mixed use district identified on the map allowing only residential on upper levels but not on first floor. Bruce said residential use on first floor makes sense if retail is not viable.

Bruce also questioned why building height is limited to four stories but there is no mention about the ability to go higher with conditional use. He noted adjacent land uses allow heights up to five stories.

Attoun said a University Avenue corridor plan is underway after getting funding approved for in the 2021 budget.

“After this year we’re going to know a lot more about how we expect the University Ave. corridor to redevelop over time and we are starting to see quite a few vacancies along that stretch,” Attoun said.

Attoun added that she agreed with requiring mixed use and would like to talk to staff more about allowing residential on a first floor.

Plan Commission member Kurt Paulsen suggested cutting the language relating to building height and mixed use requirement. 

Paulsen asked if the comments from the nonprofit Friends of Pheasant Branch would be incorporated, noting there are a few he does not agree with. Attoun said her staff have not fully reviewed the comments but would include any relevant changes.

Attoun said she would work on all the changes discussed and bring back a revised draft to the Plan Commission’s Jan. 26 meeting.

A public hearing to rezone a lot at 7103 Twin Sunset Rd. from R1 residential to a planned development district for a proposed set of duplexes received widespread outcry from surrounding neighbors primarily in single family homes. A petition with 80 signatures from surrounding residents in opposition to the rezoning was also submitted to the council.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Mark Opitz said staff were in support of the proposal in concept but the applicant submitted a revised site plan earlier in the day, which is missing necessary details.

Paulsen said under the current zoning there could be four units by splitting the lot and having two small houses each with an accessory dwelling unit. Paulsen said he supports duplexes that appear as a single family home but not the revised proposal with four driveways.

Schaffer said he would not support zoning because there is no support from the neighbors.

Ramsey said rezoning to PDD would give the city more control than with R1 zoning. 

Murray said the proposal does not appears to be far enough along to get rezoning approve. 

Rezoning applicant Koteshwar Katukam said he would have a more detailed site plan from an architect for the specific implementation plan (SIP). 

Bruce said applicant is trying to limit financial exposure early on, but the plan commission needs more information. Bruce suggested splitting the lot to create a R1 and R2 lot. Opitz said is possible but would still require a rezoning request.

During the public hearing several neighboring residents including Joy Kurber spoke. Kurber said she did not think the proposal fit the neighborhood. She said would like to see a single family home or two small single family homes. 

Gary Hoffman said the lot should not be rezoned because it would not match the character of the neighborhood. 

Kyla Schoenwetter expressed concern that her children will be less safe from additional traffic and obstructed view of the street. She is also worried about the water runoff impact. 

Deb Muresan claimed the rent would not be as affordable as developer claims. 

Cindy Keller said she would like there to be a study on impact of property values. 

Mark and Candelle Phillips said the site is not a good location for affordable housing and questioned if the city was living up to its motto as “The Good Neighbor City” by supporting a rezoning.

Adam Schoenwetter said he was concerned about water runoff. 

Cody Phillips added high density does not fit in the area. 

Kate Kulis and Ann Olson also spoke in opposition to the proposal.

Paulsen made a motion to defer the rezoning and direct the applicant to continue working with city planning staff to develop an adequate site plan.

Candelle Phillips, who started the petition, said following the meeting she and neighbors are relieved the project was deferred.

“We were relieved the city deferred the vote for two weeks so the owner can submit a revised site plan,” Phillips said. “We hope Mr. Katukam will use this as an opportunity to change his plans and build something that is compatible with the rest of the area. We would like to see a detailed site plan, one that shows the actual design, to scale, as well as landscaping and with a retention pond.”

Phillips says she wants to review the storm water study before the project moves forward and have the city require a groundwater compliance inspection before voting on rezoning.

The plan commission reviewed a conceptual proposal for a three story, 34-unit multifamily building at 6720 Frank Lloyd Wright Ave. within the Middleton Hills development. 

Attoun said the site would need to be rezoned for the project because it currently falls under the planned development district for Middleton Hills.

Attoun said she received 26 comments from residents in Middleton Hills asking questions relating to traffic, stormwater management, architecture and utilities for the project but none of the details have been worked out because the concept review is for the applicant to get feedback from the plan commission before making substantive design plans.

She recommended the developer hold a neighborhood meeting and the plan commission and refer the proposal to the Conservancy Lands Commission.

Attoun also recommended the applicants have an initial informational meeting with Middleton Hills architectural review committee.

The applicants for the project Ross Rikkers and Drew Madden said they are gauging interest in the project. Madden lives in Middleton Hills and said he wants the best project for the community and looks forward to meeting with the neighbors. 

Alder Susan West who represents the area and also sits on the neighborhood architectural review committee said any change to architectural or any neighborhood association covenant requires a 75 percent vote from the entire neighborhood. 

West said she believes three stories is too tall because neighboring residents would not like their view of the conservancy blocked. West said the project would also remove a parking lot that has been being used for overflow parking.

Ramsey asked if there has been consideration for affordable housing units. Rikkers said he was not familiar with the programs available but is open to the idea.

Paulsen said as a professor of urban planning he was “geeking out” about new urbanism design but the project won’t work conforming to the neighborhood association regulations and having no frontage along a road. 

“As a concept I hate to say it because I’m all for density and infill, but I don’t think there is any way you can make a courtyard apartment work with no frontage,” Paulsen said. “It’s not going to work in that place in that structure.”

Paulsen suggested it could possibly work with underground parking but adds a lot of expense. 

Bruce said he was glad to see someone trying to be creative with a parking lot. 

“As a city I think we need to look at surface parking areas and try to make better use of them,” Bruce said. “If there is a way to get that done and meet the regulating plan and other architectural requirements in Middleton Hills, I would be supportive.”

The plan commission did not take any action on the concept review proposal. 

 

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