Plan Commission to Interview for Consultants Vying for Zoning Code Rewrite Project

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Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The City of Middleton Plan Commission will interview three consultants that responded to the city’s request for proposals (RFP) to overhaul and update the city’s zoning code and ensure it is consistent with the recently adopted comprehensive plan.

In March the Middleton Common Council approved the request for proposals with a budget of $100,000 for a consultant to assist in rewriting the ordinance with a deadline set for April 2. The existing zoning ordinance has not been substantially updated since 1984.

A zoning ordinance working group was established to review the proposals composed of Planning and Zoning Administrator Mark Opitz, plan commission member Randy Bruce, sustainability committee member Spencer Schmacher and Justin Ballweg from the zoning board of appeals.

Opitz explained that each member of the working group reviewed all seven proposals and scored them independently. The highest ranked proposal is from Vandewalle & Associates which has a long working relationship with the city and helped write the zoning code the last time in 1984. Tied for second are the firms ZoneCo/Urban Assets and HKGi.

Mayor Gurdip Brar said he also reviewed all seven proposals, and his top choice is the firm ZoneCo/Urban Assets and a tie between HKGi and Vandewalle & Associates for second. 

Bruce said he was excited to see proposals from regional and national firms, but ultimately Vandewalle & Associates had the best proposal, and they are requesting about 80 percent of the payment of the other proposals.

Brar said Vanewalle has done a lot for the city and even helped write the first original zoning ordinance so maybe it is time to try another firm. 

“Different viewpoints do make a difference,” Brar said.

Plan commission member John Schaffer said he agreed with the mayor that it would be a good opportunity for the city to work with a different consultant. 

Alder Dan Ramsey who sits on the plan commission asked if the other items listed in Vandewalle’s proposals were included in the other proposals. Opitz said Vandawalle’s base proposal meets the RFP requirements for a cost of $81,000. They included other items they could work on that would go up to the $100,000 budget if the city is interested. 

Opitz said the plan commission can look further into the top three but it will delay the start time for the project.

Ramsey said he would like to see the sign ordinance revised as part of the zoning code overhaul. He said if the city can get the additional work for the same price as the other proposals it is a better value. 

Director of Planning and Community Development Abby Attoun said it is not just the sign code that is outdated. The lighting code needs to be updated as well as the official map. Parking and landscaping specifications ordinances need to be revised along with the sustainability plan, arts plan, bike pedestrian plan and several corridor plans.

“Speaking from a staff standpoint we would love to get some extra assistance with projects if there is a remaining budgetary amount that could make that work,” Attoun said.

Bruce said he would also like to see the sign code updated along with the zoning code.

Plan Commission member Jen Murray said she believes the work group made a good recommendation and she’s not as concerned about the cost saving but rather the fact that Vandewalle probably best understands Wisconsin state law.

Brar said he agreed with the comments made but was still wary about hiring Vandewalle for another project.

“We can’t just have the same folks over and over where it looks like a City of Middleton department rather than consultants,” Brar said.

Schaffer said Vandewalle should not be favored because they had the foresight to add the option to revise the sign ordinance.

Plan commission member Kurt Paulsen asked if the plan commission should interview the top three candidates.

Attoun said it could be done a few different ways with different representatives from the city in an open or closed session.

Opitz said it should be a public meeting conducted by the workgroup or plan commission, but it should not be staff alone.

Brar said it has been 40 years since the zoning ordinance was first adopted so there is not a rush and the city should get it done right.

“We are doing this after 40 years,” Brar said. “We owe it to our taxpayers that we do the best we can.”

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