Plan renews questions about city height limits

Port council to hold public hearing on woman’s request to add third story to historic downtown building

A RENDERING BY Fein Design shows the north and west sides of a proposed third floor addition to the building at 231 W. Franklin St., in downtown Port Washington’s historic district. To accommodate the addition, the city must approve an exception to the 35-foot height limit, despite the fact the building already exceeds that cap.
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

A proposal to add a third story to a downtown Port Washington building led one woman attending Tuesday’s Common Council meeting to question the city’s policy on changes to historic structures.

“Does the city have a policy where citizens can clearly understand your attitude toward preservation?” asked Jennifer Wilke, 416 N. Franklin St. “I think that would be really important.

“We’re in such a divided society now. The one thing we have in common is our past. The history of Port Washington is a wonderful thing many, many people are concerned about.”

The Common Council will hold a public hearing on Lisa Poole’s request for an exemption to the 35-foot height limit to place an addition atop her building at 231 N. Franklin St.

In the downtown district, buildings can be 35 feet tall but owners may petition the city for a special exception for taller structures. Many downtown buildings exceed 35 feet.

But in this case, the building, which houses Studio 231, already exceeds that limit.

Poole wants to construct a rooftop addition to the building that will be shorter than the existing structure’s 48 feet — a measurement that is taken from the top of the turret.

The addition, which will house a studio and bathroom that will augment a second-floor apartment Poole is renovating, will be set back about 15-1/2 feet from Franklin Street to minimize its appearance.

“Our goal is to create a building with a historic nature ... so it looks like something that was meant to be,” said architect Rory Palubiski of Fein Design. “We’re definitely not trying to compete with that beautiful turret and steeple.”

In addition to being set back from the front of the building, the addition is lower than the turret, he noted.

Ald. Mike Gasper, who said a number of people have contacted him with concerns about the addition, noted that while the building is in a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the structure itself is not listed on the register.

“I like it,” he said. “I think it fits in pretty well with the building.”

One neighbor has concerns that the building could loom over a skylight in the adjacent building and cause unwanted light to enter the structure, Gasper said.

Palubiski said he will do what he can to address the issue.

A public hearing on Poole’s request to exceed the height limit will be held during the Common Council’s 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16 meeting. Aldermen are expected to act on the proposal at the meeting.

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