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Officials voice concerns, table Bielinski rezoning PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 16 August 2017 18:48

Aldermen delay action on controversial plan to build three-story apartment building in Port subdivision

   Port Washington aldermen who appeared ready to reject a request to rezone a portion of the Hidden Hills subdivision to allow a 35-unit apartment building to be constructed among single-family homes instead tabled the issue Tuesday.
    “I feel this will be defeated,” Ald. John Sigwart said before making the motion to table a decision because aldermen Doug Biggs and Mike Ehrlich were not at the meeting. “I feel bad because we have two aldermanic districts that aren’t represented tonight.”
    Unable to sell land zoned for commercial development in its Hidden Hills subdivision north of Highway 33 on Port’s westside, Bielinski Homes has proposed a multi-family development instead, which would require the city to rezone a portion of the subdivision.
    Bielinski’s plans sparked opposition from residents of the subdivision when they were proposed in November and have been modified in attempt to address some of those concerns.
    The current proposal calls for a three-story “active adult community” apartment building to be constructed along Highway 33. Of the 35 units in the building, 80% would have to be occupied by at least one person age 55 or older.
    Hidden Hills resident Rickie Lovell told aldermen during a public hearing Tuesday that he did not plan on living next to an apartment building when he built his house, and is now concerned the building would “drastically change the nature” of the subdivision and diminish property values.
    “The request to rezone and build the ‘community’ by Bielinski Homes is a breach of good faith with the homeowners of Hidden Hills,” Lovell said. “Bielinski represented to me and others that this is a development of single-family homes and that there would only be commercial development” on land along Highway 33.
    Referring to residents of the subdivision, Lovell said, “Our interests need to come before the interests of Bielinski Homes. They made representations of what this area would be like and they want to change that.”
    Bielinski Homes lawyer Tim Voeller said the company’s plan to build multi-family housing on land once slated for commercial development reflects the fact that there is little demand for commercial property in the area. In fact, he said, there are vacancies in the current commercial building in the subdivision.
    Voeller said plans for land use change all the time, noting that the city wants to sell lakefront land that has long been a parking lot for the development of the Blues Factory entertainment complex.
    The Plan Commission has endorsed a preliminary site plan for the apartment building and recommended the zoning change in recognition of the fact the market for commercial land isn’t what it used to be, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said.
    “We have an overabundance of commercial properties,” he said.
    City Administrator Mark Grams noted that the reconstruction of Highway 33 compromised access to the Bielinski property, making the commercial land in the subdivision even less desirable.
    But other city officials were less sympathetic to the developer.
    Referring to Lovell, Ald. Dave Larson said, “He bought his property with certain expectations. And other than downtown, we have more than enough multi-family units in the city.”
    Sigwart said, “I’m not yet convinced we have an obligation to make the Bielinski property more useful.”
    But Mayor Tom Mlada, chairman of the Plan Commission, said commission members didn’t have the interests of Bielinski Homes in mind when they endorsed a zoning change they believe will make undeveloped land more desirable.
    “It wasn’t about the developer but what’s in the best interest of the city,” he said.  Daily Press
    Ald. Michael Gasper, however, said the change would amount to spot zoning.
    “We shouldn’t be doing spot zoning,” he said. “It’s a bad practice.”
    The Plan Commission had been scheduled to consider a final site plan for the apartment building on Thursday, Aug. 17.