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Council OKs subdivision rezoning despite outcry PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Wednesday, 06 September 2017 18:39

Port aldermen vote 6-1 to clear way for apartment complex opposed by residents of Hidden Hills

Port Washington aldermen agreed Tuesday to rezone a portion of the Hidden Hills subdivision on Port Washington’s west side for a 35-unit senior apartment building despite an outcry from residents opposed to the development.
    The rezoning was approved 6-1, with only Ald. Jonathan Pleitner, who lives in the subdivision, voting against it.
    Aldermen said the apartments, which are intended for active adults ages 55 and older, will fill a housing need in the community.
    Housing for active adults is preferable to many of the commercial uses that could go there, aldermen added, noting that these buildings could be located closer to the neighboring residences than the apartments will be.
    “If someone wants to put a nightclub there that would increase nighttime traffic, potentially increase crime, the city could not stop it,” Ald. Doug Biggs said, because the commercial zoning would allow this use by right.
    Studies have shown that commercial development within 700 feet of residential properties decreases their value, Biggs added, while senior housing within 1,500 feet has a positive impact on housing values.
    Bielinski’s “not going to hang onto it,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich noted, and there are many other uses that could impact the subdivision more seriously.
    “I really sympathize with everybody, but I don’t see a downside to what’s been brought up,” Ehrlich said. “Fifty-five-plus housing just seems to make the most sense.”
    Ald. John Sigwart said, “The Plan Commission has done a good job of making sure this development is appropriate for this neighborhood.”
    Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, noted that Bielinski has responded to all the city’s concerns about its proposal, modifying the design for the building and relocating it on the site to mitigate the impact on the subdivision.
    “I’m struggling to understand the argument that it’s going to be so detrimental,” Mayor Tom Mlada said.
    Residents told aldermen that 60 of the 80 households in the subdivision opposed the rezoning, which Bielinski Homes needed to construct the apartment building.
    They said they feared the apartments would decrease their property values, increase traffic in the subdivision and decrease safety there.
    “Building this complex would dramatically change the character of Hidden Hills,” Rick Lovell, 220 Indigo Dr., said. “There’s no compelling reason to change the zoning here.”
    The best thing would be to leave the land undeveloped as a gateway to the city, he added.
    Patty Schulz, 1818 Aster St., told aldermen what attracted her family to the subdivision were the green spaces that surrounded it and any changes to that would “irrevocably change” life there.
    Several residents told officials that Bielinski never told them about the proposed change in zoning or use for the property, which was initially to be used for commercial development fronting on Highway 33.
    Ron Corlyn, 1800 Aster St., told aldermen that Bielinski should hire an aggressive firm to market its commercial land rather than trying to flip the zoning and create apartments there.
    But John Donovan, acquisitions and development manager for Bielinski, said the company is committed to ensuring 80% of the apartments are occupied by people 55 and older and the design of the structure.
    “Bielinski believes this is the best use of the property,” he said.
    Officials said that concerns about increased traffic were moot, noting that the apartment driveway would lead only to Highway 33, and the chance of increased crime in the area would be greater with commercial development than with housing for older adults.
    Concerns that the rezoning amounts to spot zoning were rebuffed by City Attorney Eric Eberhardt, who said that the use is compatible with the neighboring properties and provides a public benefit.Daily Press