Development for adults with autism approved

Woodside Prairie development will include six, six-bedroom residential buildings on 6.5 acres
By 
CONNOR CARYNSKI
Ozaukee Press Staff

 

 

The Woodside Prairie development, which will provide housing opportunities for adults with autism, has been approved for the Village of Grafton.

The development will be built on a 6.5-acre, undeveloped parcel north of Hunter Road between Iroquois Avenue and Port Washington Road in the Hunter’s Crossing neighborhood. It will consist of six residential buildings, four with six bedrooms and two with four bedrooms, with a total of 40 units.

The six-bedroom buildings, designated for adults with autism, would include a bedroom and bathroom for each adult and shared common areas. The four-bedroom townhomes, designated for site managers from Concordia University and members of the public, would have two-bedroom apartments with living rooms, kitchens, and one car attached garages.

The property will also include an activity center for residents, a walking path and garden areas.

The project was approved by the Plan Commission in 2020 but the permit expired due to a lack of construction on the site.

Michael Carlson of Impact Seven, a nonprofit agency working on the project, said work could not take place because of a lack of funding and that the project was put on hold.

This summer though, Carlson said, the project secured funding through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s low-income housing tax credit program.

To be eligible for the funding, Carlson said, the facility must be open to members of the public who qualify for housing assistance in addition to adults with autism and student managers.

With funding secured, the project was brought before the Plan Commission again on March 22, but action was tabled because zoning needed to be changed to incorporate members of the public in addition to institutional occupants.

The Plan Commission considered a rezone, site plan and conditional use permit for the project on April 26.

Community Development Director Jessica Wolff said the project meets requirements and that village staff members recommend approval with conditions. She noted that the building designs were of high quality and were passed by the Architectural Review Board.

During a public hearing, James Nutter, a member of the Hunter’s Crossing neighborhood board, spoke out against the project.

“As a representative of the expensive condos on the west and south sides, we are 100% against bringing in low-income housing,” he said.

Nutter said he supports original plans for the development, which did not include housing for members of the public, but does not back housing supported by the WHED.

“We do not want those extra units to open up for low income in Grafton,” he said. “We don’t want it and we don’t need it. You’re not going to ruin my property value and you’re not bringing any more crime to Grafton.”

Carlson said income qualifications for units open to the public would be 60% of the area median income, which would equate to about $55,000 to $60,000 annually for a two-member household.

He said Impact Seven would be the owner and operator of the development, and that a property and maintenance manager would be stationed on site. Prospective tenants would also need to pass an income check, background check, rental history inquiry and other checkpoints to ensure they would be responsible occupants.

“We have a vested interest in ensuring that we have good quality residents at our project,” he said. “I would say especially this one given the vulnerabilities of the autistic residents living there.”

Plan Commission member Heidi Ham said it is likely public housing opportunities at Woodside Prairie would attract professionals interested in working with or interacting with autistic residents, not transient individuals who may cause disturbances. She said the development would be of great value to the village and those it would serve.

“Having a community like Woodside Prairie is something that is going to be a benefit and an asset to the Village of Grafton,” she said. “It’s going to be a model.”

Village President Jim Brunnquell said the public housing aspect of the development would help attract workers to fill  many open positions at local businesses. He said there are few housing options in the area that local workers could afford, and that Woodside Prairie would help address that issue.

Brunnquell added that the village needs to be cognizant of the needs of all village residents, regardless of income.

Wolff noted that it is illegal to evaluate housing projects based on the income of the development’s residents.

“The village does not review housing developments based on the income level of individuals and cannot evaluate this proposal in any way related to the income status of residents,” she said. “That would be illegal.”

The Plan Commission approved project’s rezone, site plan and conditional use permit. On each of the three votes, Plan Commission member Mark Paschke abstained and Alan Kletti opposed.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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