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Senior housing project sparks protests PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Tuesday, 22 November 2016 21:14

Plan to build three-story apartment building on Port’s west side has subdivision residents voicing concerns

About 30 people crowded into Port Washington City Hall last week to protest a senior living apartment building proposed to be built off Highway 33 on the city’s west side.

The residents of the Hidden Hills Subdivision said they feared the three-story apartment building would loom over their houses, eliminating privacy and creating a loss in property values.

They also said they had bought their homes knowing the lot would become home to a commercial operation someday, but they objected to the proposed rezoning needed for the housing complex.

One man who lives on Indigo Drive pointed to a sign offering lots for single-family homes in the subdivision and said, “I think that sign speaks for itself. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

“I would never have purchased my home if I knew a bunch of people would be staring into my back yard,” said Mauricio Bonilha, 230 Sweetwater Blvd.

“We like it nice and quiet,” added Karen Corlyn, 1800 Aster St. “It would not be good.”

“The mere fact of it being apartments, I’m concerned about resale value,” Sibel Duzeski, 288 Wildflower Cir., said.

The Plan Commission tabled action on the concept plan and proposed rezoning for the property, which is located east of a parcel owned by the gas company.

Commission members said they had no problem with the proposed use, but asked Bielinski Builders, which owns the land, to reduce the height of the structure and come up with landscaping to help shelter the neighboring properties.

“They need to reconfigure this plan,” commission member Ron Voigt said. “Maybe we could ask them (Bielinski) to sharpen their pencil a little bit and bring it down to two stories. It’s sort of like a Berlin Wall behind them with three stories there.”

“I think two stories would be less imposing,” added Ald. Dan Becker, a commission member. 

Commission member Bud Sova said the building, while attractive, isn’t the right one for an entryway to the city.

“This would be a fine addition anywhere else in the city,” he said. “But it’s the gateway, and that’s a little higher type of zoning than elsewhere in the city.”

His concern was echoed by commission member Amanda Williams, who said, “We have to be sensitive to the gateway. It’s much taller than any other building around. I just don’t think it would be very attractive on our gateway.”

Bielinski has had the lot on the market for years, but has found no one interested in purchasing it for commercial uses, the firm’s general counsel, Tim Voeller, said.

“There’s nothing that’s even come to the table over the last 10 years,” he said.

Part of the problem, he said, is that when Highway 33 was rebuilt several years ago, the state limited access to the lot, allowing vehicles only to turn right when entering or exiting the property. 

Commercial clients want two-way access, Voeller said.

“Bielinski has been looking at its options,” he said, and housing for active seniors seemed like a good and appropriate use.

The proposed building would have 12 two-bedroom units of about 1,000 square feet and 15 one-bedroom units of about 700 square feet, each of which would have a deck or patio and one underground parking space. An elevator would provide easy access for residents.

There would also be a surface parking lot for other vehicles.  

“If height’s the issue, we could look at it,” Voeller said.

But Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, a member of the commission, said the use and proposed building are much less intrusive than many commercial buildings would be. 

The existing zoning would allow gas stations, drive throughs and businesses such as Walgreens and Dave & Busters, a popular restaurant chain, Vanden Noven noted.

“It seems to me this would be so much quieter than a busy commercial establishment,” he said, adding the building would be more than a half-block from the nearest lot line.

Some neighbors questioned why Bielinski had proposed building an apartment building for active seniors ages 55 and older, but was only requiring 80% of the occupants meet that description.

Voeller said federal guidelines mandate the 80% requirement, adding that at least one occupant of each apartment would have to be 55.

Bielinski intends to hold the building, not sell it to another party, Voeller said, adding the firm is willing to place a deed restriction on the property requiring the land be used for senior housing in perpetuity.

Commission members concurred that the use is a good one.

“As my neighbor, I’d rather have active seniors,” Becker said. 

Tracy Modjeski, 276 Wildflower Cir., asked whether Bielinski had considered building condominiums on the land, saying that might be more acceptable to some neighbors.

“We don’t think the market is back,” Voeller said.

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