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Condo developer gets divided ruling PDF Print E-mail
Written by MARK JAEGER   
Wednesday, 02 March 2016 18:26

Village’s Board of Appeals grants setback leeway, but balks at request to waive aesthetic standard

A condominium developer came away from Monday’s meeting of the Village of Saukville’s Zoning Board of Appeals with a split decision.

Hillcrest Builders gained support for leeway in setback requirements for a nine-building project that has been on the drawing board for a decade.

However, the appeals body was not willing to grant a variance from the village’s requirement that the exteriors of the proposed duplex buildings be at least 50% brick or stone.

In 2005, the developer proposed the condo project on a 4.9-acre parcel on Briarknoll Court. Shortly after the project was platted, the economy soured and the plan was shelved.

When Hillcrest Builders and Tillmann Properties looked to resurrect the project late last year, the developers noted the condo market had changed.

Oyvind Solvang of Hillcrest Builders told the Board of Appeals the original two-story townhouse design was “no longer marketable.”

Single-story ranch condos were now planned, with two or three bedrooms and between 1,300 and 1,500 square feet.

“There is virtually no demand for bi-level condos,” Solvang said.

By making the units ranch-style, they will require larger footprints, allowing less space between buildings.

The village code requires at least 30 feet between buildings, but the revised plan would have some buildings with sideyard setbacks of as little as 12 feet.

Solvang said the project would not have the appearance of a dense development because of the extensive presence of trees and the buildings being fanned out on a cul-de-sac.

The private road and sewer lines were installed prior to the project being shelved, making it impractical to rearrange the building sites, the developer added.

The development would also wrap around a wetland, with that plan already gaining approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Board member Richard Belling made a motion to approve the setback exception.

“I’ve been to the site. It is tucked away and it looks like a good plan,” Belling said.

The board unanimously approved the motion.

Board members were less sympathetic with the developer’s request that the 50% masonry requirement be waived.

Solvang said the aesthetic requirement could add $15,000 to the cost of each building, making it difficult to keep the cost at the targeted $215,000 to $230,000.

He said no other community has such stringent aesthetic requirements.

“These are not high-end condos. They are intended to be affordable for empty-nesters and retirees who are looking for a specific price point,” Solvang said.

Instead, the developer proposed stone accent columns on the front of the units.

“Price is everything in this market. The worst case would be to put up a building and it sits,” Solvang said.

However, Village Attorney Gerald Antoine warned the board it could not waive the masonry requirement simply because it would be a financial burden on the developer.

As an alternative, Antoine suggested the developer ask the Plan Commission to make a text change to the zoning ordinance which would allow a loosening of the stone or brickwork standard.

Board of Appeals member Don Clark said the current masonry requirement may actually be hurting the village by scaring away other developers who think the aesthetic standard is too cost prohibitive.

With that option explained, the Board of Appeals unanimously approved denying the masonry waiver.

Village officials told Solvang the text change could be put into place in as little as two months if it is quickly endorsed by the Plan Commission and Village Board.

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