An eleventh-hour interest in a property along Clearwater Lane has put a delay in a rezoning request – and has frustrated residents in the River's Crossing subdivision.
About two dozen residents in the area were prepared to ask the Waukesha Plan Commission, which was expected to vote on the rezoning Wednesday night, to change the zoning from multi-family residential to two-family residential.
But when they got to the meeting, Mayor Jeff Scrima announced an interested party in the land contacted his office Wednesday to request the rezoning be placed on hold.
“I have a big concern about deferring this to a later date,” said resident Debbie Hastings. “I don’t understand why when this is a matter that we are all here to talk about it. … Are we supposed to go by somebody’s word of mouth that there is interest in the property?”
Neighbors in the area are opposed to large-scale apartment buildings. The property originally was to be developed by Bielinski for apartments, but the property was foreclosed on by the bank. Owned now by BMO Harris, representatives from the bank want the property to remain at a multi-family residential zoning, calling it the “highest and best use” for the property.
Alderman Rick Hastings brought the request forward to change the rezoning in October at the request of neighbors. He waited until there was no developers interested in the property to make the change so it wasn’t a project-specific zoning change. However, it wasn’t placed on the agenda until February to go before the Plan Commission.
“It doesn’t seem right that we would hold back a vote on the rezoning of this land based on some new interest given to the mayor’s office,” Hastings said.
Neighbors have opposed large apartment developments for years, citing concerns with traffic, wetlands and springs in the area. Referencing an ad-hoc report reviewed a few years ago by the Common Council, Ruth Thiel questioned why the city would want the property to be developed for large apartment buildings. The neighbors “are kind of confused by your message.” “You asked us to appear,” Thiel said. “We are here.”
Thiel said she’s grateful that Hastings brought the request forward to the Plan Commission. Another neighbor said more than 400 signatures were given to the city fighting earlier plans to develop large apartments.
“What is going on with this business that there are too many apartments?” Thiel asked. “Where is the line? What is too many?”
Saying the bank “made a bad loan,” Alderman Roger Patton asked the commission to not “kick the can down the road.”
“It sounds like it would be a disaster to build big buildings on these springs,” Patton said.
The rezoning request will come back to the Plan Commission in two weeks. Commissioners Joan Francoeur and Kevin Larson were in favor of moving the process along.
Even if the Plan Commission approves the rezoning, a public hearing would have to be held before the Common Council about three to four weeks after the Plan Commission’s decision.
“Two weeks maximum,” Larson said. “We have to move on.”