A proposal for a five-building, 60-unit development on the northwest corner of East Sauk Road and Harris Drive has been tabled while the developer makes it more aesthetically pleasing to members of the Port Washington Plan Commission.
The proposal by Premier Real Estate Development met opposition last night by some members of the Plan Commission who objected to the aesthetics of the proposal and the density of the project for a stretch of road that they said they’ve been trying to make an attractive entryway into the city.
After over two hours of discussion, the Plan Commission tabled action on the $3.5 million project pending potential changes by the developer.
As it was proposed to the Plan Commission this week, each of the five buildings would have eight two-bedroom units and four one-bedroom units. Every unit would have its own entry, washer and dryer and an enclosed garage stall. Two-bedroom units on the second floors would have cathedral ceilings. Rents for the units would range from $795 to $975.
Joe Goldberger, an attorney representing Premier Real Estate, said the units are designed to rent quickly, based on their long experience in the rental market. In many cases, the units are rented before completion, he said.
Prior to the meeting, the Port Washington Planning Department recommended approval of the project. One of the reasons cited was that the density of this project is a fraction of what is allowable for the parcel and the land will likely remain vacant for several years if not developed now.
Before coming to the Plan Commission, the developer and architect made adjustments to the project following a meeting with the Design Review Board.
The Design Review Board suggested the developer incorporate varying rooflines, different color or accents and more landscaping, plus make optimum use the topography and reduce paving surfaces.
Plan Commissioner Bud Sova was a vocal opponent of the project, saying that the last time the city considered the number of rentals versus owner-occupied housing, it found the city was top-heavy on these type of projects and the majority of people in the city were opposed to them. The city will review that information before the project comes to the Plan Commission again.
However, Goldberg said that because of the proximity to highway, his company doesn't see developing the property as single-family homes.
In the end, though, the commission was concerned about how the project would look at that location rather than the size of it, based on information that the city had already approved a larger project for the parcel. According to Planning and Development Director Randy Tetzlaff, a senior development with 150 apartments was approved by a 4-2 vote in August 2008.
Of concern was the "monolithic" appearance of the buildings and roof line.
“Architecturally, it’s just not attractive. Something needs to be done to break up the flat expanse of the front. Otherwise just a big, gray building,” Sova said.
Plan Commission Amanda Williams suggested that the architect add another color to the gable areas. Other suggestions included altering the roofline.
Goldberger said that they will try to accommodate the city’s requests concerning aesthetics but that it may end up being a matter of economics.
“We take this seriously and like to offer a nice product but we have to do so in a way that makes economic sense,” he said. “Before putting a shovel in the ground, we’re already over $1 million.”
The land is owned by Waterstone Bank. Cal Aiken will acquire it from the bank if the Plan Commission approves the concept development plan. Aiken purchased and developed a nearby section of property into single-family condos, which are now complete.