Board of Appeals Meets Tuesday to Review Plan
Commission Approval of Sunseeker’s Development
By Davida Amenta
SHOREWOOD, Wis. (April 11, 2021) -- The village Board of Appeals will meet Tuesday, April 13 at 5:30 p.m. to review the Plan Commission’s Feb. 23 decision to grant an exception to the parking requirement for a proposed four-family multifamily housing project at 2420 E. Capitol Dr. The vote was 5-1. Commissioner Eric Couto was the only “no” vote.
A group of Stowell Avenue residents appealed the commissions’ decision – the last hurdle for the proposed housing development by Catalyst Partners before going to the Village Board for final approval.
Except for providing adequate on-site parking, the proposed development for the northwest corner of East Capitol Drive and North Stowell Avenue meets all requirements of current zoning.
As proposed, the development will include 43 parking spaces on the ground floor. The developers have proposed including another eight spaces through the Village’s on-street parking permit program, for a total of 51 spaces.
The property is in the Residential Congested Area, which limits parking during the day to two hours for all but residents. But the daytime permits are not available to residents of multi-family buildings. Future tenants would be able to park on the street overnight using the overnight on-street permit program. But during
daytime hours they would need to find parking outside of the RCA.
Given the liberalization of overnight parking adopted by the Village Board and effective January 1, 2021, the Plan Commission essentially concluded that current parking requirements of 1.75 spaces per unit are no longer relevant.
North Stowell Avenue residents appealed the Plan Commission’s decision, concerned that the development would have negative impacts on parking and traffic congestion in the immediate neighborhood. The appellants cite State law that requires that the Plan Commission reference “substantial evidence” regarding 13 requirements. They claim that the Plan Commission failed to consider each of 13 requirements and that little or no “substantial evidence” was presented. Regarding traffic impacts, the developer’s representative offered no actual study or data but responded, “I could not give you an honest answer on that. I was just working off what we’ve typically seen.” The appeal also cites circular reasoning on the part of the village planner and confusing responses from the village attorney.
According to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, all variance applicants must show that the requested variance will not be contrary to the public interest. This criterion requires the zoning board to consider the purposes of the ordinance at issue and determine “whether the relief requested is consistent with the public interest such that the variance should be granted, or whether a variance would subvert the purpose of the zoning restriction to such an extent that it must be denied.”
Trustee Tammy Bockhorst, a former president of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, attended the Plan Commission and described the project as exciting. She addressed the Commission twice saying, “You’ve heard that there is not an appetite necessarily for six-story developments in this Village. I’m not sure where you’ve heard that from, but we will have a very different board in a couple of months and the chatter around six stories have been built in this Village and will continue with the most likely with the vision that we have from Vision 2025.” The landowner of the property is Paul Hackbarth, the owner of two businesses in Shorewood, Camp Bar and the Atrium.
He is a major financial contributor to the campaigns of both Trustee Bockhorst and incoming Village President Ann McKaig.
Asked whether it is appropriate for a trustee to lobby a village commission, Trustee Bockhorst responded: “When isn’t it appropriate.”
On April 13th, the Board of Appeals may affirm or reverse the decision of the Plan Commission. The Board or Appeals can also send the decision back to the Plan Commission for further consideration.