Cedarburg looking at expanded densities, heights for multi-family developments

By Denise Seyfer - News Graphic Staff

May 12, 2015

CEDARBURG — Multifamily development projects in the city of Cedarburg could see changes that allow for more flexibility regarding height and density requirements.

Despite concerns of residents, the Plan Commission on May 4 approved ordinance changes to the city's planned unit development code. The item will be scheduled for a public hearing before heading to the Common Council for final approval.

The proposal allows a maximum building height of 45 feet, down from an earlier-discussed height of 60 feet. Currently, the planned unit development ordinance limits a residential density to the approved zoning of a particular district. For a multiple family zoning district, the maximum is 16 units per acre.

Residents who attended the April 6 and the May 4 Plan Commission meetings raised concerns about allowable building height and increased densities.

Common Council member Patricia Thome, who sits on the Plan Commission, said she was skeptical about offering 24-unit densities per acre instead of the current 16-unit limit. She said she feared developers will gravitate to the higher densities.

Citizens who also appeared at the last two Plan Commission meetings said they were worried that the larger buildings might not fit with the city’s architecture and overwhelm neighboring establishments, thus reducing property values. Valerie Sorchy, a neighbor of the St. Francis Borgia school property, said Evergreen Park Senior Housing at Evergreen and Lincoln boulevards is in an industrial park, while the neighborhood around St. Francis Borgia, which could see a multi-family development in the future, encompasses single­family and two-family homes.

City Planner Jon Censky emphasized at the April 6 meeting that, even if the city approves a PUD amendment and developers request higher densities or heights, there is no entitlement to them.

“The city has the ability to deny or grant (them) on a case-by-case basis,” Censky said.

Cedarburg Mayor Kip Kinzel said there are several sites, such as Weil Pump and Amcast, where the change would allow the opportunity to look at proposals that make sense in the area.

“The current code is so restrictive that developers are going elsewhere,” he said.

The proposed changes would allow for increased density and height where it can be justified and the quality of the project meets Cedarburg’s standards, Censky said. “Right now, (the changes) would only apply to four or five properties in the city that have been noted in the Smart Growth Plan,” he said.

A Smart Growth Plan is an urban planning and transportation plan that concentrates on economic growth to improve quality of life within a community.

The change offers “the most control over proposed developments, while providing some flexibility in design by permitting certain modifications to the dimensional standards and requirements,” according to comments made at the Plan Commission meeting on April 6.

According to the proposed ordinance, current language changes also alter PUD districts to follow a minimum reduction of development area from 2 acres to 1 acre for residential and commercial PUDs. Industrial PUDs will require a minimum of 10 acres and mixed compatible use requires no minimum acreage.

Another addition to the ordinance requires developers to provide a timetable that includes all benchmark dates from commencement to completion of the proposed project site. City code previously allowed for a pre-petition conference to discuss the scope and nature of the project.

The proposed ordinance refines the approval process for any zoning changes so the plans get reviewed through the various city commissions. The Common Council will make the final decision.

The review process will continue to allow public feedback about the nature and the scope of the proposed project, Censky and the plan commissioners said.

The significant changes proposed within the PUD ordinance include:

■ Changing in the minimum area requirements for residential and commercial sites to allow for use of PUD zoning on some of the smaller sites in Cedarburg.

■ Allowing increased density for proposed projects of exceptionally high quality where exterior and interior materials, design details, workmanship and features are comparable to the highest quality of Cedarburg’s current housing stock or its best commercial structures.

■ Increased building height of up to 45 feet to support the public benefit likely to result from the development, provided all required yards are increased by not less than 1 foot for each foot the structure exceeds the underlying district’s maximum height requirement.

Denise Seyfer can be reached at .