‘Not a good fit’ for Thiensville, residents say
Many at meeting oppose apartments proposed for corner of Green Bay Road and Riverview Drive

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

July 28, 2015

THIENSVILLE — The developer who wants to build a 44-unit apartment project was met at a July 21 meeting by a standing-room-only crowd who argued that the project was too big and not a good fit for Thiensville.

By the end of the 2 1/2-hour-long hearing and meeting of the village Plan Commission, developer David Hoff said he would at least explore the possibility of downsizing the project to about 20 condominiums.

The meeting technically was an opportunity for the Plan Commission to discuss the merits of establishing a tax incremental financing district to assist in the development. Residents were told they could speak about the merits of the project in general – and they didn’t hold back. “It’s another high-density project on a small acreage – and not only that, it’s rental property,” said Randy Short, who lives on Riverview Drive. “The condo people take more pride in the community.”

Several residents said they are getting tired of coming to Village Hall to oppose high-density projects proposed for the site that has been vacant since M&I Bank pulled out about seven years ago. A developer from the Twin Cities area proposed a 66-unit assisted living facility in July 2009 and later a 60-unit apartment building. Both ideas fizzled, at least in part due to the neighbors’ opposition.

“I’m disappointed that we’re here again talking about this kind of density,” said Cindy Reilly, who lives on Riverview Drive, with her husband, James, who also spoke.

James Reilly said offering TIF money for the project is “really just a subsidy to the builder.” He asked a rhetorical question: “Do you want to use a TIF district to get this project?” Many in the audience answered, “No.”

Approximately 40 residents attended the meeting; 15 spoke, all basically in opposition to the apartment plan. Several letters received by the village also were read; all but one opposed the project.

Michael Harrigan, a representative of Ehlers and Associates, a finance firm advising the village on the TIF, said the proposed project would have a completed value of $6.5 million. The developer would be paid back $1.2 million over approximately 16 years from the additional tax increment. The current taxable value of the site is $750,212. Given the projections he put together, Harrigan said the TIF would be retired about 11 years before the maximum time state law allows for the district.

The arrangement is “risk averse” to the village because the income would not be paid to the developer unless it is generated by taxes on the successful development, he said.

During the discussion that followed the public hearing, Village President Van Mobley attempted to find common ground. He said he was looking for “something that is acceptable and makes the village better.”

During their remarks, several residents said they would prefer to see condominiums on the site. They said the density would be lower and that the owners would likely be more invested in taking care of their property and being a part of the community.

Hoff said his market research indicated that there was a demand for apartments at the price point he is proposing, which would range from $1,100 a month for a one-bedroom to about $2,000 a month for a three-bedroom townhome.

Hoff said he was willing to do some basic research into the feasibility of developing a condo project with somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 units on the site. He said he would return to the village with his findings.

“I’m very familiar with the trends in the marketplace. I’m very familiar with what my clients are hiring me for,” he said. “It doesn’t appear there is a market for that product (condos) currently – or you’d be seeing it.”

Hoff asked if TIF support would still be available from the village if his proposal switched to the lower-density condo project. Mobley said if the project met the intent of the district and was an improvement to the village that it could be discussed.

The village has two meetings planned next week to continue discussions on the project. They are a Village Board Committee of the Whole meeting Monday and another Plan Commission session the following evening.

Gary Achterberg can be reached at .