Pine Ridge Estates.
Charles Auer/Enterprise Staff
OCONOMOWOC - Condominiums, apartments and single-family unit
subdivisions do not appear overnight; it often takes years for a
plan to coalesce and months for the plan to travel through
several committees - each tasked with a specialized mission - on
its way to the Oconomowoc Common Council for approval.
For some, the
recent development activity that has given rise to the nickname
“O’condo’mowoc,” or at least the pace at which development seems
to happen, is problematic.
The message to
slow down has been delivered repeatedly recently to the city by
concerned citizens, particularly in reference to the spike in
downtown development. At the same time, many developers feel the
process takes too long.
conflict) happens so regularly, the only difference (in
projects) is in the scale between marketplaces,” said Wisconsin
Realtors Association President Mike Theo, who represents real
estate brokers in the state. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a
four-story or a 60-story building in Milwaukee, it’s regularly
the same debate.”
School Apartments project provides an example of how the process
works and can take longer than expected, then be approved
swiftly, creating a feeling of a limited public process.
Middle School was sitting vacant in 2010 when a developer from
Oregon, Wis., made an offer to buy the school and turn it into a
61-unit apartment complex, but the plan changed.
In 2012, the
state awarded a different developer, Keystone Development LLC,
Wisconsin Housing Economic Development Authority tax credits to
build affordable housing, which allowed Keystone buying the
building from the school district for just over $1 million.
funding was secured there were several issues that had to be
addressed. The community had to be reassured that the project
was “affordable housing,” not low-income housing, to convince
them the project would attract what Mayor Jim Daley called at
the time “higher-level residents.”
It would take
another year for the project to be completed. The city’s Plan
Commission, Architectural Commission and the council had to
approve aspects of the project throughout 2012. In 2013, the
ribbon-cutting took place.
Though no two
projects are alike and often require changes and amendments
along the way, a set of steps and guidelines (and also fees) for
the development process is in place in Oconomowoc.
starts with a meeting with the Planning Department, where a
potential developer presents a design idea. Once the staff has
determined the first step is completed, the plan can be
submitted for a staff meeting. After the staff meeting, the
developer must within six months submit plans. Those plans are
reviewed by city staff and if they need to be changed the staff
will ask for a resubmission. The fourth step is to submit the
plan for a Planning Department review. If the plan passes the
review, the next step is the Architectural Commission for
review, then the Plan Commission review and, finally, the Common
and other steps, developers like Jim Wahlen of Cornerstone
Development, which is currently in the process of developing a
condominium complex northeast of downtown, said Oconomowoc is an
attractive place for a variety of reasons.
vibrant town and city,” he said. “There is so much potential,
the retail is great; there is easy access. The views will be
stunning from all perspectives.”
A feel for
the condo market
admits his view is a statewide one, said the condo market is
strong and that many communities are looking at density - going
up rather than out.
“If you don’t
want the higher-density apartment built here, but you also don’t
want urban sprawl,” Theo said, “where are you going to put
density is often controversial in an established urban area
because single-family homeowners have a stake in the
neighborhood and fear things like “conversion” to rental units
after the condos are sold or remain unsold.
Theo said that
is rare. Condo associations have certain rules built in and
according to Theo, it would take a vote for someone to convert a
unit into a rental and because that might hurt the other condo
owners’ property values, it remains a rarity.
Stapleton, of Stapleton Realty and Appraisal in Oconomowoc, said
the condo market is thriving, mostly because there are young
professionals who see condo living as desirable.
expansions in the health care industry, which brings tech jobs
into Oconomowoc, as well as First Bank Financial Centre’s recent
growth as indicators that a variety of housing is needed in the
believe the condo market is a bad investment are just mistaken,”
she said. “There is demand.”
less convinced than Stapleton about the need or demand for
condominiums, and a group of people in the city have made a
vocal stand against one of the two condo projects in
development, Fowler Lake Village. We’ll hear from some of them
and explore their objections to the increased growth downtown.
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