Nold doesn’t think condo development at historic site will work

By Jake Meister - Enterprise Staff

Oct. 19, 2017

OCONOMOWOC — Oconomowoc’s mayor hopes Renner Architects scraps its idea of building a 12-unit condominium building in the 500 block of North Lake Road after the city already turned down two of its plans because they failed to meet restrictions.

Peter Renner of Renner Architects wants to raze the home at 517 N. Lake Road, which the company purchased last month, and combine that lot with the vacant property it also owns at 525 N. Lake Road to create one parcel that would hold a 12-unit condominium development and a three-bedroom, single- family residence.

Both of these parcels are within Oconomowoc’s Isthmus District. Under the Isthmus Design Standards of the city’s ordinances, which were created more than 20 years ago to protect structures in that area, the building scales, design, configuration, details, exterior material and color of any development,

facade or building change in that area must reflect practices that were common between 1870 and 1930.

Renner’s application for the proposed development was brought Sept. 13 to the Oconomowoc Architectural Commission, which determined the project didn’t meet the design standards. Renner was told to come back to the city with a new plan — and he did. City Planner and Zoning Administrator Jason Gallo said Tuesday that the second drawing Renner recently submitted was still not consistent with the requirements. When the city informed the architects of its findings, the group pulled the item from the city, which took it off the Architectural Commission’s October agenda.

Nold agreed with the commission that the second proposal is not up to snuff and said what Renner wants to do isn’t going to work.

“As of right now what he wants to do is not something we’re going to vote affirmative on,” Nold said.

Even if the project passed the Architectural Commission, Nold thinks it wouldn’t have the favor of either the Planning Commission or Common Council.

He said Renner would have to change the look and size of the project considerably in order to get approval.

“It’s not going to be what he wants,” Nold said.

Bringing down the house

The home at 517 has a great deal of historical significance. City documents show the 3,752-square-foot home was built in 1920.

According to the “Quester’s Guide to Historical Oconomowoc,” one of Oconomowoc’s famed citizens, John Rockwell, owned a home on that property. However, there is no indication whether any part of Rockwell’s home is in the current home.

“If it’s as historically significant as we think it is, it’s going to be awfully difficult to take it down,” Nold said.

Nold added, “My hope is the owner of the property comes to the conclusion that what he wants to build is not going to be acceptable there.”

Group opposing change picks up steam

While Renner’s project remains up in the air, The Isthmus Historic Preservation Society, a group of Oconomowoc citizens formed in support of architectural guidelines the city has put in place for the area, continues to grow.

Last week, the group’s Facebook page had exceed 5,000 “likes,” while about 750 people had signed its petition in an effort to prevent the home located at 517 N. Lake Road from being demolished, the group’s Executive Director David Cullinane said.

The group is also picking up support from residents of other states — people Cullinane said participate in the area’s historic walk while on vacation in Oconomowoc.

“This campaign is nothing short of explosive right now,” Cullinane said.

City Clerk Diane Coenen said Renner Architects’ proposal has probably given the Oconomowoc Architectural Commission the most feedback it has received on one topic since she began working for the city in 2004.

Peter Renner has not returned a number of calls the Enterprise placed in search of comment on the topic.

<<EARLIER: Residents upset by proposed condo project in historic district

Special Series