Mediator to determine next steps for lakefront condo proposal
Architectural Commission members recuse themselves at meeting

By Dave Fidlin - Special to the Enterprise

Jan. 17, 2019

OCONOMOWOC — An outside mediator will likely be enlisted to determine next steps for a controversial condominium project at the historic 517 Lake Road site in the heart of Oconomowoc.

Members of the city’s Architectural Commission last Wednesday took up developer Renner Architects’ latest proposal for the site, which reduces the scope of the project from 13 to nine condominium units. But a number of commissioners, who were tasked with giving direction on next steps for the latest proposal, said they were uncomfortable offering any type of recommendation.

The site is located between Lac La Belle and Fowler Lake, and is a part of the city’s Isthmus District. The city has strict regulations of what can be built there and what can’t, Oconomowoc Mayor David Nold previously told the Enterprise.

“I have spent a lot of time looking at this project, and I have struggled with this project,” said Kent Johnson, who chairs the Architectural Commission. “This is a very tough one for me.”

Commissioner Kurt Schrang offered similar concerns about giving a directive, one way or the other.

“Our job, as I view it, is we look at the merits of (a proposal), as far as design. Does the project fulfill the requirements of the local zoning ordinance?” Schrang said. “I feel that we’re in a position of not being able to do our job.”

Given the amount of scrutiny and controversy that has arisen from the project, Commissioner Anne Krogstad said she believes the project is beyond the purview of the appointed body.

“We’re here to improve Oconomowoc and make it a beautiful city,” Krogstad said. “Our job isn’t to placate or decide who’s going to go where.”

Because of the incumbent commission’s concerns, City Attorney Stan Riffle said he recommended pursuing the outside meditation to make a determination on the project’s latest iteration.

A hearing examiner was discussed as one possible professional to bring into the fold and step into the shoes of the Architectural Commission.

“I appreciate your candor,” Riffle said to the commissioners. “I know this is difficult for you.”

Because of the various logistics that must come together, it remains uncertain when the outside meditation will take place. But Riffle and City Planner Jason Gallo suggested it might not return to an agenda until this spring.

“When is this going to come back? I don’t have the answer to that,” Gallo said.

As with any municipal meeting, Riffle and Gallo said the forthcoming one with the mediator would be open to the public and go through all of the regular channels of required notification, including printing a legal notice in the Oconomowoc Enterprise.

Peter Renner, founder of Renner Architects, first pitched his residential project, dubbed WaterView Condominiums, in the fall of 2017.

City officials were inundated with concerns about the project when it was first proposed. Thousands of signatures were filed, and more than 3,000 letters opining on the project were sent to City Hall.

In a letter to city officials attached to the revised plans, Renner maintained condominiums would be viable for the property.

“We believe that there is a dire need for high quality condominiums in the heart of Lake Country, mostly to accommodate people who don’t want to maintain a high maintenance lake property,” Renner wrote.

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