Olympia apartment project gets initial approval
Mayor: Architectural commission appointments will be handled more stringently in the future

By Alex Nemec

Feb. 21, 2019

OCONOMOWOC — Debate was lively Tuesday night as Common Council members talked about a requested change to the former Olympia Resort and Conference Center’s zoning that would allow for apartment units on the property.

Property owner Wangard Partners wants to change the zoning from commercial to residential multi-unit district.

Tuesday’s civil debate was over whether or not to grant multi-unit high density versus multi-unit low density, which would grant 200 units on the property for high density as opposed to 134 with low density.

The council voted 4-3 in favor of changing the zoning to multi-unit, low density, with Aldermen Charlie Shaw, Mike Miller and Kevin Ellis voting against the ordinance. The second reading of the ordinance was waived by the same vote.

Alderman Matt Rosek was concerned with the current building being packed too full with apartments and having too many people in the space.

“I’m more concerned with the high-density up to the 200 units that there could be an attempt to jam more units into this building, which is something I don’t want to see,” Rosek said. “I don’t want too many units jammed into 16 acres at the gateway of our community and I think we as a council should be worried about that as a policy decision.”

However, Wangard Partners CEO Stewart Wangard said the request for the multi-unit high density was to have the option to build an addition moving forward and start master planning the area.

“As far as what’s going to go on with the next building, I can’t commit to that, I don’t even know what it’s going to cost to build it,” Wangard said. “In this case, we have pretty good ideas as far as what we can do with it and making the financial models work.

“The 200 units is important, when you take a look at the costs that are going into this ... the site should have higher density on it.”

The sentiment from the council was if the initial iteration of Wangard’s project goes well and the apartments are filling up, they would have no problem moving forward with multi-unit, high density in the future, Mayor David Nold said.

Rosek said “if this turns out to be a great project and it’s looking great and they want another tower two years from now we can give them another tower.”

Other business

The council voted 7-0 in favor of hiring a hearing examiner to help with the WaterView Condominium project on Lake Road after the architectural commission recused itself from the project.

City attorney said some of the architectural commission — which is a volunteer-based commission — stated they had friends and neighbors who were involved in the project and couldn’t be fair and impartial.

Rosek said when some of the members of the commission come around to get approved for their next term, tougher questions need to be asked.

Nold echoed Rosek’s statement, but also added it’s good to know there is a professional looking at the project from all angles.

“When appointments (for the architectural commission) come up they will be reviewed more stringently,” Nold said.

Ellis said he was disappointed in the commission.

“I do understand they are all volunteers, but we all have pressures,” Ellis said. “I have to reiterate what (Rosek) had stated, and next time there are appointments these questions need to be asked.”

The council ended the night going into closed session to talk about “lease of city owned land — 630 E. Wisconsin Ave. and the sale of city owned land” at the corner of West Second Street and South Main Street.