Developer, citizens voice arguments on condominium project
Examiner to make decision within coming weeks

By Alex Nemec

March 21, 2019

 Isthmus Historic Preservation Society Director David Cullinane, left, gives his reasoning behind why Peter Renner’s, right, proposed condo project doesn’t belong on the Lake Road isthmus.
Alex Nemec/Freeman Staff

OCONOMOWOC — Developer Peter Renner and citizens of Oconomowoc, along with their representatives, gave their opinions Wednesday night about why a hearing examiner should vote in their favor for the legality of the WaterView Condominium project proposed for 517525 N. Lake Road.

The hearing was to present information as it relates to the Isthmus Design Standards. The Isthmus District in Oconomowoc is a historic neighborhood between Lac La Belle and Fowler Lake.

The crux of the Isthmus District zoning requirement is “facade and building changes should reflect building, scale, design, configuration, exterior details and materials that reflect the practices common in the period between 1870 and 1930 and complement other instances of similar development in the isthmus district which are consistent with the historic theme.”

Renner said he has gone through a great effort to make the project have a Victorian feel and recognized the public’s displeasure with the location of his project.

“The land is zoned for 13 units of multi-family housing. To some extent that permission under the zoning is conflicted by the law as written up here (in the ordinance),” Renner said.

He added he has complied with the law to the best degree that he could.

Renner’s lawyer Don Murn said he thinks the ordinance is almost impossible to comply with under this permitted use.

“The ordinance is vague by its terms and therefore unenforceable,” Murn said.

Murn said Trego Architects’ — the architectural firm hired by citizens to present for them — report stated “the project seems incapable of escaping the fact that it is a big box not suited for the site given the current language used in the ordinance.”

Murn responded “that statement recognizes the fact the ordinance doesn’t comply with the permitted use.”

Isthmus Historic Preservation Society Director David Cullinane said the proposed building’s configuration is not consistent with the period of 1870 to 1930.

“It’s a contemporary massing that is designed for maximizing profit for the project, not to complement the historic architecture of the neighborhood,” Cullinane said.

Mike Trego of Trego Architects — who did his master’s thesis on a Lake Road property and helped redesign the new porch on his renovation of the old Masonic Lodge — said he thinks the spirit of the ordinance is to create something at this property that blends in with this neighborhood.

Trego said Renner’s development is a big box with deck structures attached and minimal volumetric articulation.

“Adding decorative features on a big box does not constitute a period style piece of architecture and is inappropriate for a project in the Isthmus District,” Trego said.

The city’s hired architect, Peter Rott of Isthmus Architecture out of Madison, did not think the project was appropriate based on the ordinances.

Residents’ concerns included but were not limited to how the Department of Natural Resources feels about the project, community safety and destroying historic properties in the city.

Hearing examiner John Fuchs said he would write his report and make his decision in the coming weeks.

<<EARLIER: WaterView condominium project hearing Wednesday

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