Downtown Delafield development requires code changes
New public hearings delay final decisions

By Kelly Smith - Special to Conley Media

June 30, 2019

DELAFIELD — After an hour and a half of public hearing, with testimony from nearly 30 citizens on Wednesday night, proponents and opponents of plans for two four-story buildings at the corner of Main and Genesee streets agreed downtown Delafield will be changed, forever, if the plans are approved by the city.

However, it is probably going to be months before a final decision is made since city officials have learned the review process will be much more cumbersome, and perhaps more controversial, than they had anticipated.

Hendricks Commercial Properties of Beloit, the city’s largest landlord, wants to build a commercial office and retail building facing Genesee Street and a residential condominium and retail building around the corner facing Main Street.

However, the plans exceed the maximum building height, number of building floors, and distance from sidewalk to buildings required in the city code.

The developers argue the height of the buildings and number of floors are necessary in order to make it an attractive and financially viable project that will provide residential and commercial amenities, including above and below ground parking, that will attract new businesses and residents to downtown.

However, opponents of the project, including Plan Commissioner Laura Schult, argue changing the zoning code to favor one developer would establish a dangerous precedent and the 19th century architecture, and size of the buildings, are not compatible with the downtown business district.

Mayor Kent Attwell explained to the Plan Commission that city officials thought the commission and Common Council had the authority to simply vote to waive the code requirements for the project.

 However, a recently passed state law instead requires the council to adopt changes in the zoning code, which requires another public hearing.

Those zoning code changes would also impact future developments in the city, according to the mayor.

In a series of 6 to 1 votes, the commission asked the council to make the necessary code changes to allow the plans to be approved.

However, an amendment by Commissioner James Reiher to the adopted motion requires the commission to determine whether the architectural plans and designs of the buildings are compatible with the downtown business district after the council amends the code.

Reiher acknowledged to Conley Media that one of the purposes of the amendment is to give the commission more time to negotiate with the developers about the architectural features and design of the buildings.

City Administrator Tom Hafner told Conley Media he anticipated the Common Council at its July 15th meeting would establish an August 28th public hearing on proposed code changes to be conducted by the Plan Commission.

He said the earliest the council could vote on the code changes would be in September.

The council may also decide whether to give the commission more time to determine if the project is compatible with the downtown business district.

The project is supported by most of the downtown business community as well as the citizens’ group Delafield Citizens for Responsible Growth.

Approximately 20 citizens, many of them small business owners and tenants of Hendrick’s Commercial Properties, testified the two buildings will provide new economic opportunities and energy into a downtown business district that is lagging behind surrounding communities in Lake Country in economic growth and prosperity.

There was testimony from five citizens opposed to the project who argued Delafield and its downtown business community was prospering because of its unique and historic small community ambiance that has attracted businesses and residents to the city.

They argued the two buildings were not compatible with the downtown business district and would change the ambiance of the city and its business district.

Two citizens appeared to be neutral during the debate that repeated arguments heard in previous hearings on the project.

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