Pabst Farms Apartments proposal advances
But concerns raised about potential for increasing traffic

By Brandon Anderegg

Aug. 15, 2019

 A rendering of what one of the stacked flats buildings will potentially look like at the
Pabst Farms apartments.

Rendering from Mandel Group application

OCONOMOWOC – The proposed Pabst Farms Apartments received a positive recommendation from the Plan Commission Wednesday night and will move on to the Common Council for review.

The 315-unit, near 35-acre apartment complex has been proposed by Milwaukee multi-family development firm Mandel Group for the lot between Valley Road and Oconomowoc Parkway, just west of Summit Elementary School.

Commissioners voted to amend the comprehensive land use plan to allow for high density residential and to rezone the property for multi-family residential units.

Although the purpose of the meeting was intended to discuss land use and zoning, many residents of Eastlake Village and Kings Way condominiums took the opportunity to discuss concerns such as traffic, safety and Oconomowoc’s future.

For residents, one of the greatest concerns was how Oconomowoc is seeing an abundance of multi-family developments and not enough single-family. Resident Linda Coleman said often the media portrays how there is a “housing crisis,” but this is not the case in Oconomowoc, she added.

“I don’t think we have a crisis in this town,” Coleman said. “We just want a small-town feel.”

Equally important for residents is the amount of traffic the development could generate on Valley Road, which is the main thoroughfare used by parents and children coming to and from Summit Elementary School — a sentiment also shared by some commissioners.

“I have concerns with traffic and if there’s any way to get traffic onto Oconomowoc Parkway and into Highway 67,” said Derek Zwart, alderman and plan commissioner.

A northwesterly exit from the development to Oconomowoc Parkway has been considered, but some challenges exist, said Mark Frye, director of public works.

“The big thing is the topography and that would have to be looked at,” Frye said. “There’s a 10- to 15foot drop in that area that you would have to look at.”

Mandel Group Vice President Ian Martin said a third-party traffic study that was conducted indicated “no technical failure” at any intersection, but a left turn lane from Valley Road into the development was suggested.

Martin also said he would look at alternative ways to slow down traffic on the road, including speed readers, landscape medians and raised pedestrian crossings. But Martin admitted such safety features would require additional approvals from the county since Valley Road is owned by the county.

“All of those options we’re going to explore,” Martin said. “Since it is owned by the county, any pressure the city can bring to bear to get them to consider these options would help.”

Despite possible traffic remedies, Commissioner John Gross voted against the project for more reasons than traffic.

“I’m not a fan of the high density, especially on such a large parcel,” Gross said. “We have to be careful where we allow something like this and at what size.”

Commissioner Steven Ritt disagreed with Gross and instead, viewed the project as a potential catalyst with the ability to carry on the momentum from recent development in the Pabst Farms area.

“We’re lucky to have someone like Mandel and Wangard coming here to Oconomowoc,” said Ritt. “These folks are topnotch developers and we should give them a chance.”

The Common Council is slated to review the project at a public hearing on Tuesday.

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