OCONOMOWOC — After nearly two
hours of discussion by developers, the Oconomowoc Common Council and
citizens, aldermen approved amending the city’s comprehensive land
use plan to rezone 34 acres needed for the Mandel Group’s Pabst
Farms Apartments project.
The vote was 4-3 in favor to change the land use plan with Aldermen
Tom Strey, Matt Rosek and Karen Spiegelberg voting against.
The vote was 5-2 to rezone the area, with Rosek and Spiegelberg
Alderman Andy Rogers was excused from the meeting.
The 315-unit project would be located on Valley Road just west of
Summit Elementary in between the school and Old School House Road.
During Mandel Group’s proposal, Ian Martin, the vice president of
development for the Mandel Group, said although the project would
add 315 units, the traffic study Mandel Group provided said huge
changes wouldn’t need to be made to Valley Road.
“When you look at the traffic study, it’s clear, this project does
not create a traffic problem on Valley Road,” Martin said. “The
traffic study suggests we make certain improvements such as a left
turn lane into the site, which we are doing.”
One of the ways Mandel Group wanted to help alleviate traffic on
Valley Road was to add a secondary entrance that would connect to
either Old School House Road or Oconomowoc Parkway. Citizens and
Rosek, the District 3 alderman, said they didn’t buy the argument.
Rosek cited those who live in the projects — if they are the
commuters the developers say they are — aren’t going to go to Summit
Avenue and sit at stop lights when they can instead use Highway P,
which was one stop sign, to get on the interstate.
In addition, Rosek said the city’s land use plan is like a promise
to citizens that what is around the house they buy won’t change — a
promise he feels has not been kept to citizens in the Pabst Farms
“I don’t think this project is the best use of the land and when we
have the land use plan and the zoning, that is the city’s promise to
all the other residents that live there that is just isn’t in my
backyard, I wouldn’t want it your backyard either,” Rosek said.
Alderman Lou Kowieski said the aldermen had to evaluate what was
based on fact and could change the community for years to come.
“This past weekend was an extraordinary weekend … the fact of the
matter is I don’t think an event like that comes together 10 years
ago because our community was different 10 years ago,” Kowieski
said. “What we evaluate today will change what our community looks
like 10 years from now.”
Spiegelberg said she wasn’t ready to give up the piece of land yet
and believed single-family, workforce housing was still the best use
for the project.
“I’d like to see us pass on changing the land use plan, let’s see
how the Wangard development plays out, the impact it has, consider
other possibilities to develop the land on Valley Road,” Spiegelberg
Wangard’s project at the former Olympia Resort and Conference Center
is slated to be apartments in the old hotel. However there has also
been talk of putting single family homes on the property as well.
Stewart Wangard said he plans on bringing plans to the city around
the end of September.
His development could also include the mall to the the south as part
of the redevelopment of the Summit Avenue corridor.
Alderman Derek Zwart said when he first moved to his house on
Pleasant Street, he had houses across the street from him, but after
the city made improvements to the area to help the downtown, the
“Sometimes things have to change and the change is tough, but I
think this is the best thing for our community in general,” Zwart
said. “Maybe not for the people who live out there the perceived
benefit isn’t there, but I think once it’s in there, they will be
accustomed to it and won’t be a detriment to them.”
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