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Mequon allows smaller lots

June 11, 2014

Mequon — After months of discussion, the Mequon Common Council has decided to re-zone 360 acres in the center of the city to allow for smaller residential lots.

The council voted to establish a central growth zoning district, which would reduce the 5-acre lot zoning to allow for 1-acre residential lots between Wauwatosa and Swan roads north of Donges Bay Road. The area, located just south of the Knightsbridge and Brighton Ridge subdivisions, is also expected to be connected to public sewer and public water service, pending approval by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District commission on June 23.

The zoning change does allow some lots as small as one-third of an acre in certain "cluster" developments containing at least five houses. The smaller lot sizes are designed to allow developers more flexibility in providing open common areas. In these cluster developments, at least 30 percent of the total site area must be designated as open space.

The council did make some last-minute changes to the zoning proposal, requiring that no more than 50 percent of total lots will be less than a half-acre, and that any lots smaller than a half-acre must border open space on one side.

No guarantee

The new zoning designation does not guarantee that any residential plan will be approved by the plan commission or common council in the future. As developers approach the city for permission to build higher density neighborhoods, Alderwoman Pam Adams said the city should have requirements in place to make sure developers are building quality open spaces.

"I want to make sure we have a hammer for how we use this public area," she said.

The creation of the central growth zoning was approved unanimously by the committee of the whole Tuesday night, but when it came to a council vote minutes later, Alderman Dale Mayr reversed his vote.

"I can't do one-third acre lots," Mayr said. "I just can't."

The zoning change still moved forward, with Mayr representing the only opposition in a 7-1 vote.

Against connectivity

The council, as well as some residents in the Brighton Ridge subdivision, took issue with plans for roadways connecting the future development area to Knightsbridge and Brighton Ridge subdivisions. Community Development Director Kim Tollefson said the city would not be able to mandate interconnectivity between the subdivisions. The council, as well as neighboring residents, were more favorable to trails for pedestrians and bicyclists.

City and school officials hope the higher-density zoning will bring more young families to the Mequon-Thiensville School District, which has seen a 10.6 percent decline in enrollment over the last nine years. The zoning change also will enable the school district to sell a 111-acre lot to a residential real estate developer. When the district bought that land in the 1960s, it seemed the district's enrollment might justify the construction of a new school. Now, the land is an unneeded asset that has the potential to bring $1.9 million in revenue to the district.

The school district's land sale proposition will be put to a public vote on the July 21 annual meeting agenda. At that meeting, all city residents will have an opportunity to vote on whether the school district should pursue the sale of the land. If voters reject the measure, the land cannot be sold. If voters authorize the school board to sell the land, and if a developer makes an offer the school board deems acceptable, then the board has decided to use the revenue from the land sale to pay off the district's non-referendum debt, which is about $1.6 million.

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