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Mequon council requires smaller density in housing project

Aldermen vote to remove one building from proposed plan

Sept. 11, 2012

Mequon - A condominium development on Mequon and Wauwatosa roads could progress provided the developer can adjust to significant changes made by the Common Council on Tuesday.

Following a public hearing, the council approved an amendment to the Land Use Plan Map from residential to residential plex with planned urban development zoning for the development of an eight-unit, four building complex on 2.8 acres of land located at 7645 W. Mequon Road and 11129-11137 N. Wauwatosa Road.

The catch: The developer, Michael Mehta, planned a 10-unit, five-building project that was approved by the Planning Commission in August.

In a 5-2 vote, with Aldermen John Hawkins and Andrew Nurbin opposed, the council approved the development with the removal of the fifth building that was to be located in the southeast corner of the lot. Alderman John Wirth made the motion to amend the original plan because he said the density of the development is not compatible with the surrounding area. Concerns were also cited that the building's proximity to residents of King's Crossing was too close. The southern portion of the development abuts King's Crossing.

"My concern is this is twice as dense as King's Crossing, which spanned a couple of meetings 11 years ago. I'm not suggesting it ties the council's hands now, but I'm also concerned when you're talking about such a small development, it ought to be compatible with what's around it," Wirth said. "I don't mind the density, I mind the density where it's a small parcel next to a small single family subdivision and one that has half the density as this."

Although no residents spoke in opposition to the development Tuesday, Wirth said there has been some concern from neighbors.

Doug Gallus of Gallus Architects, who designed the project, said reducing the number of units will have a definitive economic impact on the developer. It is the developer's responsibility to bear infrastructure costs and sell the units. By reducing the number of units, Gallus said the price of each unit would have to increase by $20,000 to $25,000 to make the development profitable in the current economy.

"The infrastructure of this project - the streets, the roadways, sewer, water connections, landscaping, detention plan - is a fixed cost be it four units or five units, and we want to maintain a high level there so if we take away two dwelling units and reduce any profitability or sales of those units, we increase the cost of the other units," Gallus said. "The fixed costs have to go some place and they will fall on potential buyers."

The units were originally estimated to sell between $225,000 and $275,000. Each unit is designed to be approximately 1,730 square feet. The units are two-bedroom with a loft option on the upper level and garages located in the middle of each building connecting the two units.

"Right now, down payments on properties are pretty scarce and as you know all across our counties we are experiencing foreclosure and empty homes, and we hate to see a development like this that might be a high asset to the community go vacant just because the developer cannot afford this," Gallus said.

Reducing the units from 10 to eight changes the density from 3.5 units per acre to 2.8 units per acre, which Mirth said is a better fit for that area of the city. The city ordinance has a maximum of 4-units per acre.

Alderwoman Pamela Fuhry Adams said the council cannot make a decision based on an ever-changing economy and housing prices.

"Compatibility is a concern and this protects the houses around there," she said.

Should the developer revise the plans to fit the approved four buildings with eight units, the development will be brought back to the Planning Commission.

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