Despite a reduced density from previous proposals, a plan for developing the corner of Lacy Road and Seminole Highway is getting skepticism from city leaders.
The Common Council postponed action Tuesday, Aug. 27, on Veridian Homes’ Crescent Crossing development, with some alders citing traffic among other concerns. City staff were instructed to bring back more information about additional access roads that could alleviate potential traffic backups.
The council and Plan Commission agreed earlier this year to reduce the maximum housing density at that corner to medium – five to nine units per acre – after months of disagreement on the issue. But Tuesday, some residents and alders still had concerns about the number of units proposed.
Alders approved a preliminary plat on the condition there is a second entry point for first responders into the 121-unit development. They decided not to vote on rezoning the land, however, until they could determine how soon such an access point was likely to happen.
The land to the east of the proposed Crescent Crossing might provide that access point along Lacy Road, but its proposed timeline was unknown.
Crescent Crossing would have 65 single family and 56 twin homes on 20.9 acres, in the same North Stoner Prairie Neighborhood location where a mix of single family and high density development drew neighbors to dozens of meetings over the past two years to oppose high density housing there.
Tuesday, Ald. Tom Clauder (Dist. 4) proposed to limit the development’s growth to no more than 60 homes until the city or developer finds a way to add a second access point.
While the amendment failed by a vote of 3-3, with Mayor Aaron Richardson breaking the tie against, Clauder passionately told alders that the intersection, which is in his district, is gridlocked and additional homes in the area will exacerbate the problem.
Dan Day, a principal engineer with D'onofrio Kottke and Associates, Inc., told alders that regardless of whether a second access point to the development would be constructed by the time the project started, Crescent Crossing is a multi-phase development that could take four to six years to complete.
“This is the first step of a plat, we have multiple steps that are going to happen between now and when we break ground in 2020,” he said. “I would think that the delay now doesn’t necessarily give us any more information.”
More than two dozen residents registered in opposition to the plan, with almost identical verbiage justifying their reasoning to be against the project: “Please vote against these two items unless the number of units is reduced and conditions dealing with stormwater and traffic are addressed.”
As planned, the development would target entry-level homeowners on compact lots, Day said, with a range of 2 to 4 bedroom houses in a price range meant to encourage apartment renters toward the housing market.
The development, with its mixed housing style, would qualify as medium-density housing.
The Crescent Crossing development would create lots that held between five and nine units per acre.
Ald. Dan Bahr (D-2) said the council is at a point where a developer is bringing them a project they’d be happy with, and he encouraged fellow alders to move forward, despite flaws.
“We’re sort of at a point where this has gone on … for a year and three months,” he said. “I’m kind of thinking we’re getting to the time where we need to be fair, and move on.”
Ald. Tom Clauder (D-4) brought up additional concerns with the project, saying there wasn’t enough park space and he was unconvinced that stormwater was sufficiently addressed.
Day said keeping homes affordable with the compact design of the development makes it “unrealistic” that every development comes with a park. He also noted the development is a few hundred feet away from Stoner Prairie Park just north of Savanna Oaks Middle School.
One access point
One of the biggest traffic concerns was what might happen if there’s a blockage at the sole access point to the development, leaving people there unable to leave.
“I’m real concerned about putting all these houses in with only one way out,” he said. “I’m not trying to stall it, I’m trying to have it safe.”
Clauder noted that alders voted down another development proposal on Fish Hatchery Road that only had a single access point.
Ald. Dorothy Krause (D-1) pointed out that there’s additional access points planned along Seminole Highway to the north, by Blackhawk Church, which is currently under construction, and at Lacy Road once additional developments result in roads being constructed.
There are areas in the city that have seen heavier volumes of traffic as a result of construction, Krause added.
“Traffic down here isn’t comparable, it just isn’t,” she said. “Yeah, there’s a lot, but it doesn’t have the tight neighborhoods … it’s not as if it’s the worst place in the city to be able to drive.”
‘It’s not getting better’
Fitchburg resident Rita Hendricks told alders she worried the development would hurt the nearby intersection.
“Crescent Crossing looks like a good project, but there are major concerns,” she told alders during public comment. “Traffic is a major issue there, and have noted it more than once, and have heard others talk about how terrible the intersection is, and how much traffic is on Seminole that people can’t even get out onto there from the neighborhoods that are already in existence.”
Travelers have started taking those streets more as the Verona Road construction because of the closures of the Fitchrona and Nesbitt roads intersection and Whalen Road. City administrator Patrick Marsh said he anticipates seeing some of the traffic in the Lacy Road and Seminole Highway area lessen as construction ends.
But Clauder said even when construction in the area subsides, he doesn’t expect travel patterns to change enough to lessen the burden on the Lacy Road and Seminole Highway intersection.
Last month, Clauder proposed an amendment to the Capital Improvement Plan that would move the reconstruction of the intersection up to 2021-22 from its original planned time frame of 2023-24 because of the increased traffic.
“I’m going to say it for the residents in my district, we’re getting pounded, darn it,” he said. “Seminole Highway’s getting pounded, Lacy Road’s getting pounded … if you all think that everybody’s going to shift after Verona Road gets opened, think again.”