The Plan Commission will review the largest development proposal it’s seen in years next week when it gets a first look at a plan for the North Neighborhood.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, a day later than usual because of the holiday.
Unlike the city’s 2-year-old North Neighborhood plan, which takes an overall, general look at how development might and should occur in a wide area – 648 acres – this plan, submitted by Forward Development Group, is actually a development proposal, and it’s full of specific ideas for hundreds of homes and apartments and thousands of square feet of retail space.
The 22-page FDG concept notably does not include a spot for a school, something that is a central feature of the city’s plan. That prompted a letter that is included in the packet from Verona Area School District superintendent Dean Gorrell complaining that the developer refused to work with the district.
Under the state’s Smart Growth law, all developments must be consistent with the city’s plans.
The FDG plan also does not address the need for regional stormwater management – as the entire area is in a low spot that collects stormwater from elsewhere and won’t be able to drain quickly.
It has a balance of about 60 percent single-family homes, which is close to the city’s current inventory, but one alder pointed out at this month’s Common Council meeting that the city’s policy aims for closer to 70-30.
Some roads in the development are smaller than the city’s standard 36 feet, and the overall development has a starkly different feel from the usual grid pattern, with a “coving” pattern of curved roads designed to make houses feel like spaces are wider than they are.
Overall, the proposal as presented shows 377 single-family home sites, up to 250 apartment units, 41 acres of parks and other open spaces and 13 acres of neighborhood retail and service business. Its main east-west road connects to a city-owned former quarry that is planned for a future regional park. Among the single-family homes are 110 “villa homes,” essentially townhomes with common yards.
The development likely would be built to coincide with the construction of County Hwys. M and PD, to its east and north, respectively. The entire M/PD project is planned for a November 2019 finish, and sewer connections will be available in about a year.
Local developer Dennis Midthunw presented a much more conceptual plan for the property more than a decade ago, and he remains part of the project, though FDG is presenting the main plan and is the applicant for the residential areas. Work crews have been slowly adding dirt to the area Midthun represents – the commercial land next to M – for years.
The school district has been looking to put a school in this area for at least four years, and Gorell’s letter explains that he met with Midthun at least four times between 2013 and 2015 and commissioned an appraisal of a 13.9-acre piece of the site in 2013, with initial terms rejected in 2014. Negotiations did not go well in meetings this year, Oct. 16 and Oct. 30.
“It was expressly stated by Mr. Midthun that a future school site anywhere in this development was no longer desired,” the letter reads.