Two of the biggest proposed projects in the City of Verona are back in front of the Plan Commission next week, with significant changes.
Sugar Creek Commons – a massive undertaking that would combine 10 separate parcels and use several million dollars in taxpayer financing to rebuild a 7-acre area of West Verona Avenue with apartments, retail shops and a hotel – would add a fourth floor to its apartments and 29 units for “financial viability.”
And Whispering Coves – a 200-acre mostly residential subdivision on the city’s north side – is back with a response to concerns about its unusual configuration, filled with winding roads, small-lot “villas” and a long, thin strip of parkland instead of traditional neighborhood parks.
Both of the projects are primarily driven by Verona-based Forward Development Group, which is responsible for the senior facility on Main Street that has been approved but not started.
The commission will review the projects at its Tuesday, Sept. 4, meeting – a day later than usual because of Labor Day.
The Sugar Creek project is an amendment to its existing general development plan and would need approval by the Common Council.
The Whispering Coves project is up for review and discussion, with no action planned or allowed at this stage. The next step would be a GDP, the most legally important step in the three-stage planned-unit development process.
Sugar Creek Commons
The Sugar Creek Commons concept has been the subject of several discussions by the commission and the Common Council since its February 2017 introduction, including some closed-session conversation about its tax-increment financing requirements.
Some of the justification for TIF is obvious – it’s a brownfield site, partly over a former truckstop and an auto repair shop, and it’s a redevelopment with significant teardown required. But some alders have objected to the amount of TIF, which is authorized for up to $5.4 million in the project plan that was created for the development, and for the idea of using TIF to evict existing renters.
The development also was criticized for the amount of apartments. The original configuration planned 284 apartment units and 60,000 square feet of office space, though the intended office user later backed out and it was reconfigured (and approved) for 255 units and 23,000 square feet of retail.
The new plan would return to 284 units by tacking a fourth story onto two buildings for a total of 150 apartments atop retail stores. Few buildings in Verona are more than three stories – the Hyatt Place is one example – and that request could require waiving the city’s 45-foot maximum height.
Each of the three apartment buildings would have underground parking for tenants, as would the hotel.
The plan amendment proposal states the development will “improve the functionality of the site as a whole and provide opportunities to remediate on-site soil contamination and revitalize the site to create a gateway into downtown.”
The Whispering Coves plan has been expected in some form for many years. It is at least the fifth version submitted to the city and will be the third developer’s concept discussed by the Plan Commission.
Dennis Midthun, who owns part of the land, presented a rough sketch for it more than a decade ago, and it was included in the city and town’s joint land planning before the failed 2008 consolidation referendum.
More recently, the city’s North Neighborhood plan, which got state approval in February 2016, detailed expectations for the area, with a school, commercial and high-density housing off County Hwys. PD and M and single-family homes of various sizes south and west of those roads.
The concept being proposed is the third submission in the past month, with FDG having proposed two earlier that it scrapped and another earlier this year that drew scorn for not including a school site.
“Before we come back, we will have a resolution to that issue,” FDG representative Ron Henshue told the council in February.
One of the options it submitted this month, however, still did not include a school, but rather suggested it could be built on a neighboring piece of land, with future development expected on around 80 acres closer to the PB/M corner. A second plan trimmed off a 6-acre piece next to that land for the school, stating it would require sacrificing 19 home lots, and indicating the other six acres needed for the school land would go on the other property.
The third version of that plan, submitted Aug. 22, moves the school further in to take the entire site but actually increases the number of housing units in the development, to 909.
Most of that change would be from its senior housing facilities, which would contain 450 units just off M, more than double the previous plan. It would drop the amount of other apartments almost in half, to 130, while dropping the single-family home count by about 50, to 286. It also reduces the parkland dedication amount from 27 acres to 19.
The curvy concept puts trails and curved roads throughout the subdivision, with stormwater ponds apparently used as water features.