Village of Hartland — A Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County plan to build 13 affordable homes in a high-density neighborhood is officially dead after the village board voted it down Monday night, Nov. 28.
The plan has been controversial since July when the organization proposed the development on 3.2 acres at 1270 E. Capitol Drive. Nearby residents at the plan commission meeting in July worried that the homes — which would cost between $150,000 and $225,000 — would affect their property values, worsen traffic and possibly bring crime.
Village President David Lamerand often took to task those who opposed the development, saying the village lacks affordable housing. He told some residents that the only reason they were opposed to the project was because it was near their homes.
At the Nov. 28 village board meeting, Lamerand agreed that the project was too dense.
“I agreed that the density was too much for that parcel, and I don't think anyone in the room last Monday or tonight is opposed to Habitat for Humanity's concept to try to find affordable housing sites in the village,” Lamerand said.
Problems at the site
Several issues at the property made the development more difficult and costly for Habitat for Humanity.
The site is not hooked up to the village of Hartland's water and sewer system. The cost to connect the homes to those utilities would have cost the developer as much as $400,000.
The plan originally called for 15 homes, which caused outrage among nearby residents. Habitat eventually settled on 13 homes for the development.
In October, Diane McGeen, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County, said the costs associated with the sewer and water systems meant that it was not financially feasible to build any fewer than 13 homes.
“The fixed costs are the fixed costs, so we're going to ask for 13,” McGeen said in October. “We have to keep the affordability factor or else we go home.”
The land where the development was planned was part of an environmental corridor, meaning a certain percentage of land on the site had to be left undeveloped. That meant the homes would have to be packed tightly together in a small area, which was a concern for nearby residents.
Lamerand told the audience at the village board meeting on Monday that although this plan will not go through, the village still needs affordable housing.
“When the board takes this action, it is denying that development, so that plan is officially dead,” Lamerand said. “It does not remove the fact that the village of Hartland does need to have new affordable housing stock, which we do not have.”
The village will continue to work with Habitat for Humanity, Lamerand said. The organization can apply for state, county or federal grants to reduce the costs of hooking up the site to the village water and sewer system and eventually come back with a new plan that includes fewer homes.
“This does not prohibit them from coming back to us with a different plan,” he said.
McGeen said developing in Hartland is still up in the air. She has sent information to the Habitat board of directors, which will make future decisions about affordable housing developments.
"At this point, it’s kind of a big question mark," McGeen said. "We’d love to do something in Harltand. We don’t know if Hartland would like to do something with us.
"I think Hartland needs it, and I think there are many people in Hartlnad that recognize that they need it.”