City of Oconomowoc — The common council on Tuesday night voted to send a resolution that changes height and building restrictions in Oconomowoc's downtown back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.
After hearing from concerned residents and expressing their own uncertainty about some of the regulations, aldermen voted to talk about and revise the plan that calls for stricter height restrictions than currently exist downtown.
The plan, which was recommended by city staff and some elected officials, would allow new development to be built up to 70-feet high between Main and Worthington Streets from Lac La Belle south to South Street. Buildings up to 70 feet would also be allowed on the east side of downtown, near the Gateway Apartments.
As the law currently stands, new buildings up to 70-feet tall could be built from Lac La Belle and Fowler Lake south to the railroad tracks in downtown and from Concord Road east to Silver Lake Street.
If the resolution were approved, new development outside of the center of downtown would be held to stricter height restrictions, such as 40 feet on the west side of downtown and 50 feet on the northwest side of downtown.
“The general populace … does not want the 70 feet, does not want the 50 feet next to a one- or two-story residential building,” Said Deana Binkelman, who lives downtown in an area that under the resolution would limit development at 40 feet.
Alderman Derek Zwart said it is a slippery slope when allowing developers to build so high compared with existing buildings downtown. He said there are some buildings downtown that are about 20-feet tall and a 70-foot building next to those would not fit in.
“We should err on the side of being lower. We can always go up, but it's hard to go down,” he said. “We're going to lose our historic downtown if somebody puts a 60-foot building on Wisconsin Avenue in that section.”
Aldermen agreed that something needs to be done to limit the 70-foot rule throughout downtown, but they want to meet again as the committee of the whole to develop a plan they feel is more finely tuned to different parts of downtown.
Alderman Ken Herro, whose district encompasses the western section of downtown, said his constituents do not want tall buildings near their single-family homes.
“Nobody in the second district wants to see tall buildings west of Worthington (Street),” Herro said. If the new resolution were adopted, 50-foot buildings could be built about half a block west of Worthington Street. Herro said he may be able to accept 45-foot developments.
After a lengthy discussion about window requirements and some confusion about how far new buildings would be required to sit back from the curb, Mayor David Nold said it would be a good idea to discuss the resolution at another time after everyone was familiar with the material.
“Right now we're questioning setbacks, heights, stepbacks,” Nold said. “When we bring it back next time, it should be pretty well worked out.”
Nold invited the public to the next committee of the whole meeting, reminding the audience that it's a public meeting. That meeting will be scheduled at another time. To find the agenda for upcoming meetings, including the committee of the whole, visit oconomowoc-wi.gov/agendacenter.