Council Narrowly Approves Rezoning for Twin Sunset Duplexes

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Cameron Bren
The Middleton Common Council approved rezoning for a duplex construction project on Twin Sunset Road. The project will now go back to the plan commission to work out details of the project.

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Common Council approved a rezoning ordinance to change an R1 single family lot at 7103 Twin Sunset Road to a planned development district (PDD) which creates zoning regulations specific to the development. The rezoning request came to the council for a proposal which would split the lot and create two duplex buildings. Despite ardent calls from neighboring residents in single family homes in the Town of Middleton and the Hidden Oaks subdivision to deny the rezoning, the council approved the request to support infill development and increase the variety of housing types.

The motion to approve the rezoning passed on a four to four split vote on the council triggering the mayor’s tie breaking vote, who voted in favor of the request. 

Ald. Luke Fuszard made a motion to deny the rezoning request. He said he did not think the neighbors were treated respectfully and that the builder Koteshwar Katukam did not do enough outreach to address their concerns.

“I do think that Koteshwar largely came at this from a good place of wanting to contribute but I also think that the neighbors, several of whom that you heard tonight, are approaching this from a place of genuine concern and definitely don't deserve to be called some of the names that I've seen be thrown around,” Fuszard said, of neighbors who have spoken in opposition of the project. “If we're going to live together, if we're going to cooperate together, we have to learn how to disagree with each other without name-calling and demonizing those whose opinions diverge from our own.”

Fuszard said approving the rezoning would erode the trust of constituents which would be far more detrimental than what benefits could be gained by the project. 

Ald. Susan West said PDD zoning seems to resolve the water runoff issues neighbors are concerned about. She said under PDD zoning the city could have more stringent water runoff restrictions on the site. 

West said the proposal would also reduce groundwater concerns compared to a single family home because it would be connected to city water and sewer utilities.

West asked how much of the site would be impervious surface compared to an R1 single family home. Planning and Zoning Administrator Mark Opitz said user R1 zoning the city requires a building to have no more than 35 percent lot coverage but that does not include a driveway which could out the total impervious surface area to 45 percent.

Optiz said the proposed duplexes would cover about 40 percent of the lot surface. He noted the building could be up to 35 feet in height under R1 zoning.

West made a motion to approve the rezoning request. 

Ald. Mark Sullivan said it is not worth the risk to develop on a site that is at the headwaters of the city’s water supply.

Fuszard implored the council members to consider the neighbors' opposition to the project before voting on West’s motion.

Ald. Robert Burke said he is looking for solutions to create more home ownership in Middleton and the proposed duplexes seem like a way to do that.

“I am looking for solutions in the City of Middleton that will give us more chances for home ownership and not always be funneling people into apartment buildings as the lowest cost option,” Burke said. “I'd like to have relatively low cost options that allow for wealth generation by the people who live there. It seems to me like this one could fit that mold.”

Council president Dan Ramsey said he believes duplexes are a great option at this site and he has personally had great experience with renters in the duplexes he owns.

Ald. Emily Kuhn asked Planning and Community Development Director Abby Attoun if the proposed duplexes fall under affordable housing.

Attoun said the city considers housing cost at or below 80 percent of the area median income to be affordable housing. She said she could not be sure whether the cost would be considered affordable because that could depend on several factors such as down payment and family size. She noted the average cost of a house in Middleton is about $400,000 while the estimated cost of the duplexes is $300,000 to $350,000.

During the public comment several residents voiced opposition as well as support for the rezoning.

Neighboring resident Candelle Phillips said she is worried about the water issues and she disagrees the cost would be affordable.

Neighbor Gary Hoffman said he was concerned about water runoff, possible well contamination and increased traffic. He said he is also worried about his view from his home.

Neighbor Kyla Schoenwetter said the lot has been R1 so it should stay R1. She said she is also worried about the safety of her children because of increased traffic and decreased visibility.

Hidden Oaks resident Deb Muresan said she also believes the lot should remain R1 as it has been.

Resident Rose Sime spoke in favor of the project because it would create a different type of housing to fit the needs of various families.

Resident Betsey Day spoke in favor of the rezoning because it fits the city’s goals of the city's comprehensive plan and addresses the concerns raised by neighboring residents and the Town of Middleton’s consultant. She said she was disappointed when proposed duplexes near her home were scrapped for single family homes.

Neighboring resident Cody Phillips said in a letter to the editor written by Day and published in the Times-Tribune, Day accuses the neighbors of opposing the project based on classism and racism. Phillips said he is insulted by the sentiment noting he has a Black Lives Matter sign in his yard. Phillips said the property owners are concerned about several issues related to the building and not who would live there.

Neighboring resident Adam Schoenwetter said he was confused about the platitudes being expressed when in this case the neighboring residents were not being listened to.

Mark Phillips said based on his experience with the proposed duplexes he could no longer encourage anyone to live in Middleton. He said the council’s decision will adversely affect many homeowners for the long term. He added that no neighbor should have to pay for any additional costs related to the project.

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