The town board of St. Germain denied a request to re-zone four multi-family residential parcels to downtown business status at a special meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 18.
The application was made by Randy Alsmo of DeForest as the agent of the property’s owner, Michelle Schroeder, also of DeForest.
The parcels are within the Barrington Pines subdivision on Kelsey Court, just off of Birchwood Drive.
Supervisor Ted Ritter — also chairman of the zoning committee — explained there is anomalous zoning in the subdivision. Schroeder owns nine parcels in Barrington Pines on opposite sides of Kelsey Court. Five are zoned for business and four are zoned residential.
“The parcels in that subdivision have an issue: on one side of the road, they’re zoned one way, and on the other side, they’re zoned another way,” Ritter said. “For reasons I can’t explain, when this subdivision was first created, it was zoned in two different zones. The land was in two different zones prior to the creation of the subdivision. When the subdivision was built right on the dividing line of the two zones, I would have thought the town would have said ‘OK, it’s got to be one or the other; we can’t leave it in two zones,’ but the town approved the subdivision without amending the zoning.”
Ritter said he spoke with Alsmo about the irregularity and understood why the agent requested the re-zone.
“If I were in his shoes, I would say it would be clearly to my advantage if all those parcels were zoned the same,” Ritter said.
Ritter said he advised Alsmo to consider a request to re-zone the commercial parcels to residential.
“I told him ‘I personally think this subdivision was created with the intention for it to be a residential development, and it would probably market better as residential parcels,’” he said.
Against Ritter’s advice, Alsmo applied to have the residential parcels changed to commercial.
“I asked the applicant specifically what his plans were, and why he wanted to zone it one way versus the other,” Ritter said. “He said ‘I don’t have any specific plans. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the property. I just want to try to sell the parcels and we believe they will be easier to sell if they’re all zoned downtown business versus residential.’”
Ritter also pointed out to the board the intentions of the property owner are technically none of the town’s business when considering the re-zoning request.
“He’s not required to divulge his motives,” Ritter said.
Ritter explained 22 letters were sent to owners of property within 300 feet of any part of the subdivision and they were encouraged to speak their views during a public hearing portion of Wednesday’s meeting.
Town clerk Tom Martens — speaking strictly as a citizen — said the subdivision was “originally meant to be residential.”
“I don’t see any reason to make that downtown business if there’s no business intended to go there at this point,” he said.
Three residents of Birchwood Drive each spoke against the proposed change.
“We appreciate that you sent letters,” Barb Sell said. “That was very considerate ... My comment is that I wouldn’t want to see low-income housing in there … I think you should just consider that it’s a quiet street and the people who live there would rather have just homeowners. Otherwise, you could bring in all kinds of stuff that we don’t want to have.”
Lillian Myers echoed Sell’s sentiment.
“My concern would be, if it were commercial, seeing a bar or — even worse than that — a gentlemen’s club or something like that going in like they did in Sugar Camp,” she said. “Because we have our daycare center right down on the corner there. And I’m concerned about that; about the traffic that would be coming in.”
“I have no objections to residential, but I, personally, would not like to see any businesses in there with people coming and going,” Chuck Miller said. “And I understand that whatever would go in there would have to pass through applications and processes, but I would not like to see a repair service or a dealership of some sort or a bar in there.”
After closing the public hearing portion of the meeting, town board chairman Tom Christensen asked Ritter for a synopsis of the zoning committee’s discussions on the matter and its recommendation.
“The zoning committee had largely the same discussion that we’ve had here tonight, and ultimately, we made a motion — which was unanimously supported — to deny this re-zone application,” Ritter said. “It is the recommendation of the committee that this be denied.”
The town board then voted unanimously to deny the application.