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Proposed student complex halted in Whitewater

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Kevin Hoffman
December 22, 2010
— Planners for a proposed four-story student complex near UW-Whitewater's campus would have to downsize the project to move forward after the plan commission rejected a zoning change.

Project leaders needed to rezone property at West Florence and North Prince streets to build The Element, a 108-student housing center. The unit was called transitional living space between dorms and private housing, complete with furnished four-bedroom apartments, common areas and resident managers similar to on-campus living.


The city council gave preliminary approval to a comprehensive plan amendment in September. The planning commission last week voted to recommend denial of a zoning change after several landlords raised questions about fairness.


Project leaders have since withdrawn the zoning petition, but The Element could move forward if the plan is modified under current zoning regulations.


The proposal included higher density and fewer parking stalls than permitted. Planning commission and city council approval was needed to reclassify the property.


Matthew Burow, president and owner of Catalyst Construction in Milwaukee, presented the plan on behalf of CatCon Whitewater. He said the project went through several changes since it was introduced six months ago.


Burow said there would be 81 parking stalls for the 108 students. Whitewater landlords at the public hearing argued that wouldn't be enough.


They also said it would be unfair of the commission to grant an amendment when other property managers are required to comply with different standards.


"I just want to ask the question why do you need to relax the standards now," said Mike Grubb, a Janesville attorney representing Whitewater Rental Association. "I don't think you can come up with a legitimate reason for doing that."


John Olson, a Lake Geneva attorney speaking on behalf of DLK Enterprises in Whitewater, presented several code violations by the Madison-based group that would have managed The Element.


Olson said keeping the zoning standards as they are gives the city more enforcement ability if problems occurred.


"You're out there on a limb," he said, "and history says they will saw it off."


One UW-Whitewater student and another resident spoke in support of the project, saying it would provide another option to students who can't find housing.


Burow said rent at The Element likely would be the highest in the city.



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