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New Berlin planning officials resist new MSP apartment plan

Jan. 14, 2013

New Berlin - Developer MSP Real Estate has inquired about what it has to do to make its newly proposed 75-unit apartment in the New Berlin City Center acceptable to the Plan Commission, which last week turned down the plan on a split vote.

MSP has contacted city staff, but whether the firm is willing to alter its proposal isn't certain.

"Will they tweak it? I don't know," Mayor Jack Chiovatero said Monday.

The city's concerns were more definitive, though not unanimous.

The MSP proposal was denied on a 4-2 vote, with Chiovatero and commissioners Marta Broge, Jenalyn Groeschel and Mark Mattes voting to deny and Brian Felda and Robert Rafel voting for the plan.

Trafficking concerns

Commissioners expressed concerns about several aspects of the plan for 14900 W. Library Lane, in the City Center neighborhood off National Avenue. Traffic was one key concern.

Some officials expressed their disappointment that all the traffic from the proposed apartments would be funneled to Michelle Witmer Way, adding to a concern that the apartments in general would generate a lot of traffic.

Chiovatero said after the meeting that he voted to deny because he wanted the building's two parking lots connected so that cars could get directly onto National Avenue from the driveway at the more easterly lot behind the building. Under the current building plan, all cars would have to take Library Lane to Michelle Witmer and then out to National Avenue.

But the mayor said he didn't agree with others who were shocked at all the traffic the 75 apartments would add.

Broge was one of those who is concerned.

"It's a nightmare now on National Avenue and we're going to add 1,300 trips a day," Broge said, noting it's hard to get out of neighboring Culver's restaurant now.

Another commissioner concurred, stating he doesn't even go to that Culver's because of the traffic.

But a traffic study shows the intersection of National and Witmer can handle the additional traffic from all five buildings, said planner Jessica Titel.

"One commissioner also noted that Deer Creek Parkway ends at what would be the east parking lot of the proposed building, meaning the street would never go through to National Avenue to bring better access to the City Center.

Currently, there are three entrances and a fourth circuitous one on Wilbur Drive. Groeschel pointed out that two more roads had been planned to go through to National - Deer Creek Parkway and Howard Avenue. But it's doubtful that either will go through, Chiovatero said.

Squeezed space?

Some also were unhappy that the proposed apartments would be so close to the National Avenue edge of the City Center in an area where city officials hoped stores could be built to promote interest in the entire center. One commissioner even wondered if the lots that would be left on National Avenue would be large enough for stores.

Groeschel also noted that it's too bad the apartments are planned so close to National Avenue.

But that cannot be part of the Plan Commission considerations because zoning allows multi-family housing, advised city attorney Mark Blum.

The 75-unit apartment building is the second phase of MSP's Deer Creek development. The first phase was the controversial project consisting of three 34-unit buildings of workforce development apartments for lower-income residents and one 34-unit senior citizen building. Controversy over workforce housing landed the city and developer in court.

The proposed 75-unit building would have 15 workforce apartments. The rest would have rents at the market value.

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