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Zoning change opposed for St. Augustine project
Common Council will make ultimate decision
student center 2
The proposal for the block bounded by Pine Street, Bradford Street, Greenwood Avenue and Hickory Street would replace the current St. Augustines building and four houses on the block with three-story student housing to the south and east, and a new chapel and student center building on the northwest corner of the lot. The proposal includes beds for 144 students. - photo by Tri-North Builders

The Platteville Plan Commission voted Monday 5–2 against recommending a Planned Unit Development designation for the proposed St. Augustine University Parish redevelopment project.

The vote means the majority of the commission favors the developers being required to adhere to requirements of the block’s current R-3 Residential zoning, instead of getting waivers of such zoning regulations as building density, parking and building setback requirements through the PUD designation.

Commission members Robin Cline and Gary Munson voted against, and commission member Wendy Brooke was absent.

The Common Council, which is scheduled to consider the project at its March 22 meeting and hold a public hearing April 12, is not bound by the commission’s vote.

Developers MDC, LLC and Tri-North Builders are proposing a three-story development with 144 beds in 40 housing units, a student center and chapel to replace the current Newman Center and four houses on the block bounded by South Hickory Street, West Pine Street, Bradford Street and Greenwood Avenue east of the UW–Platteville campus.

“We really couldn’t meet every portion of R-3 except for density,” said Tri-North’s Steve Harms.

Ald. Mike Denn proposed the denial of the PUD request. “You’d have a lot less issues instead of going with a PUD” by sticking to R-3 requirements, he said.

“I really think parking is the key issue,” said commission member Tom Nelson.

The proposed development would have eight two-bedroom units and 32 four-bedroom units, targeting UW–Platteville juniors, seniors and graduate students, and possibly faculty. The student center would total about 20,000 square feet.

“We look at this not only for the benefit of the Newman Center, but also for the benefit of the community,” said Harms, who said attendance at and activities in the building have increased the past five years. He called the student housing a “virtues-based environment” that would be open to Catholic and non-Catholic students, with activities open “to all people affiliated with the university.”

The project differs from R-3 zoning regulations in several areas. R-3 zoning requires 25-foot setbacks from lot lines. The proposed project is as close as 5 feet from lot lines in some areas, and the chapel building “will be up to the lot line as proposed,” said Carroll.

Under R-3 zoning regulations, the project would be required to provide 112 parking spaces for tenants on site, based on a formula of 0.75 spaces per bedroom per unit. The proposed development now has 108 spaces, including 36 in the St. Mary Catholic Church parking lot on Bonson Street, seven blocks northeast of the project.

Harms said putting all required parking underground was “not financially feasible.”

Carroll also said the project has no provision for parking for services at the new chapel. St. Augustine parishioners now park in UW–Platteville lots. Carroll said the Common Council was “theoretically OK” with remote parking when discussed at a council work session with St. Augustine developers in January.

While Harms admitted the project doesn’t meet R-3 zoning requirements, he said the project meets city comprehensive plan goals, including reducing the conversion of single-family houses to rentals, increasing multi-family housing and privately developed “quality rental units,” infill development and off-street parking.

Parking was prominent, but not the only reason in comments of several speakers against the project. No one other than Harms spoke in favor of the project.

Barbara Parsons, who said she lives “right down the street,” said the proposal for parking at St. Mary’s “is still trying to get past something that is still going to make it supercongested, it seems to me, in an area of the city that … is already a nightmare in parking and traffic when the university is in session, and I say that from experience.”

Lonnie Holze, who owns property at 440 W. Pine St., said he was required to meet the full city parking requirements for his project.

“Other apartment complexes in the area … had to make parking requirements on site,” he said, adding it is “very important that that parking be there. … I don’t see people walking all the way over to St. Mary’s, especially in the winter.”

Garry Prohaska, who lives south of the east campus area, said a Planned Unit Development “negates a lot of zoning requirements of the city. … The misuse of PUDing and using it extensively causes a lot of problems.”

Prohaska said UW–Platteville’s Ullsvik Hall, first proposed for three stories, was reduced to two, including one underground floor. “All of the buildings in that area would be considerably dwarfed by that building,” he said.

Prohaska also said a PUD was created for Rountree Commons, on South Chestnut Street, “and the whole community suffered because of that.”

Parsons said the project should be reduced to two stories, which “would alleviate at least part of the parking problem because they wouldn’t be able to accommodate as many people” and be “aesthetically better looking” compared with a three-story building that would be “monstrous-looking in that small area.” She said the project includes “a chapel that blocks out the sun, and ‘sun,’ I think, can be spelled in at least two different ways.”

Nick Johansen, who said he was part of the group that built St. Augustine’s, said traffic in the area would be “awful.”

“I have a daughter that got married in that church,” he said. “I don’t want to see it torn down.”

Johansen also said the project would be “off property taxes; we’ve been doing too much of that lately.”

Harms said developers are negotiating a Payment In Lieu of Taxes with the city.

Commission members were concerned about the location of the parking lot entrance on the northeast corner of the project, on Bradford Street just south of Pine Street. Common Council president Eileen Nickels called it a “busy kind of corner.”

“It’s not ideal, but it can work,” said Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot.


Commission member Julie Loeffelholz said that entrance will “restrict the view of Pine Street and Hickory [Street], and this busy intersection anyway.”