Menomonee Falls — A dispute over density in a condominium development that has spanned the course of the recession has drawn to a close as the result of a split vote by the Menomonee Falls Village Board.
The board on May 19 voted 4-3 to approve a request by Tall Pines Condominium Development to modify its plans to allow for development of eight additional units.
In 2008, the project's plans were approved allowing 15 two-unit buildings to be constructed at the northeast corner of Marcy Road and Silver Spring Drive. The Plan Commission in 2012 adhered to the pleas of the neighborhood residents when it unanimously denied a proposal to develop a total of 88 apartment units, prompting petitioner Tom Richter to return with the current revised plan, including a total of 38 condominium units instead of the 30 units originally approved.
Since the plan was originally approved, only one unit was built and subsequently owned and occupied by Greg and Pam Grambow, who are strongly opposed to the change.
"We are absolutely opposed to the addition of four-unit buildings, increasing the number of units by 26%, building 125 feet closer to Marcy Road, increasing density in the area closest to Marcy Road by 44% and putting up low end units that, we believe, have pricing that is out of touch with today's market," said Greg Grambow in a letter village officials. "This plan will clearly cause a drop in neighborhood property values. And, in our case, it will drop the value of our home to the point that we will likely lose it."
In his letter, Greg referenced support from more than 60 neighbors who also are opposed to the change.
A divided board
"While I know it's an adjustment to the number of units, I don't think it's a substantial change," said Village Board President Randy Newman, who also chairs the Plan Commission. "I would like to see this development go forward."
Go forward it did, despite opposition by trustees Chris Smolik, Katie Kress and Jeremy Walz, who said they wish there could be a meeting of the minds between the Grambows and Richter before the project moves forward.
"I'm grateful that the developer is anxious to develop the land," said Smolik. "But this being a high risk business in the industry. Increasing (the number of units) is actually pushing the loss of the recession onto the people in the neighborhood."
Backing the ordinance
Smolik challenged the board to table the item to allow Grambow and Richter to resolve their differences, but Newman said that is not good practice for the village.
"We have to go by an ordinance," said Newman. "If you gotta wait until you please everybody then you'll never please anybody."
While Richter said increasing the number of units to 38 would not recoup the losses he has incurred, he argued it is necessary in order for this to remain a viable project.
"We looked at the original plan and I just can't build the type of building I was planning on building," said Richter. "There is a lot of expense associated with (this project). … I was planning on units between $450,000 and $525,000. That market has disappeared."
Instead, Richter said he plans to price the new units between $250,000 and $480,000 depending on the finishes the owners select.
"Mr. Richter's proposal is based on a desire to have everyone forget, or disregard, his past commitments and actions to solely maximize his position," Greg Grambow said in his letter to village officials. "We do not want to stop Tall Pines from being developed and would be agreeable to the current approved plan being modified in a way that works for both Mr. Richter, the neighborhood and us."
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