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City hears concerns over zoning changes
Monroe City Hall
File photo

MONROE — A push to notify more than 400 landowners of the impact of zoning code changes on their property garnered a handful of responses Monday at the second public hearing held on the subject by Monroe Common Council.

In all, seven people stood to speak at City Hall about the impact down zoning or zoning code changes on properties within the city. Down zoning essentially calls for a reduction in the amount of development allowed on the land, decreasing the density of housing units or other structures in the area. Per Wisconsin Statute 66.10015, it can also mean a reduction in permitted uses of the land.

More than one focused on the east side of downtown Monroe, like Neil Trickel, who lives on that side of town. Trickel informed council members that his main concern is over the firearm license he carries to be able to sell weapons through Trickel Automatic Arms Co in Monroe. Trickel said in order to maintain his sales of guns, the area needs to be zoned commercially. 

He also pointed out the home has a gas station across the street and that other businesses, like a law office and insurance company, are nearby. He said he did not support the home being part of a two-family residential zone when it has always been part of the downtown central business district zoning. The home is on the border of two separate residential zones.

Carol Stamm, a realtor with First Weber Real Estate in Monroe, said she agreed with Trickel when addressing the council. Not on her own behalf, but rather in representation of her clients, who own a home at 1817 10th Street. The building is currently for sale and Stamm argued that the area should be designated mixed use in the new city zoning code to allow for maximum possible uses.

Stamm said “it is in a zone where someone might want to put in” offices and that there are “endless possibilities for this property to be redeveloped and increase the tax base and we do not want this to be limited while it’s on the market.”

Attorney William Springer of Brennan Steil S.C. stood before aldermen on behalf of three businesses which manage property within the city: Cedar Green Apartments, Monroe Village and Monroe Terrace. Springer focused on Cedar Green. He said the requirement that units be twice as large as the ones in place and the higher amount of parking required under the MR-15, or multi-residential, zoning could cause issues if a building had to be rebuilt. While properties are essentially “grandfathered in” if they do not conform to the new zoning suggestion, Springer expressed concern over the use of a new building if the current one was to be destroyed. 

Local lawyer Robert Duxstad echoed the sentiment after he approached the podium to discuss a three-unit building he owns on the east side of downtown. He said changing the overall area to be uniform two-unit, two-family residential zoning could hold back future development that council members had considered in the past, like a multi-unit apartment building near the Square. As a part of the Business Improvement District Board, Duxstad voiced opposition to the last proposed apartment building project. He said during the meeting Monday he was under the impression that the city wanted to possibly explore similar projects in the future if the opportunity arose. He said he understood the aldermen had good intentions, but that if more of the public knew about the zoning overhaul, there would likely be more pushback. 

“Before you pass this, you might want to read it,” he said, waving a binder in the air.

Craig Fox, controller of manufacturing company Orchid Monroe LLC, also stepped up to say that the proposed change of the company’s location from heavy industrial to light industrial would not allow their business to run and cause the business to “suffer significant damage and losses.”

Vandewalle & Associates Inc., a Madison-based urban development planning company, has been aiding the city in its attempt to overhaul zoning code since early 2017.

Vandewalle Associate Planner Jackie Mich spoke before the aldermen to explain that any non-conforming uses would still be allowed to operate unless major changes were made to the site. She referenced Orchid and some of the other buildings specifically when she said it was a positive experience to hold public hearings because it is helpful to more broadly explain uses which may not be apparent from the exterior of a building. 

Mich said she “wanted to emphasize that perhaps a little bit of correcting is needed on the fringe of the downtown area” and that she and fellow planners “had to make a judgment call” at first, which can be reviewed again. She also said she wanted to remind the city that nearly 90 percent of properties within Monroe will not change use; they will simply have a new label to more easily explain what is and is not allowed within the zoned area.

“The idea is that this is a reference for someone who may be new to zoning can understand,” Mich said, adding that it also eliminates the need for a staff in a smaller city like Monroe to have to explain minute details to anyone looking for answers. “It’s all spelled out ... Those are all built into the code so staff doesn’t have to know those things.”

City Clerk Arianna Voegeli said all of the feedback, including some mailed letters and notes from phone calls made before the meeting, would be provided to Vandewalle in order to change the proposed zoning map. The newest version of the map would then be considered for approval by council Nov. 5.