CALEDONIA — Despite half of the Village Board wanting to move forward, a vote on rezoning part of the business park along Interstate 94 for high-density residential housing has been pushed back when three Caledonia trustees took issue with the land-use plan that was first presented months ago.
The board debated for 40 minutes at a meeting on Monday, ultimately deciding to schedule a special session with the firm that created the plan, Foth Infrastructure and Environmental, and the village attorney. Board members hope that the special session, which is scheduled to take place before the end of August, will resolve all unanswered questions and lead to a few edits to the proposal. A vote could then follow.
“I think we’re close, I really do,” Trustee Lee Wishau said.
The major concerns raised by board members were focused on three main issues: 1) Rezoning some of the land in the tax incremental district for high-density residential housing instead of businesses; 2) How services — such as fire, police and sewer — would be provided to the area should rezoning take place, and 3) a lack of specificity in some of the language included in the proposal.
The road map
In March, The Journal Times reported that the land-use study, or “road map,” conducted by Foth was intended to reassess how best to utilize Caledonia’s business district along I-94, especially considering the anticipated arrival of Foxconn in nearby Mount Pleasant.
Right now, the area (from I-94 to Highway H, and from the Mount Pleasant border to the south and Oak Creek border to the north) is largely zoned for manufacturing and industrial development. Foth proposed permitting more retail businesses and residential developments, particularly multi-family/high-density homes, in the area that spans the entire western border of the village.
Foth’s project planning manager, Jeff Muenkel, suggested inviting manufacturing, transportation and warehousing businesses to the area, expecting a higher demand for those services once Foxconn is up and running.
Several members of the board didn’t agree with such changes, including Wishau. He wants to give more time for businesses to develop in the area before converting the land to housing, which most likely won’t be as profitable for the village.
“Our business park (Deback Farms) has got to come first,” Wishau said.
Village President Jim Dobbs believes that the board had been belaboring on the road map. He, along with Trustee Dale Stillman, wanted to vote on and pass Foth’s plan Monday night, and then make adjustments if issues arose.
“We’re kicking this thing to death. We can tweak it as we go,” Dobbs said. “I’m frustrated we can’t put this to bed … we need to give the developers some direction.”
Trustee Kevin Wanggaard felt the same.
“Something is not going to be 100 percent perfect no matter what you do,” Wanggaard, who has been a trustee since 2003, said.
Trustees Wishau, Fran Martin and Jay Benkowski wanted to wait on voting based on an array of concerns with the proposed plan.
Benkowski was OK with pushing back the vote, in favor of getting the road map closer to that “100 percent perfect” goal.
“The things that we’re discussing here are paramount to the future of this community,” said Benkowski, who was elected in spring 2017.
Wishau took issue with vagueness in language in the present plan, including the possible allowance of “adult establishment uses” to move into the area. He and others weren’t exactly sure what would be included in “adult entertainment” and what “high-end” housing actually refers to — another rezoning option proposed in the road map — since he said no specific definitions were provided for either in the road map.
Benkowski said another review of the road map was requested but hadn’t yet been completed by the village attorney. He also had concerns about how firefighting and policing services would be provided for residences in the area, thinking it would result in an “increased burden to the general tax base.”
Adding residential housing to the area could also result in increased sewer and water costs.
Caledonia Public Works Director Tom Lazcano said that Caledonia may need to expand its sewer capabilities either by purchasing/leasing capacity from the City of Racine or by expanding the existing water treatment plant in the city, both of which would likely cost millions.
In March, Caledonia agreed to contribute $26.6 million to Mount Pleasant’s sewer system, which Caledonia borrows up to 12 million gallons of capacity from daily. An estimated $16 million has also been spent since 2016 to bring sewer and water services to a then undeveloped swath of land in the southwest corner of the village.
New manufacturing facility
The board’s indecision on the road map hasn’t halted development, however. ProBio, an Italian biotechnology company, committed last week to build a 65,000-square-foot facility in Caledonia Business Park. The board unanimously approved a conditional-use permit for the $40-million project Monday.
“Thank you very much and welcome,” Martin told ProBio representatives at Monday’s meeting.