A group of Washington seniors Monday expressed their concerns for a proposed multifamily development adjacent to their homes.
Residents of the Willows objected to plans from UNNCO Development Cooperation and S-K Contractors Inc., both of Washington, to rezone 2.4 acres at 2550 E. Fifth St. and construct two apartment buildings with 52 units.
They cited an increase in traffic, possible trespassing and an impact to their quiet subdivision. The UNNCO is located directly to the east of The Willows, between the subdivision and East Fifth Street.
The planning and zoning commission unanimously approved the rezoning request from C-2 commercial to R-3 multifamily following a public hearing. It must still be approved by the Washington City Council.
UNNCO previously had requested a rezoning of the property to a planned development residential (PD-R). That plan called for two three-story apartment buildings each with a total of 56 units.
The request was tabled in June, and since then city codes were amended and now allow for a higher density in R-3 zoned districts.
The previous code restricted minimum lot sizes to 3,000 square feet per unit. In August, the city amended the code to allow a minimum lot sizes of 2,000 square feet per unit for R-3 zoning.
Gene Roberson said he and other Willows residents already have a difficult time accessing East Fifth Street because of the high traffic volume.
“We’re having a hard time getting out now — it is not easier with the car wash. Somebody is going to get hurt on Fifth Street,” he said.
“We seniors are trapped below,” Roberson added. “We have one way in and one way out.” He stated he plans to move if the apartments are built.
Janet Morris, a Willows resident, said the subdivision is “peaceful and quiet.”
She fears that children from the apartments will be in the neighborhood and fish at the lake, which is private property.
“This is something we have to contend with that we did not plan on contending with when we bought the property,” Morris said.
“I can see the kids fishing in the lake,” she added. “It is not going to be the same.”
It was noted that both streets in the subdivision, Willows Court and Winterberry Court, are public streets.
Judy Huntley, of Winterberry Court, agreed that traffic will be a major issue for residences of The Willows, adding that there is a hill on East Fifth Street near Willow Court.
“Is it possible to get a (traffic) light?” she asked. “It is hard to get from the Willows onto Fifth Street.”
Sal Maniaci, community and economic development director, noted that the site plan will be reviewed by city staff who will determine if a light is needed. The city’s traffic committee also could review requests by residents if they seek a light there.
Roberson said if there are two cars for each renter, that would cause even great traffic concerns.
“That is a lot of cars on Willow Court,” he said. “We have a real problem.”
Roberson also questioned if there would be an additional street that would be installed to provide for better traffic flow in the areas.
According to Maniaci, there is no site plan required for a rezoning, but it is submitted as the project moves further along.
He added an R-3 zoned use is suitable at that location because the property is adjacent to multifamily homes, and there is access to East Fifth Street, a high-traffic road.
“I think it is a very appropriate use,” Maniaci said, adding that something with much more traffic could is permitted in a C-2 district.
Andrea Straatmann, with UNNCO, stated the apartments will be accessed by Willows Court. Stormwater will be piped south to the Tiger Car Wash stormwater basin.
“It is close to the highway (100) and we think there is a need for nice apartments on the east side,” Straatmann said.
Seniors and handicapped people will be given priority for the ground floor apartments.
Straatmann added both apartment buildings will have sprinklers systems.
“We plan to stay involved through the duration of the apartment building,” she added.
Shawn Mayall, owner of S-K Contractors, said the company will “develop and own” the apartments.
“There is a demand for nice, newer apartments,” he said.
He anticipates the starting monthly cost to be about $800 per apartment. He said the residences will not be government assisted housing.
Straatmann noted there will at least be two parking spaces per apartment. There will be buildings on the north and west sides of the property, and there will be a row of garages on the east side of the property and there will not be an on-site manager.
Mayall added he will be at the complex daily, as he is at other apartments owned by S-K Contractors.
“I live and work in this community,” he said. “I understand the concerns. I will be there to maintain it — I can assure this is going to be high-end.”
Planning commission member Samantha Cerutti Wacker said both UNNCO, owned by Kurt Unnerstall, and S-K, have good reputations in Washington.
“These developers are local and they have come before this board many times,” she said. “In my many years here they have never lied to the board.”
Planning Commission President Tom Holdmeier said there is the potential for more traffic if it is zoned commercial instead of multifamily.
“If it is commercial there could be as much or more traffic,” he said. “Residential (developments) will not cause as many trips.”
Wacker added under city codes, as a C-2 zoned lot, on the property could be an auto repair shop, car wash, car lot, lumberyard and other uses.
If a special use permit is obtained there could also be a mobile home park, crops or livestock on the property.
“The way the lot is now, they could do that,” added planning commission member Chuck Watson. “Residential is a much better fit.”