Council supports Plank Trail Apartment project

by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor

The Sheboygan Falls Common Council granted a rezoning and conditional-use request to make way for a 104-unit apartment complex to be located to the west of the Plankview Green Retail Center, during a semimonthly meeting Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Sheboygan Falls Municipal building.

The Plank Trail Apartments development will be located to the west of the Plankview Green Retail Center off of Happy Lane adjacent to a wetlands area to the south of State 23.

The complex includes six 16-unit buildings and one 8-unit building, which includes a manager’s office, to be built on 24-acres of land formerly owned by PLC Bank.

To pave the way for the apartments, Doneff submitted a request to rezone the property from agricultural (A) zoning to planned united development (PUD) zoning, as well as a request for a conditional-use permit to operate an apartment complex on the land.

The apartment complex proposal comes just one month after the Common Council voted down a proposal from Gorman & Company to repurpose the current Sheboygan Falls Middle School building into a 49-unit Section 42 income-based apartment complex.

The decision to reject that proposal came in large part from a groundswell of discontent with the plan voiced by neighbors and city residents.

One city resident, Jessica Jensen, spoke out against the Plank Trail Apartment plan as well at the Dec. 6 meeting.

“Many of us just got done speaking out against a plan to build apartments at the middle school site and now here the council is considering yet another apartment plan,” Jensen said. “This time it’s more than twice as many units as the Gorman plan was proposing. I don’t like the idea of having all of these apartments in Sheboygan Falls.

“Why do they have to be here?” she said. “Because no one else in the county wants them. Sheboygan doesn’t, neither does Plymouth. Having all of these apartments is hurting the overall quality of our city. Please don’t turn Sheboygan Falls into a little Sheboygan. This is definitely going to tax our police and fire departments more than they already are, which hurts us all. We need to preserve the dignity of our city because it deserves better. There has to be something better than this.”

During a Plan Commission meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28 Anton Doneff of Doneff Companies LLC, which opened in Manitowoc in 1975 and currently operates 800 apartment homes at l1 locations in the eastern half of Wisconsin, as well as one property in Minnesota, discussed the plans for the 104-unit apartment complex.

“The Plank Trail Apartments that we are proposing in Sheboygan Falls are modeled after our Skyline Estates apartment complex in Hobart,” Doneff said. “We will have one and two-bedroom units available with each unit having its own detached garage.

“The first floor units will have nine-foot ceilings and the second floor units will have cathedral ceilings,” he said. “All units will be vinyl plank floorings in all areas except the bedrooms, which will have carpet. This is a market-rate mid to higher-end housing complex. Rent will range from $800 to $1,100 a month,”

Doneff indicated the location represents a prime spot for an apartment housing development.

“I think we’ve all heard about the housing shortage in Sheboygan County,” Doneff said. “We are here to help fill the housing needs and we really like what we see here in Sheboygan Falls.

“This property really lends itself well to apartments,” he said. “It has the value of nearby highway access and is conveniently located near area jobs. Due to its layout and topography, this location is not suitable for single-family housing. It is too spread out. There is commercial space to the east, but this location is too far out for commercial usage. Having the plank trail nearby is also a nice amenity. People are very mindful these days about the importance of getting fresh air and exercise.”

Doneff said plans call for construction to begin on the Plankview Trail Apartment project next March with completion by the end of 2018.

At the Plan Commission meeting, Sheboygan Falls Mayor Randy Meyer noted that tax money from the project would go to support various infrastructure projects in TIF District 4.

“Taxes will be used to fund infrastructure projects, including extending Happy Lane, building Fairway Court and potentially improving Bluebird Road,” Meyer said. “We have a long-range plan for the area and there are a lot of moving parts right now.

“The first part of the TIF District 4 was Kwik Trip, which is ready to open,” he said. “Extending the utilities, putting in Fairway Court and getting in the Happy Lane extension come next. The ultimate goal is to eventually extend Happy Lane all the way out to Meadowlark Road.”

Doneff indicated that an apartment manager will staff the complex on a full-time basis, but will not be required to live onsite.

In addition, Doneff expressed a desire to feature a picnic pavilion onsite for apartment residents and build an access path to the plank trail.

Alderman Al Mayer said the apartment plan is perfect for the property.

“As was discussed at the Plan Commission level, there is really no other appropriate use for this particular parcel of land due to its location near the wetlands and wooded area,” Mayer said. “It would not properly accommodate single-family homes or commerical development. Thefore, it makes sense to go forward with this development.”

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