A planned new neighborhood on the City of Fort Atkinson’s northwest side has taken another step forward.
The Banker Road Neighborhood Plan set of concepts was approved unanimously by the Fort Atkinson City Council last Tuesday, and staff were authorized to develop and issue a request for proposals for interested developers.
City Manager Rebecca Houseman LeMire said that in April, the city contracted with Vandewalle & Associates, Inc., Madison, to create a concept neighborhood plan for the city-owned parcels along Banker Road, located east of the high school and south of Hoard Road.
At that time, council members approved funding of not-to-exceed $28,870 through the city’s contingency fund account to pay for the services.
The City of Fort Atkinson owns three parcels of land — previously located in the Town of Koshkonong and annexed into the city earlier this year — totaling about 75 acres of land.
“The city purchased this land in 2018 with the intent of developing it for residential purposes,” LeMire said.
When the land was purchased, she said, the city also purchased a set of engineering and subdivision plans from the previous developer, whose development fell through.
Since that time, the city engaged Vandewalle & Associates to assist in creating a new comprehensive land use plan in 2019 and a new zoning ordinance the following year.
This past April, she said, the firm was hired to work with staff to create concept plans for a new and diverse neighborhood along Banker Road.
“We extended an invitation to the city’s management team, asking anyone interested to serve on an ad-hoc planning team to support the process,” LeMire said.
The following individuals, she said, volunteered to work with Vandewalle to develop the concept neighborhood plans: Rebecca LeMire, city manager; Andy Selle, city engineer; Brian Juarez, building inspector/zoning administrator; Merrilee Lee, Hoard Historical Museum director; Brooke Franseen, Parks & Recreation director; Tim Hayden, Water Utility supervisor; and Tom Williamson, Public Works superintendent.
“The group represents a cross-section of the management team and brings a diversity of professional experiences and personal perspectives to the planning process,” LeMire said. “Elona Bartnick and Brian Munson from Vandewalle met with members of this planning team several times throughout the summer to gather input and data.
“We met on site in Fort Atkinson and toured a planned neighborhood in Madison to understand what this type of neighborhood may look like when it is built out,” she added. “Vandewalle staff provided draft concepts, which were reviewed by the planning team with feedback given.”
The city’s plan commission then reviewed and approved the neighborhood concept plan documents at its Aug. 24 meeting, and the public also was able to view and comment on them. Commission members and the public had questions relating to water utility infrastructure, storm water management, and the trail corridor.
The city manager said the city will not act as the developer for these parcels. Following Tuesday’s council’s approval, city staff will now distribute the plans widely to local, regional and statewide developers.
“This future land use category (“planned neighborhood”) is intended to provide for a variety of housing choices and a carefully planned mix of non-residential uses consistent with the mainly residential character of the area,” LeMire said. “Overall, the composition, appearance, and pattern of development should promote neighborhoods that instill a sense of community with their design.”
The concept plan set, she said, is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan for this area.
The types of housing
The demand for a variety of housing types and styles in the city and across Southern Wisconsin has increased substantially, LeMire said, adding that the interest in residential development of this area by community groups and the public also has risen.
“The previous engineering and subdivision plans included large single-family lots, wide public rights-of-way and some multi-family residential buildings,” she said. “City staff (now) has been working with representatives from Vandewalle to review how these parcels can be developed efficiently, effectively, sustainably, and in an aesthetically-pleasing manner.”
The plans feature the following opportunities: Reconstruction and realignment of the current “Banker Road” right of way; the current Banker Road corridor will be reconstructed as a multi-use trail connecting the neighborhood and providing access to parkland and greenspace; wetlands and storm water areas used as water features, providing visual appeal; and a wide range of housing styles and types including single-family residences, duplexes, townhomes, traditional ally-style homes, and multi-family residential buildings.
Last Tuesday, Brian Munson, principal designer/neighborhood design project facilitator with Vandewalle, gave a presentation on the concept plans for the Banker Road parcels.
Vandewalle, he said, has been working with city staff throughout the summer and identifying opportunities to develop the property in support of the city’s goals.
“This is kind of a unique opportunity for the community to look at the site and understand how housing could be brought and developed on the site that both responds to the characteristics of the site as well as the market and community character around it,” Munson said.
Looking at the development potential for the Banker Road site, he said the wooded characteristic of the eastern portion and the slope of the property really dictate the street grid and housing outcomes.
“So there’s some opportunities to vary both type of housing that could be incorporated into the project as well as the intensity of the housing that could be incorporated into the project,” Munson said.
The east side, he said, has a significant amount of slope.
“Previous tree surveys did identify a few of the oak trees, but we know that within that woods there are many more oak trees that are potentially worthy of incorporating into the lots and preserving,” Munson pointed out.
And given that storm water management is a component of any development, he said roughly 8% of the site will be dedicated to ensuring that storm water is treated appropriately before it leaves the site.
The designer said there are two concepts within the final proposal.
“Going east to west, Banker Road becomes the divide down the middle,” Munson said. “And since we’re going to have to extend utilities into that road corridor and upgrade it to urban standards — widening it — we see that as an opportunity, potentially, to realign it and preserve more of the existing trees on site.”
He continued, “Preserve that character of the overhead canopy in the road, but return it as a trail, or part of a park space, so that it continues to have a public presence … but move the new road to the west where there’s an opportunity, then, to develop a grid of compatible housing with different housing types embedded within what’s kind of the flatter side of the site.”
A road grid on the west side, he said, will run north to south, offering housing opportunities spanning from mid-size single-family, some attached twin home products and town home multi-family dwellings closer to the high school.
“The eastern side, the street grid is much more constrained by the topography,” Munson said. “And so, again, you have some opportunities for not necessarily larger lots to facilitate larger houses, but larger lots that could facilitate more tree preservation in concert with potential development into housing opportunities.”
The goal of the project, he said, is to offer a variety of different housing types for people regardless of their immediate housing needs.
“Finding housing within the community continues to be a critical role within the community, and this site could deliver options that could be both entry level — move up, move down — rental, and owner-occupied housing,” Munson indicated, “all knit together in the fabric of a cohesive neighborhood.”
The final concept, he said, incorporates opportunities to explore some additional single-family formats.
“These would be served by a carriage lane or an alley, would be higher density detached single-family product, but again an opportunity to offer housing that doesn’t exist within the community and broaden housing opportunities within the community,” Munson said.
The principal then presented slides from the central southern Wisconsin market showing examples of the ways the architecture of houses helps knit the character of a neighborhood together.
“The type of architecture can be designed such that you can have different types of single-family homes, different price-points of single-family homes, interspersed with attached product and multi-family product in ways that create diverse neighborhoods with people of diverse backgrounds, but really continue to hold their value into the future,” Munson stated. “And the way to do that is to look at both the design of the neighborhood but also the design of the architecture down the line.”
In conversations with developers as the project progresses, he said the types of housing styles might shift slightly in either direction based on input.
“But we wanted to make sure and illustrate the full spectrum of housing options because it (concepts) is intended to be a guide,” Munson concluded. “The final design is intended to be a little bit flexible. We know the street grid would be more of a strong recommendation, but the lot size and the configuration and number of lots will flex a little bit as you move into that implementation stage.”