A lengthy, roller-coaster discussion on a proposed northside apartment complex for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled ended without conclusion Thursday.
The city’s Plan Commission’s opted instead for a 60-day deferment on rezoning, density and a land-use amendment.
The 28-unit, 48-bed development would be located on an agricultural site at 1923 30th Ave., just south of the Pick ’n Save grocery store at 2811 18th St.
The property needs rezoning from A-2 Agricultural to RM-2 Multiple Family Residential and an amendment changing the density from 12-units to 18-units per acre.
The 90-minute discussion took place in front of a near-capacity crowd, including project developers Mack and Jeffrey Crabtree, elected officials, vocal supporters and a large contingent of students from Shepherds College, a three-year post-secondary educational school that trains students with intellectual and development disabilities in academics, daily life skills and vocation.
The decision to defer left many angered, confused and frustrated, much like the effects of a gripping TV drama that ends “To be Continued.”
Change of heart
The discussion took a turn when Ald. Holly Kangas, who represents the district for the proposed development, reversed course and said she supported the change in density and encouraged the commission to move forward.
Kangas addressed the commission after numerous area residents spoke emotionally in favor of the project and expressed a need to help what some believe to be the community’s most under-served population.
“I’m not a horrible person,” Kangas said. “While I have been opposed to the change in the density, I’m going to change my opinion tonight. I’m going to ask the committee to put it through — not necessarily based on what I’ve heard here. Honestly, I don’t know why.
“I feel they deserve a beautiful place to live, which is what the Crabtrees will provide. I still am not completely happy with 19 units per acre. I’m going to ask council to put it through.”
Several local residents, including those who live in the project’s district, said the residents opposed to the project are discriminating against a vulnerable group.
“They’re using the word ‘density’ to hide behind,” Kenosha resident Kristine Schmaling said. “It’s ludicrous to keep talking density.”
‘An entirely different population’
While speaking in favor of the project, former alderman John Fox may have inadvertently added confusion when he compared the supported-living apartment complex to the Kenosha Human Development Services’ Crisis Prevention Center. Fox said the commission should require certified, on-site 24-hour staff as a condition of approval.
John Landa, a local real estate agent assisting the Crabtrees through the permitting process, quickly sought to clarify Fox’s comments.
“We will not have licensed people there, and no, we do not administer medication, and we do not set broken arms,” Landa said. “We are dealing with a population of people who are qualified to rent a house next to you and live in that house.
“This is an entirely different population. There’s no licensing required here. It’s a contract with an agency, helping people live in the community.”
Ald. David Bogdala and Ald. Dan Prozanski, both members of the Plan Commission, said they would support Kangas’ decision and vote accordingly. Then, after further discussion, both voted to defer for two months.
Project in jeopardy?
Jeffrey Crabtree said the commission’s decision to defer puts the project in jeopardy. The developers have a Jan. 1 deadline for rezoning approval in order to conduct a market study and receive a low-income tax housing credit.
“This is going to put us back a whole another year,” Crabtree said. “It’s actually kind of sad, but what can we do?”
Mayor John Antaramian said the commission’s decision would not delay plans because the developers still need to obtain a conditional use permit.
Antaramian said the density amendment is no longer an issue and expects the project to move forward.
“Even if everything passed (on Thursday), they could do nothing until they received the conditional use permit, which they said is going to take 60 days to put together,” Antaramian said.
“This delays nothing. It requires them to put everything together at one time. The committee has already made its determination on the density issue. Now, we need to discuss operations and the style and type of building they’re going to build ... the same things we hold everyone to.”
The Plan Commission initially tabled the proposal to allow project developers an opportunity to hold a pair of public listening sessions.
While some nearby residents initially opposed the project — citing safety, proximity to schools and the project’s proposed density — an overwhelming show of support immediately followed from the community.
“These are responsible young adults who can cook their own meals, keep their apartment clean and manage their money with support services,” said Kim Anderson, a lead paraprofessional at Shepherds College.
“These are not people who are going to decrease your property values. These are people who will increase diversity and will add value to the city. They are productive individuals who will work to be responsible citizens.
“It breaks my heart to hear people devalue these individuals and not want them in your neighborhood.”