District 3 and 8 say ‘no’ to new apartment building, Plan Commission says ‘yes’
Residents and representatives of Stevens Point Districts 3 and 8 chided the Stevens Point Plan Commission for recommending approval of a new apartment complex on the lot on the corner of Doolittle Drive and Wilshire Boulevard.
Igna Real Estate & Investments LLC is proposing to construct a 12-unit, 36-bedroom, two-story apartment building at 3600 Doolittle Drive, Stevens Point, primarily to fill a growing need for student housing.
While the proposed site for construction is in District 8, District 3 alderperson Garrett Ryan and Old Main Neighborhood Association (OMNA) representatives spoke out against its construction because Igna owns properties in the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) campus area which have been problem areas in the past.
Ultimately, after nearly an hour of debate, the Plan Commission granted the conditional-use permit to construct the apartment complex under the condition the permit is reviewed every two years. Should the property not live up to the city’s standards, the permit will be pulled.
While none who spoke against the project were excited about the idea of another apartment building, most took issue with the company requesting the conditional-use permit.
Cindy Nebel, a member of OMNA, said there have been many complaints against Igna Real Estate & Investments, which owns and manages several student housing units in the area.
“We’ve had a considerable amount of problems in our neighborhood in regard to this company buying properties that are single-family homes … we’ve had numerous problems with them. There are already two properties of this company that are under the Chronic Nuisance ordinance for multiple times the police had to be called to their properties,” Nebel said.
Nebel said she thinks more than two students are living in the properties that are only zoned for two residents per unit, but can’t prove it.
“As an alderperson, the calls I’ve fielded in District 3, as well as outside of it, on properties owned by this applicant have been probably about 90 percent ‘quality of life’ issues (neighbors) have faced,” said Ryan.
“The fact that there are two chronic nuisance violations – one that doesn’t even have an abatement plan by this person – I think speaks volumes about how they could care less about the city, that they could care less about the neighborhood they own property in,” he said.
“Some of the neighbors who surround these places … have spoken to me multiple times about wanting to move. They are completely tired of dealing with absentee landlords that are not responsible when called, and there’s not much left they can do. So, why we’re even considering moving a property forward with a business that clearly doesn’t have the best interest of our neighborhood in mind is beyond me,” Ryan said. “I don’t think we should consider anything by anyone under chronic nuisance violations at all. The (building) plan might be fine, but the problem is the ownership. The problem is the quality of their business and their lack of respect.”
Cathy Dugan, District 8, said the accusations are “probably accurate” and “maybe” the Plan Commission shouldn’t let them move forward with the project. She said, according to numbers she provided at the meeting, there have been nearly 120 complaints among the 24 properties owned by the company in the past four years.
“I feel a lot of these concerns have nothing to do with this project,” said Greg Ignatowski, property manager for Igna Real Estate. “(The problems) in that area I think are more of a (tenant) problem than a problem with the apartments. As far as anything with the properties close to the campus, I’m not aware of anything being over-rented. Whatever the code says, that’s what we lease them to people.”
Commissioner Greg Curless said 120 complaints sounds like a lot for residential properties.
“Yeah, it does,” said Ignatowski. “I don’t remember there being 120 complaints.”
In regards to some accusations of police being called regularly to a neighboring property on Doolittle, “I’ve never heard of the Police Department ever getting called to Doolittle. I’ve just never heard of it. And that many complaints? That sounds crazy.”
Putting both sides of the debate’s merits aside, Director of Community Development Michael Osowski provided some expertise to the Plan Commission about apartment buildings in general.
“Historically, what we’ve seen is that apartment complexes create less issues. There are some that can create quite a few, but typically when you have apartment facilities that are well run we don’t see that many issues,” he said.
Most of the rental-to-resident conflict comes from single-family homes that were converted to rentals, he said. More often than not, those are the properties where shoveling, garbage management and noise complaints come from because of their design by nature, as well as their close proximity to owner-occupied homes.
Secondly, Ostrowski said there isn’t much chance of something else building on the lot at 3600 Doolittle Drive, and if the Plan Commission doesn’t allow more apartment complexes to be built to meet the growing need for student housing, landlords will be forced to buy single-family homes in surrounding neighborhoods and exacerbate the same problems opponents to the construction want to avoid.
The Plan Commission’s recommendation for approval with the condition of biennual reviews will be heard, and possibly acted on, by the Stevens Point Common Council at its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16.