A proposal to swap condominiums for a $6.5 million assisted living and memory care complex in the Mount Tosa Neighborhood development, tabled by the city in June, earned approval from a city committee Tuesday.
The 40-unit condominium portion of the project remains in the mix, but would move to another parcel in the 17.3-acre development, as outlined in an amended developer’s agreement approved unanimously by the Community Development Committee.
The revisions also call for a 49-unit apartment complex to be bumped to 60 units, with the total number of units for the mixed residential project to increase from 427 to 454 units. The Mount Tosa development is on the city's west side, at North 113th Street and West Walnut Road.
A zoning change to allow for the assisted living and memory care units will go back to the Plan Commission in August. Common Council approval is needed for both the zoning change and the amended developer’s agreement.
The zoning change request was tabled June 13 by the Plan Commission after Mayor Jill Didier expressed concern that the more institutional style housing was a significant departure from the original proposal, which called for a high-end mix of urban housing with two- to four-story apartment, townhouse and condominium complexes. She asked developer Helmut Toldt, of Toldt Development Inc., to meet with staff to discuss those concerns prior to the next plan commission meeting.
Toldt met with the mayor and city staff June 20, and outlined in a June 28 letter to the mayor that the zoning change to allow for the assisted living and memory care units would generate an additional $1.65 million in projected property value. The letter also notes that construction of the assisted living project could start in 2011, generating new taxes faster than the condominium project, which has a planned completion date of 2016.
In endorsing the amended developer’s agreement, committee members Tuesday said the assisted living and memory care units would fill a gap in elderly housing in Wauwatosa. A chief concern, said committee member Ald. Bobby Pantuso, “is we haven’t had the mayor weigh in.”
Toldt said he called the mayor since their meeting and since submitting a three-page letter with additional detail and two site plan attachments in late June, but has yet to hear back to learn whether she felt her concerns were addressed.
City legal, community development and economic development staff told committee members their concerns were met under the amended developer‘s agreement.
Among the concerns was whether the city would lose tax dollars with the zoning change or possible tax-exempt status for an assisted living facility. The city included in the amended developer’s agreement that should any element of the Mount Tosa project become tax-exempt property, the property owners will be required to make payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTS, to make up any property tax loss.
The PILOTS clause ensures the city receives the intended benefits of selling the land to a private developer – namely, increased revenue, according to city attorney Alan Kesner.
If any portion of the Mount Tosa project becomes tax-exempt property, the property owner is required to pay the difference between taxes paid and taxes that would have been paid if the property were fully taxable, Kesner said.
In addition to ensuring the city’s financial interests are protected, city staff also reviewed the revision request to ensure the city’s housing needs are served.
“We want to make sure we are meeting the needs of all our residents,“ said city community development director Nancy Welch. “There is no indication that this is putting us over the top” in overemphasizing senior housing.
The 67-unit elder care building would be developed as Oak Park Place by Alternative Continuum Care, LLC, of Madison, which operates 19 elderly housing facilities. The units would be a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments, and could be under construction in fall or by spring, depending on the timing of city approval of amended developer’s agreement and zoning change, according to architect Bradley Servin of Verona-based Architectural Design Consultants, Inc.
Toldt put in a request for the revised plans due in part to a difficult housing market that has stalled new residential development throughout the area. The assisted living and memory care project, which is not expected to be tax-exempt, also allows the Mount Tosa development to address the need for senior housing options for city residents, according to Toldt’s attorney Brian Randall, with the Milwaukee law firm Friebert, Finerty & St. John, S.C.
Randall cited a 2002 city health department study that said the city has a need for more senior housing facilities to serve its senior population.
“There is that niche market, even in this difficult housing market,” Randall said.
The proposed assisted living and memory care facility would neighbor an 80-unit independent senior living housing project, called Cedar Glen, currently under construction on a 2.6-acre Mount Tosa site by Horizon Design Build Manage of Madison.
Horizon's $11 million senior housing project is expected to be completed in spring. The project is funded in part through an allocation of tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), as the housing is targeted for seniors who qualify based on income levels.