Northwest News

Broken promises in past complicate garage request


Lingering bitterness over promises made in 2005 by the would-be developer of a three-acre site on West Henderson Road left Northwest Civic Association President John Ehlers and Board of Trustees member Kellie Ehlers suspicious about promises being made for the same property last week by a custom home builder.

What's now being called Slatey Hollow, 3558 W. Henderson Road, is more or less in the couple's backyard, John Ehlers said.

In fact, he passed the gavel to Vice President Greg Marietti at last week's monthly meeting because he intended to participate as a resident.

Ehlers still wound up more or less running things, out of force of habit.

In the end, eight of the trustees on hand voted in favor of a request by Compass Homes to amend the zoning for the site to allow front-loading garages.

Three of the trustees, including John Ehlers, Graphics and Zoning Committee Chairman Rosemarie Lisko and Dave Shaw, chairman of code enforcement, abstained.

The original developer in 2005 sought and narrowly received NWCA approval for four homes an acre on the three-acre parcel, all with garages entered from the side.

Subsequently, John Ehlers said, the developer at that time cut down trees that were to have been spared, resulting in a 200-day work stoppage ordered by city personnel.

Trees required to be planted by the developer mostly died, Ehlers added.

Eventually only a model and one home were built, and the bank wound up taking over the property, Ehlers said.

The new owner, Mark Braunsdorf of Compass Homes and his zoning lawyer and agent for the project, Tom Hart, made the presentation for the amendment to allow garages that are entered directly off the street as opposed to the side yard as originally required.

"It seems to be a reasonable request," John Ehlers said.

The new developer has no relationship at all to the previous one, Hart hastened to point out.

The new approach to the orientation of the garages, according to Braunsdorf, who was also present, permits greater flexibility in the kinds of houses that can be built and also provides for bigger yards.

The eight remaining lots would have homes selling for between $450,000 and $650,000, and one would be smaller than 1,500 square feet, Braunsdorf told civic association trustees.

Along with replacing trees that died, Compass Homes has agreed to remove the old ones, Hart said.

What John Ehlers termed the "living memory of the site" has left him and his neighbors leery of taking a developer's word for things when it comes to the property behind them.

Kellie Ehlers expressed concern some of the clients for Compass Homes might want to build the kinds of houses included in the original rezoning, which would occupy far more of the lots than the new proposal.

That's not the case, Hart said, but added his client was unwilling to agree to changes that would trigger a whole new rezoning process, not just amendments to the existing zoning.

"He's trying to do the right thing," Hart insisted.

"It's definitely an improvement," commented Trustee Mark Krietemeyer. "It can't be worse. This has got to be better."

John Ehlers made the motion to approve the request regarding garage locations, including as conditions for the NWCA recommendation a commitment to resolve storm water issues and removal dead trees and replacement with live ones.