Luxury apartments planned for Eau Claire’s southeast corner can proceed after the City Council decided to override another group’s recommendation.
Commonweal Development will be allowed to build two 47-unit apartment buildings on land along Bullis Farm Road after a 10-1 City Council vote on Tuesday rezoned the property.
City leaders decided that the three-story apartment buildings with underground parking would be a good complement to area businesses and a continuation of a development trend in Eau Claire.
“We’re now looking at a desire in some parts of the city — and not just downtown — to have mixed-use development,” Councilwoman Kathleen Mitchell said.
The council’s decision trumped a 4-3 vote last week from the city’s Plan Commission that opposed Commonweal’s rezoning request.
Councilman Eric Larsen, who serves on that commission, said the apartment proposal has gotten more vetting since then, and he’s not convinced of a neighboring landowner’s claim that it would hurt property values.
“I don’t know that that’s really been demonstrated in the information provided to us,” Larsen said.
Councilwoman Monica Lewis cast the lone dissenting vote after she argued that the wishes of businesses seem to get less consideration than homeowners when it comes to new development proposals.
“We don’t seem to be giving the same weight to the commercial people out there as some of our residential neighborhoods,” she said.
Lewis also said that building apartments next to existing businesses is not the same as a mixed-use development when both are designed at the same time.
The land originally was planned for commercial buildings, but Eau Claire-based Commonweal sought the zoning change as the market for office space cooled while demand remains high for apartments.
Three other rezoning requests got unanimous approval, allowing the projects to move forward:
• A historic building at 1004 Menomonie St. used for rental housing will be remodeled as a bar and restaurant.
• Thirty acres of vacant land at the east end of High View Drive will be turned into Estates at High View, a 20-lot subdivision for high-end family houses.
• A two-story mixed-use building with a restaurant, office space and apartments is planned for a former used car lot at 1709 Harding Ave.
Meanwhile, a new local effort to register more voters in the Eau Claire area drew skepticism from some on the council who wanted more information about the group’s members.
Though a few on the council asked for a delay to learn more about Register And Vote Eau Claire, an 8-3 vote voiced city support of the organization’s goals.
“Anytime we can encourage people to participate in democracy, we should do that,” Larsen said.
Councilmen David Strobel and Tim Tewalt and Lewis cast the dissenting votes after they said they wanted more time to confirm claims that the group is politically nonpartisan.
“There’s just not much information on this group,” Strobel said.
Others on the council vouched that the group has Republicans, Democrats and politically unaffiliated members, but its single goal is to increase voter registration.
“The goal is to get people involved in government. It’s fairly straightforward,” Councilman David Klinkhammer said. “I don’t think there’s anything devious about it.”