After a hired firm found the town of Brookfield could fill hundreds of new housing units over the next 15 years if it allowed greater density in developments, members of the Plan Commission are looking at their options but wary of changing too much.
Building and Zoning Administrator Gary Lake said the town is running out of land to accommodate projected population growth, but multifamily housing could allow more people in.
"We don't have any land for new single-family subdivisions, so if the town is going to accommodate the projected growth, it has to be by density," he said.
The outside study, by Vierbicher, found that by 2030, the town could support 586 new multifamily rental units, 362 new condos or townhomes, and 144 new assisted-living units.
Lake said the town's population has decreased 5 percent over the past five years, and the study noted only one building has been constructed in the last two years. Lake said he's feeling increased demand for development, evidenced by a meeting he had Monday with someone wanting to develop a 40-unit housing complex for disabled veterans on a 1-acre lot.
But at the Plan Commission meeting Tuesday, Lake posed the question: Does the town want to grow?
"That's another strategy — don't worry about the growth in population; let the growth go somewhere else," Lake said.
Plan Commission member John Schatzman questioned whether the town needed to cater to new housing needs.
"Do we want to be all things to all people, or do we want to be a suburban bedroom community?" Schatzman said.
Len Smeltzer said there could be a value to sustaining the town's unique niche.
"There are people who want (apartments), but as they grow up they want to live in a community like we have and I think we have to embrace that," he said.
But Plan Commission member Eric Halbur said the town needs to consider how to attract younger families as its population ages.
"We don't have anything for young people. Nothing, not one spot," Halbur said. "There's gotta be something that isn't an elderly care facility for a young couple to move into the town and get started. I'm not about having a million people in our town, but we have to think about who's going to come into the town to keep things going when we're gone."
Town Chairman Keith Henderson, a Plan Commission member, said he doesn't think the town needs a new zoning code because there are already areas of the town zoned for higher density.
Current land-use plans in the town allow for a maximum density of 14 units per acre in two areas that are designated as multi-use: an area around Galleria West near Bluemound and Barker roads, and an area between Barker and Janacek roads from Interstate 94 to Bluemound Road. Some members suggested containing any increased allowances in density to be in these areas only.
The Plan Commission will discuss specific possibilities for land-use changes in December. Any changes would have to be approved by Waukesha County.
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