Rock County Board committee recommends UW-Rock County dorm plan

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

JANESVILLE—A plan to build a residence hall on the UW-Rock County campus has moved two steps closer to reality and farther away from residential property lines.

Last week, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved an agreement that would return to the county land the university system leases.

On Tuesday, the Rock County Board General Services Committee approved a site plan that would put the 120-student residence hall 278 feet from the property lines of homes on Garden Drive.

The vote was 3-2, with supervisors Hank Brill and Ed Nash voting against.

Officials from the university and the UW-Rock County Foundation stressed that they had made significant changes to their original plans that included 10 parking spots and put the building about 25 feet from the property lines.

Those plans met with heated opposition from neighbors and from supervisors at a Nov. 21 meeting.

In response, the foundation moved the project back to 60 feet from the property line and then back again, placing the building about 278 feet from the property lines and the parking lot 140 feet from the property lines. More parking spots were added.

One proposal put forth at the Nov. 21 meeting would have swung the building around to run east to west instead of north to south. The proposal came up again at Tuesday's meeting.

However, that option would have blocked a future access road to the property. It  also would make it more expensive to run utilities to the property, said Larry Barton, foundation board member.

“We're trying to dispel the notion that the location was an arbitrary choice,” Barton said.

He stressed that all options had been considered. The foundation had to balance the needs and future plans of university with the requirements of city and county officials, he said.

UW-Rock County Dean Carmen Wilson told the committee the project would help stabilize enrollment and maintain the quality of the college. Residential housing helps improve student retention and graduation rates, she said.

About eight neighbors attended the Tuesday meeting and again voiced concerns about the impact on their quality of life from the resulting traffic, litter, noise and light.

The plan calls for a berm between the complex and the homes on Garden Drive. Along with helping block the view, it would keep car headlights from shining into homes. Low impact lighting would be used in the parking lot to minimize the effect on the surrounding area.

“I think we've worked really hard to accommodate the requests (from neighbors),” Wilson said. “I don't think that there's a perfect solutions. We want a plan that has the least negative impact on the neighbors and one that allows the campus to grow.”

Committee Chairman Phillip Owens said he, too, was looking for a balance between the neighbors concerns and the benefits of allowing the project to go forward.

“We appreciate what you're trying to say,” Owens told the neighbors, “but we can't put so many impediments in front of this project that it won't work.”

The plan will be considered by the Rock County Board on Thursday night.

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