County board approves UW-Rock County dorm site plan

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Thursday, December 12, 2013

JANESVILLE—Next stop, Janesville City Council.

On Thursday, the Rock County Board of Supervisors voted 25-5 to approve a site plan for a 120-student residential dorm on the UW-Rock County campus.

“We're grateful to the county board for their support of the project,” said UW-Rock County Dean Carmen Wilson in an interview after the vote.

During the meeting, Wilson said residential housing would help stabilize enrollment and keep the college competitive.

This year, enrollment dropped by about 100 students.

Students—and parents—have been calling the school to ask if it has on-campus housing and, if so, how they could get on the waiting list.

Wilson stressed that the college will continue to work with the concerns of the neighbors.

Neighbors on Garden Drive had expressed concerns about litter, light pollution, the proximity of the building to their lot lines and traffic safety. 

In response, planners moved the building about 278 feet from the property line. The parking lot will start about 140 feet from the lot lines and will be lit by low impact lighting.

Kevin Ferris, of 2310 Garden Drive, seemed resigned to the prospect of the building, but did ask that he be allowed to keep his purple martin houses on what will be a berm. Purple martins are notoriously fussy birds, and it's difficult to establish colonies of them. Ferris has managed to do so at his Garden Drive home.

UW-Rock County Foundation members said they would support that effort and other concerns of neighbors.

The foundation is a nonprofit that supports students and professionals at the college. The foundation, with the support of UW-Rock County, has led the push to build the residential housing. The foundation will be forming a separate nonprofit, the Rock Residential Foundation, to do fundraising for the project.

The site plan still has to go to the Janesville City Council. Although the site is on county land, it still falls under city planning and zoning authority.

Part of the land that will be used for the building and parking lot is zoned R-3—the proper zoning for a multi-unit building and parking lot. But another section is R-1, single family residential.  That zoning will have to be changed for the project to move forward.

Foundation officials said their contractor, CD Smith Construction Services of Appleton, has already been in talks with city officials about the zoning and site plan. On Thursday, however, they weren't sure when the plans would be in front of the council.

If everything goes as planned, ground could be broken on the project in January and the building could be ready for occupancy next fall.

Last updated: 9:03 pm Thursday, December 12, 2013

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