City officials have spent the past several months advocating for new housing at all market levels to compensate for Janesville’s residential shortage.
The city council will consider approving Monday the first step of a low-income housing development, a 62-unit, three-level apartment building on the northern edge of downtown.
Under the project’s initial action, the city would sell three vacant parcels for $1 each to Commonwealth Holdings LLC. The parcels are located just north of the police department on the square block bordered by Jackson and Franklin streets, Laurel Avenue, and Centerway.
The developer also has an agreement to buy the privately owned parcel where Aaron’s Lock and Safe is located. Commonwealth tried unsuccessfully to reach sale terms with the owner of a multi-unit building on the square block’s northern half, city Housing Services Director Kelly Bedessem said.
The city’s transaction is contingent upon Commonwealth receiving an affordable housing tax credit from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Tax credit applications are due Jan. 14, and the developer expects an answer by April, according to a city memorandum.
Affordable housing is a federal standard that requires tenants to earn below a certain income level to live in the building. For this tax credit program, the proposed building’s average tenant would need to make less than 60 percent of Rock County’s median household income, Bedessem said. That number was $53,410 in 2017; so 60 percent of that would be $32,046.
Preliminary plans include one floor of underground parking and an enclosed surface parking lot. The building, which does not yet have design renderings, would all be apartments with no ground- floor retail, she said.
Bedessem expects that, in addition to the WHEDA tax credit, the developer would also apply for tax increment financing and federal community development block grants allocated by the city.
Monday’s approval, which is included on the council’s consent agenda, would allow Commonwealth to show it had control of its planned location. That’s required for the WHEDA application, Bedessem said.
Down the road, the development would still have to receive approval at various stages from the plan commission and city council.
If the project becomes a reality, construction could start next fall with units available in summer 2020.
Bedessem said she is excited by the possibility of having more units on the rental market.
“It’s a daily occurrence where we have clients come to our front desk and are in tears or are very, very frustrated because they can’t find anywhere to live,” she said. “We can issue them a rental assistance voucher and they can be ready to go, and they can’t find a place. We’ve had rent assistance vouchers expire.”
A Janesville couple implicated in the deaths of 12 puppies were sentenced Friday to jail, but not for the animal deaths.
Felicia Tousey, 23, of 4815 W. Highway 14, Janesville, was sentenced to six months in jail for violating probation imposed earlier in the puppy case. Her violation was selling kittens on Facebook using fake names.
Chad T. Mukina, 35, now of Rothschild but formerly of the town of Janesville, was sentenced to 45 days in jail for third-offense intoxicated driving. He told the court he still has pets—two dogs, two cats, one snake and one tortoise.
In 2016, Mukina and Tousey were accused of causing the deaths of at least 12 puppies and neglecting 13 others, as previously reported by The Gazette.
Humane society tests indicated the seized dogs had parasites including hookworms, and one of the puppies had severe bite wounds, a flea infestation and smelled of rotting flesh, according to court documents.
Puppies were kept in “small enclosures.”
A state animal compliance specialist who interviewed Mukina and Tousey told investigators the couple said they had transported about 30 dogs from Arkansas to their town of Janesville home and had intended to sell them, according to court documents.
Tousey and Mukina claimed they were in the process of starting a nonprofit animal rescue.
The puppies, ranging in age from 4 weeks to 6 weeks, lacked a required state veterinary inspection.
Witnesses said they had advertised the puppies on Craigslist or Facebook.
The 13 surviving puppies were cared for by the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, as previously reported by The Gazette.
Tousey in March was sentenced to one year probation after she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of intentionally mistreating animals as a party to a crime. Her probation was revoked in September, and she was sentenced Friday to six months in jail for probation violation.
Mukina was sentenced Friday to 12 months probation after pleading no contest to operating as a dog breeder or animal shelter without a license. A charge of intentionally mistreating animals was dismissed.
Mukina will serve probation following 45 days in the Rock County Jail for his third charge of operating while intoxicated. The 12 months probation is in addition to three years probation for his fourth operating while intoxicated charge.
Rock County Judge John Wood said in court Friday that six victims were involved in Tousey’s recent online sales of kittens. In 2016, the couple sold some of their puppies to people who struggled to care for them because of conditions they were kept in.
“I feel we let the community down by giving you probation in the first place,” Wood said to Tousey.
Defense Attorney James Fitzgerald argued the 112 days Tousey has served in the Rock County Jail since violating her probation was sufficient punishment because Tousey has taken responsibility for her actions. Fitzgerald claimed Tousey had good intentions when starting to rescue puppies but was influenced by Mukina.
Tousey claimed the last 112 days were the “hardest and most frightening days” of her life. She hoped to be released so she could take the lessons she learned in jail and apply them to being a good mother to her three children.
Wood rejected Fitzgerald’s recommendation, saying Tousey’s repeat behavior shows “little regard” for the victims. He told Tousey he hopes she reflects on the “horrible effect” her actions have had on her children.
Rock County Judge Karl Hanson said for a person who claims to care about animals, Mukina’s actions were “particularly disturbing.”
Hanson said he was grateful nobody was hurt as a result of Mukina’s intoxicated driving. Mukina admitted in court he has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.
Mukina has come a long way but has a long way to go, Hanson said.
Shirley M. Blaser
Verdelma M. “Ver” Broderick
Sharon M. Dyle
Deborra L. Gretschmann
Clara “Lucille” Kucker
Bonnie Elizabeth Pratesi
Edward Joseph Schneider
Gerald E. Stuckey
Sharon J. Urbanowski