MUSKEGO - To protect the city from being saddled with developments whose time has past, Muskego officials are exploring whether they can have a sunset clause for rezoning applications they approve.

"In a couple of cases, we rezoned property because we liked the developments and felt they would be real enhancements for Muskego. But time goes by and nothing happens," said Alderman Neil Borgman who brought the sunset idea to the common council.

The problem with that is two-fold, he said. One is that the developer might drop the plan for various reasons, but the city is stuck with a rezoning that it may not have granted for a lesser development. However, the door is now open for a developer with a less attractive plan to go ahead and build.

The bottom line is that the city might have preferred a whole different use for the land, Borgman said.

"Once you open the door, you can't close it again," in the face of a new developer, he said.

Competition built

The second problem is that while that time goes by, developments of the same type can be built, he said. Then, the city runs the risk of overbuilding of certain kinds.

"Maybe at one time, we would have welcomed this kind of building, but in the meantime we've built three of them," Borgman said. "This has troubled me for a while," because this has happened.

Sometimes the delay is a decade, he said.

"Ten years ago, Muskego was different," he said. "We need to evaluate what we need now."

Projects already in the pipeline would not be affected by the sunset proposal, while future projects would.

Plenty of questions

Fellow aldermen said that a sunset clause for rezoning applications will be tricky. The city attorney will explore how the few communities that have such clauses have overcome the inherent difficulties, if they do. The matter may come up for discussion again as early as the Tuesday, Feb. 14, Muskego Common Council committee of the whole meeting.

"There's lots of research to do on that," Alderman Kevin Kubacki said, although he appreciates the idea.

"Zoning may not be appropriate anymore," he said.

The difficulties include being fair to developers who pay top dollar for property because it has been rezoned and then having to sell at a lower price after the rezoning expires. Also, banks might be unwilling to lend to projects where zoning is under a sunset clause, and how long a time should be set before rezonings expire.

"My estimate is a minimum of five years," Kubacki said. "Or there won't be a bank wanting to touch Muskego."

The suggestion of 18 months is way too short, he said.

"One DNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) issue could take a year to resolve," he said.

Borgman was more in the two or three-year range, with the possibility of extensions, if the developer can show that they are working on the plan.

"If another government agency like the DNR is involved and the developer can show they are working on it, we can give an extension," Borgman said.

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