By Kylie Balk-Yaatenen - November 7th 2023
A Milwaukee based developer is looking to build a multi-family apartment complex on an empty lot on Sixth Street and some community members are not happy about it.
During the public comment section of Monday’s City Council meeting, many people asked the council to rethink their decision on the affordable housing complex project. Others said that they think the idea is going to help solve the homelessness problem in Beloit.
According to the city’s documents Northernstar Companies, LLC along with Horizon Development have submitted an application for review and consideration of a zoning map amendment for the property at 1642 Sixth St. from R1-A, Single-Family Residential to PUD, Planned Unit Development District. This proposed development named Rock River Townhomes is for multiple multi-family residential buildings.
Brandon Methu, the real estate developer from Northernstar Companies said that he thinks that the proposed apartments would be a great asset to Beloit.
“Its quality housing for young families, firefighters, teachers, police officers and professionals looking to start their lives in Beloit,” he said. “There is an emphasis on providing affordable housing for people with first class amenities.”
Methu said that at every step of this project they have made changes to the design to create a better shared vision with Beloit stakeholders.
Steve Howland, said when he was young he was sad when a bulldozer came to his neighborhood and built two homes on the field that he used to play on.
“Losing the familiar is rarely comfortable unless the familiar is not having secure or stable housing,” he said.
He said that the city council needs to balance the perspectives of each group to see if it will really benefit Beloit.
He shared that he was at a meeting with the Beloit Homeless liaison with the Beloit School District to talk about how businesses can help donate gas cards, gift cards, and fastfood cards to families who are experiencing homelessness. Gas cards are not just used for gas to get to and from places but to buy gas to keep the car running so that families stay warm in the winter time
“That’s when you realize the urgency of the need,” he said. “We have to provide pathways for stable and secure housing.”
His words were echoed by several other community members each sharing the desperate need for affordable housing in the city.
Two people came forward to speak from the experience of being homeless themselves. One of them, Devon McIntyre, said that when he was in seventh grade his family was serviced by two homelessness shelter programs.
McIntyre said his family still struggled to find attainable housing. He said this would be a great improvement to the area.
Jessica LaRosa, a neighbor to the proposed development, asked the city council to use their imagination to create a picture of what it felt like to wake up in the morning to the news that they will soon have 200 new neighbors within 150 feet of her home.
She said that having affordable housing would depreciate her and others home values.
“We chose this area based on safety, quietness of the county, but convenience of the city, great neighbors and an even greater diverse neighborhood next to a field of dreams,” she said. “We know our neighbors, we know when something or someone seems out of place, if this project is approved this all disappears and we will be looking for a new place to call our own.”
Others echoed the potential for an increase in noise and crime rate in their neighborhood. Other neighbors came forward to paint a picture for council members of children using the field as a park to play in and make core memories.
Joann Maya, another neighbor, said that she and others are “NIMBY” which stands for not in my backyard. She said that this was a name she was called when she started advocating for her neighborhood six-months-ago.
She said that the nature and the wildlife in the field would suffer greatly. She said that habitat loss is a threat to eagles and other animals. She said that the sixth street lot could be more of a green space preserved by the city to serve as an oasis for animals.
“Perhaps what you could consider NIMBY to mean is not in my Beloit yard,”she said. “Think of all the ordinance changes as if it were happening in your Beloit yard.”
City Manager Jerry Gabrialtos and Council President Regina Dunkin told the reporter that can’t comment on this issue so as to not change the public view. Monday night Dunkin thanked the community members and neighbors for coming forward and sharing their opinions saying that community interest will help them reach a decision.
However Gabrielatos wants to remind people of the timeline in which they can come forward and speak to council about the issue.
“Monday night’s action was a procedural referral to the Plan Commission, where a public hearing will be held on Wednesday. This item is expected to return to the Beloit City Council on Dec. 18 for a public hearing and possible action. Individuals are welcome to share their comments at both public hearings.”
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