Admitting that, “Progress seems like an awkward term to use for 2020,” Watertown city officials said the municipality has continued to make strides in residential, commercial and industrial development through the end of the pandemic year and looks forward to a fruitful 2021.
On the residential side, they said, the city approved three 12-unit apartment complexes and approved the first final plat of 15 single-family lots since 2011.
The three 12-unit apartment complexes are located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Air Park Drive and Loeb Lane. Audubon Apartments abuts the property to the south of the development.
The 15-lot single-family final plat is located at the former 1225 Perry Way parcel and is 5.67 acres.
“There is a real need for housing within the City of Watertown, especially high-quality multi-family housing and single-family options,” Watertown Mayor Emily McFarland, said. “I could not be more pleased that Loos Homes, that has handled single-family homes, and BASCO Development on the multi-family housing, continue to invest in the city.”
But changes go beyond straight-forward development. Leaders said the city continues to foster commercial growth by creating flexibility through legislative action.
“In 2020, Watertown amended its zoning code to create an accessory land use of Outdoor Commercial Entertainment Incidental to Indoor Commercial Entertainment,” a media release from the city stated. “This will allow restaurants and taverns in the Central Business District to have outdoor dining and beverage consumption without the need for a conditional use permit.”
In conjunction, the release said, the city amended Chapter 220, by eliminating the Outside Sales Event License and amending general regulations that allow more flexible business hours for outside sales.
City of Watertown Zoning & Floodplain Administrator Jacob Maas said, “The city needed to resolve and be proactive in allowances for outdoor dining and beverage consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic landscape. The city has taken several steps forward, and we continually evaluate which ordinances create undo burden on the city’s commercial and industrial sectors.”
Watertown Main Street Program Director Melissa Lampe added that the recent ordinance changes to permit outdoor dining and the expansion of hours that allow for outdoor entertainment are further examples of the city’s willingness to be business-friendly and to facilitate growth and commerce in the community.
Industrial and commercial development continue to be a priority for the city, leaders said. To ease and improve the development process, they said, the city has taken several steps that are transparent on the City of Watertown’s development webpage (https://www.ci.watertown.wi.us/development/index.php).
The city’s webpage was created to be an introduction and welcome to current and potential business owners on what Watertown has to offer.
“This effort is exemplified by the creation of marketing materials which showcases why opportunity does run through this community,” leaders said.
The webpage also serves as an easy-access repository of information for developers.
Initiatives taken in 2020 to assist developers include development checklists that assist them through the zoning and site plan process.
The checklist pairs with the commercial and industrial development flowchart developed in 2019.
Another example of the city’s efforts is the completion of a 2020 hotel feasibility study.
The final major initiative was the creation of information maps for developers on proximity to resources.
“The City of Watertown is always looking to create an environment that welcomes and simplifies our processes to developers,” McFarland said. “We aim to be transparent and create a pro-development atmosphere that benefits the city and the developer.”
Heading into 2021, city officials are looking to create a new tax incremental financing district (TID) downtown that will assist in the private-sector development of 111 South Water St. and be a catalyst for further redevelopment in the central business district.
The city will also move forward on the Town Square and will continue work on the library expansion project.
The completion of the Hotel Feasibility Study in 2020 sets the groundwork for officials to work with potential hotel developers in 2021. This has been a need for the community for several years, according to leaders.
“As always, the city will work with developers and business owners to identify Municipal Code and policies that set up roadblocks and work to address those,” McFarland said. “2021 is set to bear the fruits of work completed in 2019 and 2020.”