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Streamlined review boards to have first meetings

Jan. 30, 2012

The city's Design Review Boards will meet for the first time Thursday since they were restructured from three to two groups by the Common Council.

City ordinance states that any project requiring a building permit must first receive approval from a design review board. In the past, residential projects went to one of two residential boards - each with seven seats plus two alternate positions - depending upon the aldermanic district where the project was located. There was one commercial board that had nine members and two alternates.

The city sometimes finds it difficult to get volunteers to serve on its nearly 30 boards, committees and commissions, and there have been some attendance issues with existing design review board members. Those factors led the city attorney to recommend condensing the design review boards late last year.

The new board structure calls for one residential board with eight members and one commercial board with seven members. If the meeting agendas get lengthy, either board can separate into two groups and split the workload.

The boards consider exterior architectural appeal, including site location and landscaping, and how a building's aesthetics fits with the surrounding neighborhood.

This week, the residential board will take up five projects, including a detached garage, exterior home alterations and new home construction. Meanwhile, the commercial board will review Oak Park Place, an assisted-living apartment building that's part of the Mount Tosa neighborhood; a Wendy's restaurant in the former Steak 'n Shake at 124th and Burleigh streets; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee business accelerator at Innovation Park; and O'Reilly Auto Parts at the former Blockbuster building at 61st Street and North Avenue.

Members are appointed by the mayor with council approval for two-year terms. A number of appointments were made Dec. 20 prior to the restructuring.

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