News

A State Program That Can Help Mequon – We Just Need to Ask (I Am Asking)

Mequon has a variety of manufacturers (examples include Rockwell, Gateway Plastics and Charter) who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxes and use almost no city services. They also cost the school district nothing. What is our one challenge in keeping them here?

Good workers.

These businesses pay well and provide good, clean jobs, many of which have upward mobility opportunities. They contribute to our community. If we lose them, we would need to replace their taxes with either higher taxes. And Mequon does not have a ready labor pool.

The State of Wisconsin has introduced a program to recruit veterans leaving the military. These are hard-working people who show up for work. Many have trades skills. They are trained to be leaders.

Read more here:

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2018/08/24/wisconsin-looking-few-actually-many-good-men-and-women/1068658002/

As this article notes:

The pool of potential candidates is large — 200,000 to 250,000 people move from active duty to civilian life each year, according to the Department of Defense. Many employers covet veterans because of their work ethic and leadership qualities.

Wisconsin has perhaps the best veterans benefits in the country. Plus, we have an unparalleled way of life.

The state is touting generous GI Bill educational benefits and good schools for their children; jobs that align with military training; employers who give incentives to veterans; low housing costs; and refundable property tax credits for eligible veterans.

Plus, the state has six VA Medical Centers and 18 VA community-based outreach clinics, veterans service officers in every county to help with claims and benefits.

Wisconsin also boasts plenty of hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities, modest average commutes and, of course, lots of state-brewed beer

Wisconsin is the first state to go after this market. It could pose great dividends.

And, if Wisconsin can do it, why can’t we piggyback on these efforts? Available Mequon jobs are family supporting.

I have reached out to the administration to see if we can benefit.

This is win-win. We can help our businesses, help our veterans, and help our tax base without putting a strain on our services.

Homestead Ranked 2019’s Best College Prep Public High School in Wisconsin

Congratulations to Homestead High School for being ranked the BEST college prep public high school in Wisconsin. One of the top reasons (among so many) why Mequon is a great community. Read more by clicking here.

Mequon-Thiensville Memorial Day 2018

Memorial-DayI was privileged to stand-in for the Mayor this morning and deliver remarks on behalf of the City at the annual Memorial Day ceremony. If you have never attended, please consider it next year.  The parade is short and sweet, and the ceremony is meaningful. It adds some context to this holiday.

I am always moved by the veterans I meet at this event. Today, there was at least one WWII veteran and veterans from every conflict and time since then. My 87-year-old father-in-law, Dave Albert, who survived the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War, and who has severe mobility issues, attended.

On behalf of the City, I thanked the public, the Village of Thiensville, the Howard J. Schroeder American Legion Post 457, its Ladies Auxiliary and the veterans in attendance. Then I delivered the following remarks. It is a humbling experience trying to adequately put into words the collective gratitude of a community.

In 1969, when I was six years old, my mother, at age 41, flew on an airplane for the first time. She got on that plane to fly to California to attend the funeral of her youngest brother, Major Richard Beattie of the United States Air Force. Dick Beattie was a pilot and died flying his B-52. He was 33.

Dick left a wife and two sons, Kevin (7) and Brock (6).

Dick never saw Kevin and Brock grow up, never had a chance to grow old with his wife Ann, and never had a chance to spoil his grandchildren.

Close to 50 million Americans have served the cause of freedom and more than 1.2 million have died to preserve our liberty.

It is staggering to think of 1.2 million lives cut tragically short. It is staggering to think of the tragedy suffered by 1.2 million families, the children never born, the weddings missed, the friends lost. It is staggering to think of the contributions those 1.2 million people could have made to science, business, the arts and our communities.

1.2 million is such a large number that it becomes just a statistic. So I like to personalize it, thinking about the price paid by Dick, his wife Ann and sons Brock and Kevin. I remember my mother’s tears. I expect that many of us have friends or relatives that make this more personal.

These 1.2 million people gave their lives for something.

From Bunker Hill to Gettysburg and beyond, our first century was devoted to securing our country to making it free. For the past century, starting with the Battle of Hammel in the First World War, continuing with World War II, and including the countless actions and battles since, through the most recent military death in March in Syria, our brave men and women have toiled and died not just for our country and our freedoms but to make the whole world free. We live in a country that uses force reluctantly, but is prepared to use it for freedom and liberation.

While Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember and say thank you, it should serve a greater purpose. As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” We must “resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

Ronald Reagan put it in more modern terms on one Memorial Day when he said:

Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we—in a less final, less heroic way—be willing to give of ourselves.

The men and women we honor today recognized that it is worth fighting for freedom and that, if we fail to oppose tyrants – those who would take away freedom – tyranny will prevail, freedom will be lost and the American Experiment will have failed.

Let us remember them. They have, with their blood, paid a tremendous price for our freedoms. But to make their deaths meaningful, we must carry on their work. We must be prepared to oppose those outside and inside our country who are willing to empower government at the price of our individual freedoms. We must oppose tyranny wherever it exists. We must recognize that our freedoms are never safe from those who desire to impose their will on us.

In that way, we honor those who, with their deaths, made the down payment for our freedoms.

Thank you to our veterans, living and dead, and God Bless America.

 

Mequon’s Open Spaces

Open SpacesThere are many things that make Mequon great: its outstanding schools, its low taxes, its diverse housing stock (including some very upscale homes), its array of restaurants and shops and its community events. Together, these make for a unique community.

However, the coup de gras that knocks out its competitors is its amazing open spaces. Mequon is adjacent to the largest city in the state, yet much of Mequon has a rural feel. Part of Mequon is actually rural. We have some beautiful farms and, hopefully, many will remain for generations. However, Mequon has also planned for the future.

The Village of Grafton is 5.1 square miles. Within Mequon, there are approximately 5.1 square miles of land that is permanently preserved (about 3,100 to 3,200 acres). That is about 11% of the City’s total land mass. Those 5.1 square miles do not include our golf courses, the green areas around the high school and MATC, the setback of homes and businesses from roads, wetlands, private soccer facilities and other green areas.

Mequon’s 5.1 square miles of green space is made up of nature preserves, parks and land subject to conservation easements. Click here to see a map (there are a few more properties that should be marked on the map).

Mequon is unlikely to purchase much in the way of additional parks. However, Mequon can balance future development with green space.

Drive north on Wauwatosa Road to the area between Bonniwell and Pioneer Roads.  The entire eastern side of that mile of Wauwatosa Road, and three-quarters of the western side of the road, look like perfect places for future subdivisions. The east side alone has almost 100 acres of open space. What many people do not realize is that all of that land is fully developed. Nothing more will be built there. What you see is permanently preserved.  The developers of Hawks Landing, Hawks Bluff, Legacy Hills and Twin Oaks subdivisions put the home sites in a small part of the land they were developing, and deed restricted the remaining land.

Similar arrangements exist, for example, on the south side (County Line Road) and north side (Donges Bay Road) of Huntington Park subdivision, on the south side (Highland Road) of Cobblestone subdivision and on the north side of Ville du Parc subdivision (Highland Road). These are remarkably different subdivisions, but all of them left green space along major roads, giving the area a rural feel.

It would not be right to take away property owners’ ability to develop their properties or to make all developments fit one pattern. And, new development keeps a community healthy. However, Mequon should balance future development with the preservation of green space.  It might not be right for every development (depending on location and the attributes of the property), but it is right for many, particularly in the un-sewered areas (north and west sides) of the city.

 

 

GREAT OPPORTUNITIES

dollar signThe next time you review your charitable giving, please consider giving locally. Mequon has many excellent organizations that enhance our community.

Each of us is bombarded by requests for money. There are many excellent choices that make our world better, from organizations that want to cure disease, to veterans groups, to conservation organizations, to groups that fight poverty. The list is almost endless.

Our houses of worship, schools and youth organizations also request and deserve our contributions (perhaps even most of our contributions). (Click here for a prior post regarding houses of worship, and I plan a future post on school and youth organizations).

However, there are some organizations that are vital to the fabric of our community, and they are too often overlooked. We could make such a difference if each of us would set aside even 10-20% of our charitable giving for these groups.

Here are a few. I am certain I will miss many, so I hope readers will remind me of them, and I can update this list.

Mequon Community Foundation (a great way to designate a gift to our parks, our police, our fire department or any community activity)

Our Heritage
Freistadt Heritage Foundation
Friends of Jonathan Clark House
Mequon-Thiensville Historical Society
Mequon Nature Preserve

Our Veterans
American Legion Howard J. Schroeder Post 457

Our Community Events
Community Fun Events (Family Fun Before the 4th)
Gathering on the Green
Mequon Festivals Committee

All of Us
Weyenberg Public Library Foundation

We have many great service clubs (Lions, Optimists, Rotary, etc.) that do great things, but their focus is generally local and beyond. Besides, they have whole clubs to market their activities. I will likely do a post devoted to them. There are also many great state and county organizations that devote some of the resources to our community (Family Sharing, the Adult Literacy Center, etc). Mequon is also the home to many generous family foundations and professional associations. THANK YOU to all of them.

However, this list is devoted to civic organizations devoted only to Mequon-Thiensville. They are often overlooked.

Mequon Police Department is There to Help

Mequon Police Department
This Mequon PD badge has a slogan on it – “Service Trust Justice.” Note that it starts with “Service.”

Sometimes we overlook the fine services our city employees provide.  Unfortunately, sometimes we do not know about them. I received the following note today from a Mequon resident. It was enlightening to me. If you know someone who could use this particular service, please pass this on to him or her. 

 

John:

I’d like to tell you about a great interaction with Mequon PD today. Officer Darren Selk is my new hero. I’ve sent him a message via the city website so he hopefully knows my gratitude.

My husband has mobility issues as you know from previous emails about handicapped parking spots. He’s also a fall risk. He fell today at home, I couldn’t get him up and our wonderful neighbor was there to help us. God bless great neighbors!

Later….I Wondered what I would do if our call list of friends and neighbors weren’t available.

I stopped at the Mequon PD to ask about help if it was a situation that was not emergency but something I couldn’t handle on my own. Office Selk took all our information and flagged our address in the confidential data base. “Lift Assist” is another new phrase for my vocabulary. He was so kind and caring as he took my information. The non emergency phone number for Mequon PD is entered in all of our phones.

What a great service for our city. I’m hoping we never need to use it. Grateful if we do.

Thank you and Officer Selk for your service.

 

My Role on the Mequon Common Council

Tonight, my colleagues on the Common Council elected me to be President of the Council. I am honored, particularly considering that only two of the aldermen served with me prior to my self-imposed three years away from the Council.

To some degree, being President is an honorific. The first responsibility is to nominate alderman for various committees. That happened tonight. The other primary responsibility is to serve when the Mayor is absent.

However, I plan to assume a third responsibility. I want to work this coming year on building collegiality among my colleagues. Collegiality does not mean we have to agree. We should not when we do not. However, we should work with each other, and with City staff, professionally and amicably. In my first decade on the Council, that was a hallmark of the Council. Lately, that has not always been the case. Our three newest Council members have a lot to offer and have the opportunity to accomplish great things. However, they and the rest of us will be less effective if we deal with each other with suspicion and hostility. Federal and state lawmakers act that way, and see how functional they are.

At the beginning of each Council year, I give some thought about my role as a member of the Common Council. I made these remarks (click here) when I left the Council five years ago, and again when I ran two years ago. They still hold true today.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You, Candidates

Every year, we have a bunch of people who step forward to give their time to our county, city and school district. These people are not looking for jobs. Most have full-time jobs or are retired. Unless they are delusional, and I know most are not, they are not looking for power, money or fame. These positions give the officeholders none of those things.

Instead, they are offering their time and talent as a public service. Our institutions would not work without them.

Yet, in order to give their time and talent, they spend money and many hours campaigning. They also subject themselves to the electorate, a process that can be humbling and nerve-racking. Moreover, and often worse, they subject themselves to accusation and mud thrown their way (again, all for the opportunity to serve others). Most do it honorably.

Tonight, the following 17 Mequonites (and one Thiensvillian) had their names on a ballot. Win or lose, each made a contribution by running. Please join me in thanking them (names of the people who will take office are italicized):

Ozaukee County Supervisor District 19         Bruce Ross and LeRoy Haeuser

Ozaukee County Supervisor District 20         Patrick Marchese and Noel Williams

Ozaukee County Supervisor District 21         Justin Strom and Bob Walerstein

Ozaukee County Supervisor District 23         David Henrichs

Ozaukee County Supervisor District 24         Janette Braverman

Ozaukee County Supervisor District 26         Jennifer Rothstein

Mequon Alderman District 6                          Brian Schneider and Lewis Chamoy

Mequon Alderman District 7                          Kathleen Schneider and Chris Schelble

Mequon Alderman District 8                          Andrew Nerbun and Kim Steinbrenner

Mequon-Thiensville  School Board                John Daniels, Paula Taebel and Shelley Burns

I look forward to serving with Brian, Kathleen and Andrew, and hope to have opportunities to build relationships with the other bodies through the other officeholders.

Upcoming Mequon Common Council Election – Please Vote

Candidates2

If you live in District 6, 7 or 8 (southeastern Mequon and along the lake south of Highland), please remember that there is a contested election for the Common Council in your area. Early voting has started at City Hall and runs through Friday, March 30. Election Day is Tuesday, April 3.

We need Common Council members who appreciate our great community and want to improve Mequon rather than tearing it down. We can keep taxes low, have great police, fire and ambulance departments, maintain roads, improve the City’s services and plan for the future without being divisive. I hope that whoever is elected will work toward those ends.

Read about the candidates by clicking on the following links:

District 6: Brian Schneider and Lewis Chamoy

District 7: Chris Schelble and Kathleen Schneider (inc.)

District 8: Kim Steinbrenner and Andrew Nerbun (inc.)

 

 

Anonymous Websites and Emails: A Right, Yes, But What Do They Say About the Writers?

I receive a lot of emails from Mequon residents as a result of my Updates, Facebook page and website posts. I try to respond to all of them. Many of the writers and I agree, but not always. Most of the writers are polite and thoughtful. I try to be the same.

Occasionally, however, someone writes anonymously. Those writers have an email address that does not identify them and, almost always, are uncivil and condescending. I usually respond and ask who I am writing to. I never receive a response.

From time to time, someone does this on a grander scale. They create a website with a civic-minded organizational name and distribute emails under that name. They do not identify themselves; instead, they say something like “we are residents and neighbors who are concerned about the future of Mequon.” Invariably, such people (usually, it is only one or two people) spread half-truths and try to inflame the public. Often they do this for self-gain: political aspiration, personal aggrandizement or to advance a cause in which they have a personal interest.

In the language of today’s political debate, this is often “Fake News.” According to the Urban Dictionary, the people who do this are “Trolls” (“one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument”).

These “concerned” residents have an absolute right to do this. But, what does it say about the writers? Are they afraid to put their names with their accusations? Isn’t this just a form of cowardice?

Mequon has a new group circulating this kind of stuff. I am not going to post the name of their website – why give them publicity?

The irony is that they “demand transparency.”

However, one of these writers has left a traceable trail. I know who he is. I expect that this is a precursor to a run for office. I challenge him and his other “concerned” residents to come out of hiding and put their names on their website and emails.

Debates should be civil and public, not cloaked in anonymity.

New State Law Alters Mequon’s Zoning Powers

The Wisconsin legislature recently made significant changes to the rules regarding conditional use permits. The changes are likely, over time, to have profound impacts on Mequon’s planning and zoning authority. Based on these changes, it is time for a comprehensive review of Mequon’s conditional use ordinances.

Zoning Classifications

Under most zoning codes, including Mequon’s, uses in a zoning district fall within three basic categories: permitted uses, conditional uses and accessory uses. A permitted use is a use that is automatically, without discretion, allowed in the zoning district. So, for example, professional and business offices are allowed as a matter of right in Mequon’s B-3 zoning district. Accessory uses are uses that are allowed in conjunction with a permitted or allowed conditional use. So, for example, a parking garage is not allowed as a standalone use in the B-3 district but is allowed to be built with an office building.

A conditional use is a use that might be allowed in a district under certain conditions. Mequon’s zoning code lists various conditional uses for its zoning districts. The Planning Commission reviews applications for conditional uses and determines whether the particular proposed conditional use is appropriate in the particular location.

So, for example, restaurants are allowed in certain zoning districts as conditional uses. When the City receives an application for a restaurant in one of those districts, it reviews whether the use is compatible with surrounding uses (e.g., is it next to single-family homes), whether noise or light will bother adjoining uses, hours of operation, and so forth. The City approves, denies or conditions the application.

Mequon’s ordinances contain a wide variety of conditional uses: agricultural uses in residential districts; commercial hatcheries and greenhouses in agricultural districts; houses of worship in many zoning classifications; residential quarters for owners in some business districts; warehousing and distribution centers; and a myriad of other uses.

Law Change

Under the new statute, it is virtually impossible to deny a conditional use application. The statute provides that  “if an applicant for a conditional use permit meets or agrees to meet all of the requirements and conditions specified in the city ordinance or those imposed by the city zoning board, the city shall grant the conditional use permit.” In the past, the Planning Commission denied some applications because the particular use did not fit the particular property. Now, the Planning Commission may only impose conditions. If the applicant is willing to accept those conditions, the applicant is entitled to the conditional use permit.

However, the law does not stop there. It significantly limits the conditions that can be imposed by the Planning Commission.

First, the new law requires that standards governing conditional uses be “reasonable and, to the extent practicable, measurable….” This requirement is certain to lead to  litigation. Mequon has considered all sorts of factors, including odors, aesthetics, safety and similar factors when considering conditional uses. Most of these factors are not measurable. The statute does not clarify what is intended by “to the extent practicable.”

Second, any conditions imposed by the Planning Commission must be reasonable and the decision to approve or deny must be based on “substantial evidence.” The Planning Commission cannot impose conditions that are not mandated by our ordinances, such as hours of operation, ventilation or other conditions, unless there is “substantial evidence” that such conditions are necessary and reasonable. It is no longer enough that the City always requires such conditions.

Third, the new law prohibits the Planning Commission from deciding an application for a conditional use on “personal preferences or speculation.” Although we allow and require public testimony, the Planning Commission cannot, under the new law, make its decision based on that testimony unless, perhaps, the person providing the testimony is an acknowledged expert. It might be common sense that a particular use will harm adjoining property values (and our ordinances allow a denial based on such harm); however, under the new law, and the court decision that prompted it, denying a use based on common sense is likely to end up in a court challenge, and unless the decision is based on “measurable” standards with “substantial evidence,” the City would likely lose such a challenge.

Arguably, the changes are in large part a good thing. They prevent communities from being arbitrary. However, Mequon’s conditional use process, when fairly applied, has avoided bad uses and one property owner from harming another.

Again, the City should comprehensively review its conditional use ordinances. Mequon’s ordinances were written under the old statue. Unless we tighten those ordinances, we will likely face expensive litigation and may have unanticipated uses forced on the community that might harm and change the nature of our commercial and residential districts.

The City could consider eliminating some conditional uses in some districts; changing some conditional uses to permitted uses with more exact standards; establishing precise standards for conditional uses that have proven to be problematic; eliminating criteria that are no longer enforceable; establishing evidence that applicants must provide with applications; and requiring grants to be in writing with specific findings of fact that have been reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission.

 

Houses of Worship: an Integral Part of the Fabric of a Community

For a large part of our community, and for many people who want to move into Mequon, our houses of worship are important. For many, they are far more important than anything our government does. Without them, many of us would live elsewhere.

Mequon recently spent time and money updating its website. The new website  has room for improvement, and that will happen over time; however, the new site is much better than the old.

The new website attempts to tout how Mequon is a great place to live and a great place to do business. There are whole sections of the website dedicated to those two ideas.

Yet, despite this idea, the website ignores many of the institutions that make our community what it is. Some in City government forget that the community is much more than the public services provided by City government and the school district. If we truly want people to think Mequon is a great place to live, we should at least acknowledge the groups and institutions that build community. Those institutions are part of what sells our community to others.

I have suggested that the City should add basic information to the website about its houses of worship (similarly, I would add information about service organizations and other contributors). So far, my suggestion, at least at the Public Welfare Committee, has fallen on deaf ears.

Clearly, if we do not play favorites, any such list would not run afoul of the First Amendment. We should not endorse religious participation, but we also should not ignore it.

Maybe, when the new Public Communications Policy gets to the whole Common Council, the policy will be changed. Perhaps not. Meanwhile, I can use this website (which is mine, not the City’s) to provide some of this information.

Here is the information I have compiled from the internet for houses of worship in Mequon-Thiensville. Please let me know if I made any mistakes or if I missed any houses of worship.

Catholic
Lumen Christi Catholic Church
Father Dan Sanders
2700 West Mequon Road, Mequon
262-242-7967
Website

Episcopal
St. Boniface Episcopal Church
Father Kenny Miller
3906 West Mequon Road, Mequon
262-242-2994
Website

Jehovah’s Witnesses
7420 West Donges Bay Road, Mequon
262-242-4780

Jewish
Congregation Anshai Lebowitz
Rabbi Ira Grussgott
2415 West Mequon Road, Mequon
262-512-1195

Lutheran

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church
Rev. Phillip Hillenbrand
11313 North Riverland Road, Mequon
262-242-6650
Website

Christ Alone Church
Rev. Don Scheuerlien
247 South Main Street, Thiensville
10001 North Cedarburg Road, Mequon
262-242-4710
Website

Christ Church
Rev. Bob Suhr
13460 North Port Washington Road
262-243-3093
Website

Grace Lutheran Church
Rev. William Beyer
303 Green Bay Road, Thiensville
262-242-1174
Website

 

 

 

(Lutheran Continued)
St. John’s Mequon
Rev. Jeremy Koehler
1616 West Mequon Road, Mequon
262-241-3121
Website

Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church of Freistadt
Rev. Carl Lehenbauer
10729 West Freistadt Road, Mequon
262-242-2045
Website

Methodist
Mequon United Methodist
Rev. Tim O’Brien
11011 North Oriole Lane Drive, Mequon
262-242-4770
Website

Other Christian Churches
Alliance Bible Church
Rev. Brian Dainsberg
13939 North Cedarburg Road, Mequon
262-375-4200
Website

North Shore Assembly
Rev. Lisa Larson
11040 North Range Line Road, Mequon
262-339-7897
Website

Presbyterian
Crossroads Presbyterian Church
Rev. Cheryl Galan
6031 West Chapel Hill Road, Mequon
262-242-1680
Website

Unitarian
Unitarian Church North
13800 North Port Washington Road, Mequon
262-375-3890
Website

United Pentecostal
Christian Life Church
Rev. Joseph Hanthorn
2909 West Mequon Road, Mequon
262-643-4602
Website

Mequon Update: October 9, 2017

Over the past week, the City has launched a new and improved website. Check it out. If you have questions or comments, please let  me know. The new platform is easily modified. Hopefully, the website will continue to improve to meet the City’s needs.
Mequon has many fine employees. Occasionally, one deserves special mention. Don Curran is retiring after 39 years of service to the City. For many years, Don has served as Director of Parks and Operations. He has found a way to maintain and improve a giant and excellent park system with little funding. Don is a humble guy, but he has quietly made a big contribution to our community. He will be missed.

The City has released some interesting statistics concerning the new subdivisions off of Wauwatosa Road between Mequon Road and Donges Bay Road (Enclave at Mequon Preserve and Highlander Estates). During the first 18 months of those developments (January of 2016 through June of 2017), 44 new single-family homes were built with an average home cost of approximately $342,150 (excluding land costs). More homes have been built since June.

The Appropriations Committee (the Common Council sitting as a budget deliberating committee) will meet on Tuesday, October 16, at 7:00 p.m. This is perhaps the most important thing the Common Council does each year. During this meeting, preliminary decisions will be made concerning spending and taxes for 2018. Then, at the November Common Council meeting, the Common Council further debates the budget, possibly amends it and then formally approves a budget.  A copy of the budget proposed by City staff can be found by clicking here.

Planning Commission

On, Monday, October 9, starting at 7:00 p.m., the Planning Commission will hold a meeting. Highlights include applications for approval of:

  1. A new outdoor dining patio for Zaffiro’s Restaurant at the Marcus North Shore Theater.  The patio would have hanging string lights similar to those at Cafe Hollander.
  2. New lot lines for Crossroads Presbyterian Church, 6031 West Chapel Hill Road, and its adjacent single family home.
  3. Rezoning and reconfiguration of the four-lot subdivision at 14907, 14137, 14155 and 14207 North Birchwood Lane.
  4. Fill for a residence at 12875 Highgate Court.
  5. An addition to the Clark gas station at 10335 North Port Washington Road. The addition would replace the shack behind the building.
  6. A 34,900 square foot addition to Christ Church on the 24.47 acre site at 13460 North Port Washington Road. The addition would be to the south and rear (east) of the existing building. Additionally, Christ Church requests approval of a 1,200 square foot garage. Christ Church anticipates a future 23,000 square foot addition.
  7. A mixed-use development at 6209 West Mequon Road and 11050, 11124 and 11127 North Industrial Avenue. The development is planned with a sit down restaurant, mixed-use retail center, 90 residential apartments, a brewery, a building with retail, office and corporate extended stay apartments and 23 single family homes. The project is estimated to have a value of $50 million. The Planning Commission reviewed this concept in August. There will be at least five more meetings, between the Planning Commission and the Common Council, before this project will be underway (it is possible that one or more of those meetings could be consolidated).
  8. Ordinance amendments for the Town Center and its adjacent Arrival Corridor. The amendments would (a) provide an opportunity for limited numbers of single family homes; (b) create new, somewhat more restrictive, standards for multi-family housing in the Arrival Corridor; and (c) change the zoning for The Reserve and the one property directly east of it from Arrival Corridor to Town Center.

Read more about these items by clicking here.

Committee of the Whole

The Committee of the Whole is nothing more than the Common Council meeting in a more informal manner to discuss an issue. The Committee of the Whole cannot make decisions; instead, items that call for a decision are again addressed at the Common Council.

On Tuesday, October 10, starting at 6:00 p.m., the Committee of the Whole will discuss reports recently received by the City regarding the Police and Fire/Ambulance Departments. The City engaged consultants to review staffing, responsiveness, procedures and equipment in both of these departments. The consultants’ reports are interesting. The consultants were generally complimentary but made some specific recommendations. Click here to learn more.

Common Council

On Tuesday, October 10, starting at 7:30 p.m., the Common Council will hold its October monthly meeting. It looks like another long meeting. Highlights include:
Four Public Hearings. Mequon has a long and proud tradition of allowing the public to comment on all matters in open session before the Common Council and its boards, commissions and committees; however, public hearings are required by law for certain ordinances and provide a specific opportunity for the public to give input.

  • Rezoning for a 32-unit, side-by-side condominium project at 12431 North Green Bay Road and the parcel immediately to the west.
  • Zoning code change allowing two-acre residential Planned Unit Developments.
  • Rezoning of the four residential properties along the west side of Granville Road just north of County Line Road from Rural Industrial to Residential.
  • Edits to the ordinances governing the architectural board, the board of appeals and landmarks.

All of these items are scheduled for consideration and potential final action later in the meeting.

Other Items. The Common Council will consider:

  1. An emerald ash borer policy.
  2. A potential sale of the Logemann property.
  3. Comprehensive modifications of the ordinances that govern the City’s boards, commissions and committees.  The Public Welfare Committee has worked on these changes for the past 15 months.  Proposed changes were forwarded to each of the City’s boards, commissions and committees for their input. The Public Welfare Committee adopted almost all of the recommendations from these bodies.
  4. A three-year extension of the Revolving Loan Fund loan made to the Bartolotta Restaurant Group. The loan was made a little over three years ago and was originally in the amount of $150,000. Payments have been made as required. The current balance owed is about $88,100.
  5. Exemption of WE Energies from the ordinances’ requirement that it pay the sum of $22,700 into the City’s green infrastructure fund. WE Energies removed some specimen trees, with City permission, in the process of replacing the gas main in the west side of the City. Ordinarily, a fee would be payable to the City’s fund; however, the ordinances allow exemption for utility projects where the exemption is appropriate and the project is for the public good.
  6. Engagement of a consultant to assist in establishing a capital asset management plan. The Common Council budgeted $25,000 for this purpose in the annual budget. As originally proposed by staff, the budgeted amount would provide a plan covering buildings, roads and major equipment. Now the $25,000 will only cover buildings, and the other components of the plan will possibly be addressed by future contracts.
  7. Participation in the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewage District’s Green Infrastructure Fund. Previously, the City could not opt out. It now can.
  8. A closed session to provide a personnel evaluation of the City Attorney. I expect that the Common Council will reconvene into open session to consider a possible extension of the City Attorney’s contract.

Read more about these items by clicking here.

City Committees

I am the aldermanic representative to the Planning Commission and Chair of Public Welfare Committee. All Common Council members serve on the Appropriates Committee, the Sewer Utility District Commission and the Water Utility Commission. In addition to my own committees, I will try to report on items of significance being considered by other committees.
The Public Welfare Committee will not be meeting on Tuesday at its normal time due to the Committee of the Whole meeting described above.
Public Works Committee (Tuesday, October 10, at 5:30 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Public Works Committee will consider:

  1. The WE Energies exemption described above as Common Council Item #5.
  2. The consulting agreement described above as Common Council Item #6.
  3. The MMSD green infrastructure program participation described above as Common Council Item #7.

Finance–Personnel Committee (Tuesday, October 10, at 5:45 p.m.). Click here to learn more. In addition to its normal tasks of approving liquor licenses and payment vouchers, the Finance-Personnel Committee will review the Bartolotta’s Revolving Loan Fund extension described above as Common Council Item #4.

Architectural Board (Monday, October 9, at 6:30 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Architectural Board will consider five new homes, eight additions or other residential construction projects and modifications to three homes previously before the Board.  Applicants come from Districts 1 through 5 and 7.

Other Upcoming Meetings

  1. The Public Safety Committee will hold its October meeting on Monday, October 16, at 6:00 p.m. An agenda has not yet been published.
  2. The Public Welfare Committee might meet later in the month.

Of course, please provide comments to me or to any elected official regarding these matters or any other City-related issue.

A New Way to Handle Unwanted Development

Once or twice each year, Mequon turns down a proposed development (usually a small pocket of homes) after a neighborhood expresses its opposition to the development.  Democracy in action, you might say.

However, it is worth taking a moment to examine this democracy in action. The pattern is remarkably similar in almost all of these instances.

Usually, a family has held a property for many years.  Ultimately, they no longer need it, and want to get their value out of it.  In some cases, it is the owner’s retirement.  So, the owner puts the property for sale. A proposed buyer wants to develop it.

As a result, the City puts the proposed developer through a rigorous and expensive set of requirements – engineering, wetland delineation, specimen tree identification, yield plans, sewer and water plans and so forth.  If the developer meets all of the City’s standards, which have become more exacting over time, staff recommends the development to the Planning Commission which, in turn, usually recommends it to the Common Council.

By the time the proposal gets to the Council, the development fits in the neighborhood.  Often, the lots are slightly larger than those owned by the neighbors. The development is better engineered than the surrounding, already-developed lots.

And there it often dies.

Often, and particularly when the development is in an area already substantially developed, someone does not like the development. The new homes will block their view, or will block their (often trespassory) walking paths.  Or they just do not want the construction noise. They like having a big field or wooded area next to their home – at someone else’s cost.

The unhappy neighbor riles up his or her neighbors, who then deluge the Council with letters and emails in opposition, often based on their perception that the new development will cause or exacerbate storm water problems. They also will throw in arguments about traffic (even though it is only a few homes), wildlife and rural character. They will ignore the fact that they have enjoyed the benefits of the open space at someone else’s cost.

These unhappy neighbors sign protest petitions (meaning that six, rather than a simply majority, aldermen need to vote in the affirmative). They show up at meetings.  They send emails.  They call their elected officials.

A few aldermen vote “no” because of neighborhood opposition (without ever asking the rest of the neighborhood what they think).  The project dies. Democracy in action.

But, what about the poor property owner? His or her nest egg is stuck in dirt that he or she can not sell.  And, the irony is that he or she is penalized for keeping Mequon rural for longer than his or her neighbors did.

Perhaps those of us who try to balance the equities should stop. We should just put the development to a neighborhood referendum.

Then, if the neighborhood votes no, we should ask only one question: did this development fit in the neighborhood? We would look at whether the development met the City’s standards and whether the lots were comparable in size to those in the neighborhood. If it fit in the neighborhood, perhaps the owner should be made whole.  The City could buy the property as a neighborhood park or preserve, and specially assess the neighborhood that said no.

The owner would then receive his or her value.  The neighbors would get what they wanted (and often had for free for many years). And the right group would pay for it.

Any thoughts?

Mequon Update: September 10, 2017

As I stated last month, for the first time, there will be a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Ozaukee County. The event will be held on Saturday, October 7. Learn more by clicking here. Please consider participating. Register now, or make a contribution.

Also, please join me in thanking the Festivals Committee (Vanessa Nerbun, Chair; Bridget King; Suzanne Dorszynski; Kirsten Hildebrand; Allen McIlwraith; Linda Jarman; Melissa Suring; and Lina Prosser, Staff Liaison) for their hard work organizing Taste of Mequon. They devoted untold hours to ensure the event was a success, and it was a great success. The Mequon-Thiensville Education Association also deserves kudos for the 5K run that terminated at the Taste of Mequon. It looked like fun, and brought many new faces to the event. Finally, but no less important, thank you to the many businesses and other volunteers who contributed to this great community-builder.

The final electronics and appliance recycling collection will be on Saturday, October 21 from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Get more details by clicking here.

Planning Commission

On, Monday, September 11, starting at 7:00 p.m., the Planning Commission will hold a meeting. Highlights include applications for approval of:

  1. A new fitness center in the Aurora Mequon Health Center at 11430 North Port Washington Road.
  2. Signage at the Aurora Mequon Health Center.
  3. A two-lot division of the property at 11623 West Donges Bay Road.
  4. Landscape approval for the north border of the Dermond 33-unit apartment project at 11130 North Buntrock Avenue. The property line adjoins the proposed Foxtown project.
  5. A request by Ziegler Wealth Management for a sign that exceeds the 30 square feet allowed by code for the PNC Bank building at the northwest corner of Mequon Road and Port Washington Road.
  6. Sign waiver and lighting approval for the gas station at the southwest corner of Mequon Road and Wauwatosa Road. The station is converting from BP to Mobil. The applicant would like an illuminated canopy with the Mobil name on it. Mequon has previously not allowed lighting on the exterior or roof of gas station canopies.
  7. Rezoning of the four residential properties along the west side of Granville Road just north of County Line Road from Rural Industrial to Residential.  These are long-time residential properties. The current zoning makes financing almost impossible. I have requested this change.
  8. A change to our zoning code allowing two-acre residential Planned Unit Developments.

The Planning Commission will also consider changes to the type of future housing allowed in the Town Center zoning districts. I (and others) requested this discussion (although what is proposed differs from what I suggested). Also, staff would like to hire a consultant.

Read more about these items by clicking here. 

 Common Council

On Tuesday, September 12, starting at 7:30 p.m., the Common Council will hold its September monthly meeting. It looks like another long meeting. Highlights include:

Five Public Hearings. Mequon has a long and proud tradition of allowing the public to comment on all matters in open session before the Common Council and its boards, commissions and committees; however, public hearings are required by law for certain ordinances and provide a specific opportunity for the public to give input.

  • An ordinance amending the Planned Unit Development for the Lexington Square development at 11649 N. Port Washington Road. The applicant wants to put a fresh juice bar along the south elevation of the building.
  • An amendment to the City’s LTD zoning ordinance that would allow Snack and Nonalcoholic Beverage Bars.
  • A rezoning to allow a 13-unit residential Planned Unit Development on 21 acres at 2100 West Ranch Road.
  • An amendment to the Town Center zoning district to allow breweries. The amendment would have significant restrictions, but would accommodate the proposed Foxtown Brewery.
  • Rezoning and concept plan approval for a 32-unit (16 building) plex development on 10 acres of land at 12431 North Green Bay Road.

All of these items are scheduled for consideration and potential final action later in the meeting.

 Other Items. The Common Council will consider:

  1. A parking license agreement with WE Energies for the Logemann Center property.
  2. License agreements with WE Energies and the railroad to allow a pedestrian and bicycle crossing between the Spur 16 property (Mequon Town Center 2) and the Logemann Center property. The developer of Spur 16 will pay for the improvements.
  3. An ordinance allowing exemptions from the tree ordinance for utility and transmission projects provided the Common Council determines, on a case-by-case basis, that the exemption is appropriate and the project is for the public good.
  4. A discussion of the parking study and recommendations for the Logemann Center property, Mequon Town Center 1 and the Civic Campus.
  5. A discussion of the type of future housing allowed in the Town Center zoning districts as described above in the last substantive paragraph of the Planning Commission section.
  6. Engagement of a consultant to assist in establishing a capital asset management plan. The Common Council budgeted $25,000 for this purpose in the annual budget. The cost of the recommended consultant is $28,423. That level of deviation is not unusual, and there are other cost savings to cover the overage; however, as originally proposed by staff, the budgeted amount would provide a plan covering  buildings, roads and major equipment. Now, the $25,000 will only cover buildings, and the other components of the plan will possibly be addressed by future contracts.
  7. Replacement of sewer Lift Station B and sanitary force main replacement at 5020 West Parkview Drive. Staff is unsatisfied with the bids and recommends delaying this until spring.
  8. Installation of a lining for sewer pipes along Cedarburg Road from Donges Bay Road to a point north of Westfield Road.
  9. A closed session to consider the offer for the Logemann Center property. I intend to vote against going into closed session. Most or all of this discussion is appropriate for open discussion.

Read more about these items by clicking here.

City Committees

I am the aldermanic representative to the Planning Commission and Chair of Public Welfare Committee. All Common Council members serve on the Appropriates Committee, the Sewer Utility District Commission and the Water Utility Commission. In addition to my own committees, I will try to report on items of significance being considered by other committees.

Public Welfare Committee (Tuesday, September 12, at 5:30 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Public Welfare Committee will consider:

  1. Final committee modifications to the ordinances that govern the City’s boards, commissions and committees. The Pubic Welfare Committee began this process in July of 2016 and completed its initial review in March of 2017 (nine meetings). Then, the recommendations of the Public Welfare Committee were forwarded to each of the City’s boards, commissions and committees. Over a period of three months, those bodies reviewed the recommendations. The Public Welfare Committee reviewed and adopted changes based on those recommendations. This month, the Public Welfare Committee is reviewing the final language. The Common Council will consider these ordinances in October.
  2. A comprehensive rewrite of the City’s Communications Policy. Staff anticipates that this process will take six months. This month, the Public Welfare Committee is reviewing the sections regarding the City’s website and City-sponsored publications (the e-newsletter and surveys).

Finance–Personnel Committee (Tuesday, September 12, at 6:00 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Finance-Personnel Committee is undertaking a comprehensive review of the City’s financial policies. The review will take several months, and a couple of portions of the policy will be reviewed each month. This month, the Finance-Personnel Committee will review the policy’s provisions regarding debt and budget development.

Public Works Committee (Tuesday, September 12, at 6:45 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Public Works Committee will consider:

  • The WE Energies parking license agreement described above as Common Council Item #1.
  • The pedestrian and bicycle crossing license agreement described above as Common Council Item #2.
  • The consulting agreement described above as Common Council Item #6.

 

Architectural Board (Monday, September 11, at 6:30 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Architectural Board will consider six new homes and eight additions or other residential construction projects. One of the construction projects (not a new home) is a resubmittal from a prior meeting. Every aldermanic district has at least one applicant.

Board of Appeals (Wednesday, September 13, at 6:00 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Board of Appeals will rule on two requested variances:

  • To construct a first floor master bedroom addition at 600 East Juniper Lane. The homeowners, who have lived in the home for 33 years, want a barrier free and accessible home. The addition would be 17′ from the lot line. The existing home is 17′ from the lot line. The zoning code requires a 20′ setback. The neighbors do not object. Staff recommends denial.
  • To maintain an existing pool and fence at 8705 West Sunnyvale Road. The code requires the fence to be 4′ from the pool. The applicant built the pool and fence consistent with the written materials provided by staff which failed to specify the 4′ requirement. For approximately four lineal feet of the fence, the fence is between 3′ and 4′ from the pool. 

 

Of course, please provide comments to me or to any elected official regarding these matters or any other City-related issue.

M-T Historical Society

First Council That is a great picture from the current Mequon-Thiensville Historical Society newsletter. A well-dressed group!

I encourage all residents to join the Society. For $15 ($20 for a family), it is a steal. The newsletter alone is worth it, and these good people work hard to preserve our communities’ history. It is far more interesting than you might imagine.

You can find a membership form by clicking here.

Mark Your Calendar: Taste of Mequon, September 9, 2017

TOM1

The Mequon Festivals Committee brings us the 5th annual Taste of Mequon. The event will again be held in the street in front of City Hall and will run from noon until 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, 2017. There will be at least 12 food and beverage vendors, three bands, and seven artists/craftsmen.

The fabulous, hard-working committee includes Vanessa Nerbun, Chair; Suzanne Dorszynski; Kirsten Hildebrand; Bridget King; Allen McIlwraith; Linda Jarman; Lina Prosser; and Melissa Suring.

Music Performances By

Sawdust Symphony Noon – 2:30 p.m.
Danny Miller Band – 3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Lovin Kind – 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Featured Food & Beverage Vendors
the cheel
Falafel Guys
Jimmy the Popcorn Man
Joey Gerard’s
Leonardo’s Pizza Parlor
Mequon Chancery
The Ruby Tap
Shully’s Cuisine and Events
The Stilt House
Thiensville-Mequon Lions Club
Wok on the Street
Yellow Bellies

Artists/Craftsmen

C Squared Wood Products by Brendan & Cathy Curran
Catatonic Designs – Jewelry by Deborah Dunn
Chalkboard Kitchen by Therese Nelson
Flissart – Caricaturist – David Fliss
Hand Knitted Accessories by Lana Voskoboynik
Lauren Van Krey – Acrylic Paint
PopDesigns – Jewelry by Jane Kraemer

Other Participants

Jonathan Clark House Museum
Supercuts
The Feed Bag Pet Supply Co.
Wild Tree (Natural & Organic Spices)

Rice Paddies at the Mequon Nature Preserve?

Rice planting at the Mequon Nature Preserve? I was surprised when I read this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. After all, wasn’t the Mequon Nature Preserve (MNP) land supposed to be restored to pre-settlement ecosystems? Rice growing was not, to my limited knowledge, native to this area.

christine_nuernberg_smSo, I decided to ask my best resource about MNP, my friend and four-term former Mequon Mayor Christine Nuernberg.  Christine was the driving force behind MNP, and is still active as a member of the Board of Directors of Mequon Nature Preserve, Inc.

According to Christine:

Short answer:

MNP land is being restored with native species to re-establish the habitat that existed prior to European settlement beginning in the early 1800’s. Land not undergoing restoration at this time is leased to others (with DNR’s approval) for farming. Any income from leases goes to MNP to maintain out-buildings, carry out land restoration, and deliver educational programs. Marquette’s effort is permitted as a use by DNR and also falls under MNP’s mission statement that supports education and research. Rice cultivation, however, is not part of MNP’s land restoration program.

Long answer:

Over the next 150 years, what had been farm land at Mequon Nature Preserve will be transformed into a hardwood forest, a wetlands system, and prairies. Because of the significant cost to initiate and manage the restoration process, restoration will occur gradually over a number of years as resources become available. To date, about 237 acres are now undergoing restoration, which includes 72 acres where restoration was started this spring.

This spring’s work will transform a large field where corn and soybeans once grew to an open prairie. A contractor removed drain tile which has resulted in about five acres of open water in what will become a large wetland. The land was also seeded with a native prairie mix. MNP purchases native species of trees, shrubs and seed, which are more expensive than what you will purchase at most local nurseries. For instance, the native prairie seed came from a nursery near Madison known for its native mixes, and the seed cost $30,000. Over many more years, a hardwood forest will overtake the prairie.

Understanding the cost and significant effort it takes to start restoring a parcel of land, the Department of Nature Resources has permitted MNP to lease any land not undergoing restoration to farmers, and this year, that includes Fondy Market. An additional benefit of farming is that farmers are preventing the growth of invasive plant species. As funds become available, farming will cease at MNP, and restoration will take over any land now in agriculture.

MNP’s 2006 Master Plan lists restoring a beech-maple hardwood forest to maximize the species diversity of interior forest flora and fauna as a primary goal. A second goal is to establish a premier site for environmental research and education within the Milwaukee region. Marquette University’s effort to determine whether cold climate rice can be cultivated in this area is welcomed as a research effort. However, it is not part of MNP’s restoration program.

Makes sense.  Interesting.