News

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.

Mequon’s Licensed Child Care Facilities

Range Line Michael

This is another post that focuses on the services available in Mequon and Thiensville.  The following link provides a chart, based on the on-line records of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, of all licensed child care facilities in these two communities.

Licensed Child Care Facilities

As used in the chart, a “Traditional Daycare” provides year-round services for newborns through young teens or preteens, and includes daycare services, preschool education programs, summer programs and before and after school care.

Forgive me for putting in a plug for Range Line Preschool and Child Care.  There are many great centers in Mequon and Thiensville, but my sister Janet owns Range Line, and I played a small part in her deciding to open that daycare, so I am partial to that facility. I of course hope for success for all of the facilities.