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What Will Happen With the Logemann Property

The City is currently considering the future of the property that was formerly used by the Logemann Community Center. The property is between the developments known as Town Center I and Town Center II (Spur 16) and behind Opitz Cemetery. It is next to the Mequon Civic Campus.

I have been receiving many questions and comments. I am posting this to provide some answers.  It is hard to address everything in one post. I will add more as more questions arise and, of course, my opinion may change as I receive more information.

A Brief History of Logemann Center Discussions

The Logemann Center has been closed for over a year. The building is poorly laid out, is expensive to operate and has asbestos and other structural and environmental problems. It is in bad shape. In June of 2016, the Common Council decided that the building must come down.

Since then, the City has been looking at uses for this site. All discussions have all been in open session.

In July of 2016, the Common Council learned that it would cost over $100,000 just for demolition. Utilities would need to be moved, and asbestos would need to be removed. This cost would not include repaving or other improvements to make the site usable. Those costs would likely be, at a minimum, an additional $60,000 to $85,000.

Rather than incurring that cost, the Common Council decided to test the market by seeking proposals for use of the site. The thought was that a user might save the City the cost of the demolition and environmental abatement. Additionally, a user might be able to use some of the structure from the center.

In September of 2016, the City issued a request for proposals. Two proposals were received by the deadline in November.

One was from Foxtown Associates, a group of local businesspeople and developers. Foxtown proposed a redevelopment of the entire civic campus with improved public amenities. The pool and baseball diamond would be improved; there would be an outdoor public/library event space; and walking trails. Part of the Foxtown group owns the old brewery building on the south side of Mequon Road. Foxtown has not yet raised the funds necessary to make the civic campus improvements; however, the group says they have a commitment for $1 million. They estimate the cost of the improvements at $7 million, but have not provided any back-up for that estimate.

The other was from John Leszczynski, a Mequon resident and former alderman. Leszczynski proposed a small family restaurant and pub. His project would have a smaller footprint than the Logemann Center, and would have extensive balconies overlooking the baseball field. It also would have publicly accessible restrooms for users of the Interurban Trail, a dog watering station and ice cream stand. It would include an outdoor public event space. Leszczynski also proposes offering canoe rentals at a nearby park.

In November, the City’s Economic Development Board (a group of volunteers nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the Common Council) unanimously endorsed the Leszczynski proposal.

In January, the Common Council discussed this site in open session.

Then, on February 28, sitting as the Committee of the Whole, the Common Council held a special, open meeting. The public was invited, and many people spoke in favor of each of the proposals. Both Foxtown and Leszczynski gave extensive presentations.

The Committee of the Whole recommended that the City pursue both proposals. Because the Leszczynski proposal is more ready to proceed, the Committee stated that it should be given initial priority. However, the Committee also wants to proceed with the Foxtown proposal.

I offered an amendment to the Committee’s vote, requiring the City to engage an independent consultant to analyze parking for Town Center I, the Logemann parcel and Spur 16 (also called Town Center II) – the property directly west of the Logemann parcel. See the parking section below.

Can Both the Foxtown and Leszczynski Projects Occur?

The Common Council is not supporting one of the proposals to the detriment of the other. They are not mutually exclusive. Personally, I would like to see both occur. I have spoken to representatives of both groups, and neither believes that the other prevents their proposal from occurring.

Was the Logemann Center Planned for Commercial Development When the Town Center was Created?

No, but that is not a fair question. When the Town Center was proposed 10-14 years ago, the City anticipated that Logemann would remain a community center. The City did not anticipate its demise. There was very little analysis of its use. So, while it was not planned for commercial development, it also was not planned for park use or anything else. Had it been closed at the time; it would have made sense to include it within the commercial area. A walkable commercial area has contiguous properties, not individual, isolated strips.

What About Parking?

As I note above, the current direction to move forward with both proposals is conditioned on a full parking study being done. I will not vote for any proposal unless we have a plan for adequate parking in the area. No proposal should exacerbate parking issues.

Won’t the Leszczynski proposal add parking users? Most certainly. However, Leszczynski also proposes to add a significant number of parking spots. Will that be enough? There is a significant difference of opinion. That is why an independent study needs to occur.

Foxtown’s proposal does not address parking. Obviously, if there is greatly expanded use of the civic campus, parking needs will be greater. The parking study is necessary for that proposal also.

In 2005, a parking study of the entire Town Center area (both Mequon and Thiensville) was commissioned. You can see a copy by clicking here. Unfortunately, the City has followed only some of its recommendations. It ignored some of the other, important suggestions. Regardless of what occurs with Logemann, we need to revisit that study and its recommendations. Presumably, the new parking study will do that.

There are several things the City can do to improve parking, including adding more on-street parking, adding one-way parking along the Interurban Trail, ensuring parking flow between adjacent sites, expanding parking at the library and on Division Street, improving pedestrian connections between parking places, striping existing on-street parking, requiring off-site parking for public and private employees and so forth. We also need to reexamine the parking requirements of the Code, and the way staff administers them. I expect the consultants will have more ideas.

Parking is a real issue. It needs to be addressed. City staff has proposed little to deal with the issue, and has perhaps miscalculated existing parking needs. The study is necessary.

If the study concludes that these proposals are a mistake, I will not be voting for them.

What About a Parking Garage?

Theoretically, this is a nice idea. However, parking garages are incredibly expensive. For example, a 40-car garage is estimated to cost $800,000 to $1 million (or more). It would result in a net gain of perhaps 20 spaces (it would have to be built over existing parking). 20 spaces might lessen the occasional summer problems in Town Center I, but at whose cost? Should taxpayers subsidize that development, particularly when it sold for a multi-million profit a few months ago? The owner of that development obviously does not see a big problem or it would not have paid a premium for that project. If such a facility is necessary, the property benefitted by it should pay for it.

Why Civic Campus Improvements?

To be blunt, our civic campus is tired. A vibrant civic campus gives families a place to go, and makes a community more vibrant.

The civic campus improvements proposed by Foxtown should be just a beginning. Mequon and Thiensville have started a riverwalk and riverside community improvements. Those improvements, along with the civic campus improvements, came to a stop with the recent recession. They are still part of the vision for this area. The Foxtown proposal should help revive that vision.

Why Not Just Use the Logemann Center Property for More Civic Campus Improvements?

If there is not a good parking solution, that might have to happen. However, ultimately, the small commercial area along Mequon Road is necessary to pay for the improvements and to help create a neighborhood. Neighborhood shopping, restaurants, some limited residential and a vibrant civic campus all go hand in hand. Residential creates use and attracts the retail and restaurants; shops and restaurant create opportunity, tax base and a sense of place; and the civic campus will make the residential and the shops desirable.

The Logemann Center property and the cemetery were always interruptions in the Town Center. A good small town downtown does not have big gaps between neighborhood businesses. Instead, it offers side by side shops between which people can easily walk. Developments surrounded by asphalt expanses do not make for a downtown. They make for a bad strip center feel.

If the Logemann Center development is done right (walking paths, community areas and so forth), it will create a bridge between Town Center I and Spur 16 (Town Center II).

So, is it all About the Money?

In part, yes, in part no. Tax base is important to pay for improvements and operations. The residents of Mequon have repeatedly said, in surveys and elections, that one of the reasons they live here is the affordable taxes. The small Town Center development area will provide tax revenue to pay for civic campus improvements and operations.

However, the business development also provides services for the west side of Mequon. It creates a place and a reason to go to the area. It serves the people of the west side of Mequon.

Don’t We Have Enough Restaurants?

Every survey done by the City over the past 20 years has called for more restaurants. In the Vision 2010 study, 8018 residents were surveyed, as well as 773 businesses. Over 65% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that Mequon needed more family and fine dining restaurants. Since that survey was done, Mequon has had some great new restaurants open, but we have about the same number of restaurants now as then. The Town Center (a very small area from Cedarburg Road to Buntrock Avenue) was created to encourage these types of amenities for the residents of the west side of Mequon.

Won’t Another Restaurant Harm Existing Restaurants?

Although that seems intuitive, it is not how it works. Most successful restaurants are near other restaurants. Look at Kinnikinnic Avenue, the Third Ward and Water Street. Restauranteurs complained when more restaurants were built in those areas, and then they thrived. We do not need, and probably cannot support or want, an area as full of restaurants as the Mayfair Collection. The Town Center is a small area, and we do not want that kind of population. But a couple of more restaurants, provided they are well-run, should be successful.

Won’t the Town Center Ruin Mequon? Are We Creating the “new Bluemound Road?”

That is an odd comment. Mequon is 48 square miles, yet the Town Center on Mequon Road is about one-third of a mile. The retail on Bluemound Road is densely packed over eight miles. The Town Center will be, if done correctly, a pedestrian and bike friendly, small retail and restaurant area with public areas and gathering places. It is a tiny downtown in a very large Mequon. Bluemound Road has vast expanses of parking stretching out from businesses set back from the road. The Town Center will be a small but vibrant area which, like the downtowns in most small towns, has parking behind buildings and services for the community.

The balance of the Town Center will be a civic campus and river park with amenities for the community.

The Town Center is an exception – a small, unique neighborhood. The greater Mequon community should remain a community of residential neighborhoods and green space. However, the City is big enough to offer those residential neighborhoods, the green space, a Town Center, a couple of limited industrial areas, and a commercial area (Port Washington Road). All of them should be well done, and should complement each other.

Conclusion

The future of the Logemann property is not etched in stone Each proposal requires many more meetings. The Leszczynski proposal requires a contract, rezoning, easements, architectural and site plan review and so forth. The Foxtown proposal requires much of the same. Both will be reviewed considering the parking study. That study might end one or both of these proposals.

We have received a lot of feedback from the public. That is great! We are listening. However, we are receiving feedbacks from people who support one of the proposals, from people who support the other, from people who support both, and from people who oppose both. I expect that there will be no public “consensus.”

Ultimately, what happens to this site will depend on how it fits into the Town Center neighborhood and Town Center plans, and what is good for the City as a whole, including those people who do not express their opinions. Those of us on the Council are no smarter than everyone else (arguably, we are not as smart), but we are taking the time to look at the details of these issues. The Council, with the help of the public, will come to the best decision we can for the future of Mequon.

Pam Adams – The Passing of a Friend

pam-adams

Pam Adams passed away last night after a long and courageous battle with cancer.  Born  Pamela Fuhry, Pam grew up in Mequon in a home overlooking Lake Michigan.  She was a graduate of Homestead High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pam was the mother of three sons.  She was so proud of her boys, all of whose names began with G (Greg, Garett and Garrison), that her personal email address was “3gforce@***.com.” She was preceded in death by her son Garrison.  Garrison’s Glen Park is named after him.

Pam was funny, and fun-loving. She loved to go out for beer and peanuts after meetings.  She loved city parades, and city festivals. She loved going to the lake, and to meet for dinner, and to have hot tub parties, and to have a few adult beverages. She was in love with her companion Michael Spooner.

Pam was proud to serve Mequon.

Elected in the 1990s, Pam was, I believe, the second longest-serving member in the history of Mequon’s Common Council. She survived several election challenges because she knew her district, worked hard as an alderman and out-campaigned her opponents. She was fiercely protective of her district. She recognized that change was inevitable, but strived to retain what she saw as the character of Mequon. She was one of the founders of the Mequon Community Foundation, and she served on the Mequon Tree Board since its inception. She was generally fiscally conservative, and cautious (to put it delicately) when it came to new development. Pam always wanted to know what “the neighbors” thought and, more often than not, deferred to them.

Despite the ravages of her cancer over the past several years, Pam made almost all of her city meetings, and was prepared and engaged. She was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes, you could tell it was difficult for her. She had known for a couple of years that her cancer was not going away, but she flew all over the country to get whatever treatments she could.  She had multiple surgeries, and bouts of chemo, and other treatments. She was a cancer warrior.

Pam and I agreed sometimes, and disagreed at others.  Occasionally, we directed our comments at each other. That is not exactly how it is supposed to be done, but it was more out of respect than anything else.

Despite our disagreements, Pam was my friend. I will miss her. Her family and friends will miss her.  And Mequon will miss her.

Rest in peace, Pam. You made a real difference.

 

Future of the Logemann Center Property

Last night, the Mequon Common Council held a special meeting to consider the future of the Logemann Center property. There are two proposals for the site. The Economic Development Board endorsed one of the proposals – a sports bar and restaurant proposed by former Alderman John Leszczynski. A group of local businesspeople (Foxtown Ventures) have proposed a public use, amenity-filled park that would be paid for with private donations to be raised over time.

Primarily based on ongoing concerns over parking in the area, including concerns raised by city staff, the Council spent a lot of time discussing the proposals. A significant number of members of the public provided comments.  

The Council asked that staff try to proceed to make both proposals happen.   You can see the Leszczynski proposal by clicking here and the Foxtown Ventures proposal by clicking here.

Government Needs to Know Its Place

Perhaps the biggest temptation for government on any level is to butt in where it does not belong. This habit is pervasive.The federal government usurps states’ responsibilities. The state imposes obligations on local governments and school districts. Local governments involve themselves in things that have nothing to do with their missions.

Why?  Sometimes it is because government officials do not like how another level of government is handling something. So, they take on the issue. Other times, it is because of the voters. Elected officials receive pressure from voters to do something about voters’ problems, concerns and interests. Voters are happy when their elected officials care enough to do something (even though voters then think that government, cumulatively, is too big). Often, government officials respond because they want to be important and relevant. The more a government entity expands its sphere of responsibilities, the more important and relevant it becomes.

As a result, we now have every level of government involved in education, environmental protection. local transportation, law enforcement and just about everything else.  It is wasteful, inefficient and contradictory, and government just keeps getting bigger.  Yet, so do society’s problems.

Why am I raising this point now?

On Tuesday, the Regional Coordinator of the NOAA Office of the National Marine Sanctuaries (that’s a mouthful of bureaucracy) made a presentation to the Mequon Common Council regarding a proposed Wisconsin-Lake Michigan Marine Sanctuary.  The NOAA wants to “conserve nationally-significant shipwrecks and related maritime heritage resources.”

The Mequon City Administrator followed the presentation by stating that the Common Council would be taking up a resolution supporting this preservation effort.

This sanctuary is interesting. Sounds like a good idea.

The resolution would be rather benign. But what in the world does this issue have to do with the government of the City of Mequon?  The sanctuary is not within the Mequon city limits. It does not affect our shoreline. It has nothing to do with local law enforcement or keeping the peace within Mequon. It has nothing to do with local services provided by the city. Mequon does not even have a marina.

Yes, there are Mequon residents who are interested in the marine sanctuary.  I am one of them. I have a boat on Lake Michigan. I am interested in all things having to do with the lake. But is that enough for this level of government to go outside of its own mission?

If the City takes a position on this, why wouldn’t it take a position on other, meatier issues?  Global warming?  Protection of the rights of the unborn, or protection of reproductive rights? The war against ISIS? Common cause?  The wall along the Mexican border? Why wouldn’t the City interject itself in the operations of our school district?

Do we really want our local government involved  in all political issues?  Do we want local government to be partisan?

Mequon has steadfastly avoided taking an official position on issues that have no direct bearing on city responsibilities. We should not open this Pandora’s box.

If and when the Common Council is asked to support the Lake Michigan sanctuary, I will try to table the effort, not because I oppose the policy (I do not), but because it has nothing to do with the City’s mission. I hope my colleagues on the Common Council agree.

Mequon Update: February 13, 2017

Planning Commission

This evening, Monday, February 13, starting at 7:00 p.m., the Planning Commission will hold a meeting.  Highlights include:

Public Hearings:

The Planning Commission will hold two public hearings.  A public hearing is a portion of  a meeting  at which all people interested in a matter can express their support for or opposition to the application. Public hearings are formal public comment sessions required by state law for certain matters. Following the public hearing, the Planning Commission will take-up these proposals.  Public meetings will be held for the following:

  1. Outpost Foods, at 7590 West Mequon Road, requests approval for deliveries on Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Currently, it is only allowed to have deliveries from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.  It wants a two hour extension.  Additionally, it requests approval to be allowed one delivery on Sunday, by a box truck or van it owns, sometime between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
  2. Riteway Bus, LLC, the bus company that transports the school district’s children, seeks a conditional use grant to operate at 6926 West Donges Bay Road.  The company’s prior site is being sold to be incorporated in a project involving the old brewery building on Mequon Road.

Other Approvals Sought:

  1. A 5,000 square foot crossfit health club at 10520 North Baehr Road.
  2. A non-conforming addition at 10062 North Wauwatosa Road.
  3. The reconfiguration of two lots at 12447 and 12543 North Farmdale Road.
  4. A new sign for the Dairy Queen in the Pavilion.

More information regarding the Planning Commission meeting and these items can be found by clicking here.

Common Council

On Tuesday, February 14, starting at 7:30 p.m., the Common Council will hold its February monthly meeting.  Highlights include:

  1. Amendments to certain deadlines and other technical provisions of the contract to sell the property located at  6200 and 6300 West Mequon Road and 11300 and 11350 North Buntrock Avenue (wrapping around the Public Safety Building).  The project is known as Mequon Town Center II or the Shaffer Project.
  2. The development agreement for Mequon Town Center II
  3. A request by We Energies for a waiver for certain amounts payable in connection with specimen trees being removed in connection with the pipeline being installed along Donges Bay Road and Swan Road.
  4. A contract to create a new website for the City.
  5. A new contract with the police union.
  6. Allocation of certain road construction dollars.

More information regarding the common council meeting can be found by clicking here.

City Committees

I currently serve on the City’s Finance-Personnel Committee and its Public Welfare Committee. I also am an alternate aldermanic representative to the Economic Development Board. All Common Council members serve on the Appropriates Committee, the Sewer Utility District Commission and the Water Utility Commission.

Public Welfare Committee (Tuesday, February 14, at 5:00 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Public Welfare Committee will continue to review City committees.  The Committee is trying to ensure that we have consistent ordinances for the organization and operation of committees, and is looking at whether some committees have outlived their usefulness.

Finance–Personnel Committee (Tuesday, February 14, at 6:45 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Finance-Personnel Committee will consider all of the above-described Common Council items except #3.

Public Works Committee (Tuesday, February 14, at 7:00 p.m.). Click here to learn more. The Public Works Committee will consider item #3 described above under Common Council.

Architectural Board (Monday, February 13, at 6:30 p.m.).  Click here to learn more. The Architectural Board will consider seven new homes and six additions or other residential construction projects  Three of these items are being resubmitted because they were not previously approved.  Applicants are in aldermanic districts 3 through 8.

Park Board (Wednesday, February 15, at 6:30 p.m.).  Click here to learn more. In addition to reports about what is happening in the City’s parks, the Park Board will consider a donation from TMYBA for an outfield fence for a baseball diamond at River Barn Park.  TMYBA would sell advertising banners for such fence.

Milwaukee River Advisory Committee (Thursday, February 16, at 6:00 p.m.).  Click here to learn more. The Board will discuss:

  1. Reviving the spring or fall river clean-up.
  2. Attending the  next Public Safety Committee meeting.

Of course, please provide comments to me or to any elected official.

Aldermanic Candidates Set

The candidates for the Common Council are set. They are:

  •  In District 2, incumbent Alderman Connie Pukaite will not be seeking reelection. Glenn Bushee will be running unopposed.
  • In District 3, incumbent Alderman Dale Mayr will be running unopposed.
  • In District 5, incumbent Alderman Mark Gierl will be running for reelection. Abby Thompson will be challenging.
So, we will have at least one new alderman, and possibly two. I do not know Mr. Bushee or Ms. Thompson but, if my on-line research is correct, both are IT professionals.

District 2

If I have the right Glenn Bushee, he lives at 3504 West Glenbrook Lane and is a Medical Infomatics Senior Analyst at the Medical College of Wisconsin.  Mr. Busbee is a graduate of UWM and has Masters degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mr. Bushee’s profile can be seen at https://www.linkedin.com/in/glenn-bushee-970a137.

I look forward to working with Mr. Bushee.  Although it would be better if there was some competition when a vacancy occurs on the Council, I thank Mr. Bushee for stepping forward to serve our community.

District 3
Dale Mayr, who was first elected in 1999, lives at 11310 North Vega Avenue and is the General Manager of Newman Chevrolet.  Mr. Mayr is a veteran.  He has served a couple of terms as the President of the Mequon Common Council.  Mr. Mayr’s profile can be seen at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dale-mayr-072bb93b.

District 3 has had a number of contested elections over the years.  Although it is always better to have seats contested, voters know Mr. Mayr, having elected him six times previously.  I expect that he does not have an opponent because district residents are generally pleased with his representation.

District 4

Mark Gierl, who was first elected in 2014, lives at 14108 North Birchwood Lane and is a Financial Advisor at Gierl, Mancini & Becht Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors.  Mr. Gierl has an MBA.  Mr. Gierl’s profile can be seen at https://home.wellsfargoadvisors.com/mark.t.gierl.

If I have the right Abby Thompson, she lives at 2106 West Saddlebrook Lane and is an Account Executive at Gartner, a publicly traded global technology research company.  Ms. Thompson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ms. Thompson’s profile can be seen at https://www.linkedin.com/in/abby-thompson-bresser-1536051.

This is Mr. Gierl’s first time seeking reelection.  It is common in Mequon for aldermen to face a challenger at the end of their first term.  I hope that we see a spirited debate – democracy works better when there is – but I also hope we do not see a repeat of some of Mequon’s recent divisive campaigns.

If you know the new candidates, please let us know more about them.

Feel free to post comments about any of the candidates, but please keep the comments civil.  I will delete any comments that lack civility.

MEQUON’S BIKE LANE COMPROMISE: AN EXAMPLE OF RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT

The far ends of the political spectrum too often are unyielding and unrealistic. They rarely get what they want and, as a result, generally live in a state of disappointment.

Those of us who do not live on the extremes usually do not get precisely what we want but, at times, reasoned compromise gets us some of what we want, and we realize that is often the best we can expect. Reasoned compromise also allows us to keep government costs, and taxes, in check.

Mequon recently debated bike lanes along Donges Bay Road between Wauwatosa and Cedarburg Roads. Some people thought the lanes were an imperative. They said that any compromise was short-sighted and risked public safety. Others thought the lanes were a total waste of money. Of course, in this polarized era, that is how issues are spun.

Neither absolutist position prevailed.

The Common Council decided to build the lanes. The lanes will be five feet wide – the recommended width – for the entire 2-1/2 mile area discussed. However, to save cost, the lanes will not be flared at intersections. That compromise saved $50,000, and reduced the cost of the new bike lanes by over 70%. Mequon will get these safer lanes for around $20,000.

The lanes as approved are acceptable under the standards of the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Is it the “best” design? That is the wrong question. In fact, even with flared shoulders, the lanes would not be the “best” design. The best paths are detached, or have a median between them and the road, but they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If the city decided to have the best of everything, we could expect to double or triple our taxes, and that would not be the “best.”

However, the design as amended improves safety.

The issue first came to the Council in November. It was clear that, if there had been a vote in November, there would have been no lanes. At least five aldermen (a majority) would have voted against the resolution.

Still, two aldermen who wanted these lanes pushed for a vote in November. They made their point, but if they had prevailed on having a vote in November, the request for lanes would have failed in its entirety.

Why would this have failed in November? The majority of the Council was concerned about adding new costs. The Council had just passed a difficult budget. The budget included a variety of cuts; however, for the first time in many, many years, there was a slight tax increase. The Council did not provide for bike lanes (or other similar expenditures) in the budget. Instead, it provided for safety services and the repairs and maintenance of existing city assets. The month after the Council passed this difficult budget, city staff brought this unbudgeted expenditure before the Council. The timing was wrong, and the proposal flew in the face of the budget debates.

Instead of voting in November, I convinced the Council to table the matter until December. I wanted citizen input and more information. I also wanted to see if there were other alternatives.

By the time of the December meeting, I had sent out two email blasts, and heard from a number of people. A majority of the people who responded wanted lanes, but there were certainly many opponents. Unfortuantely, the vast majority of people who read my emails did not respond. I also learned that there are alternatives. I proposed the alternative without flared intersections. City staff acknowledged it was an acceptable alternative.

Instead of defeating the proposal, the majority of the Council voted for it, as modified.

The Council saved $50,000 from the original proposal. For a city, $50,000 might not seem (to some people) like a lot of money. It is only about $2 per Mequon resident, or $4.60 per household. However, this is not an isolated incident. When government fails to closely monitor and value-engineer spending, the over-expenditures add up. Ignoring details and smaller expenditures are big contributors to government, on all levels, taxing and spending too much.

By saving $50,000, Mequon can put a two-inch asphalt overlay on a half mile of failing roads, or replace failing equipment in City Hall, or pay for a police officer for a half of a year.

On the other hand, infrastructure and safety services are among the primary functions of city government. Reasonable improvements like this are a public good within its responsibilities, not an example of government over-reach.

Donges Bay Road Bike Shoulders

I sent the following update on November 25, 2016.  I am looking for input.

Friends and Neighbors:

Generally, I use these emails to notify you of the topics being considered at city meetings.  As a result of those emails, I receive a lot of helpful comments.
However, from time to time, I have written and will write to ask for specific input.  This is one of those instances.

Mequon has a variety of bike paths.  The Interurban Trail is one of our finest recreational facilities.  My wife and I have used it to ride as far as the City of Port Washington.  Similarly, the Donges Bay Road path from Wauwatosa Road to Lemke Park is heavily used by neighborhood bicyclists and walkers.  Detached paths like those provide safe alternatives to roadways.

Besides those kinds of detached paths, Mequon has spent money over the years adding five foot paved shoulders along a variety of roads.   Highland Road is a good example.  By adding those shoulders, roads become significantly wider.  The cost is significant.  However, in some instances, the cost has been defrayed by state road money.

The city will be repaving Donges Bay Road from Cedarburg Road to Wauwatosa Road.  The repaving will in all likelihood occur in 2017. The city needs to decide now if it will widen the road to add these shoulders. Because that stretch of road is already wider in that area than it is west of Wauwatosa Road, the cost will not be quite as much as it might otherwise be.  City staff estimates that the cost will be approximately $73,000.

How important is this to you?  Please let me know.  In your response, please let me know where you live.

Let me run through some of the arguments for and against spending this money and doing these wider shoulders.

AGAINST

  • Spending this additional money will reduce the amount of road repairs and repaving the city can do in 2017 by $73,000.  Good roads are more important to Mequon’s quality of life than wider road shoulders.
  • Presumably, if the city does this stretch of road, it will make similar expenditures for similar roads in the future, adding to overall city costs.
  • Doing this path and similar paths will either delay reconstruction of residential roads or cause the city to increase road funding.
  • Personally, I do not feel imperiled riding my bike along that stretch of road.  However, I have heard from others who feel differently.
  • While detached paths like the paths mentioned above are very safe for kids, I question whether wider shoulders like this are ever particularly safe for kids.  Some parents still would not let their kids road this route.
  • Wider roads invariably lead to people driving faster.
  • Wider roads create a more urban feel.
  • This stretch already has 2-1/2 foot shoulders.  Some people believe that more conspicuous striping of the existing shoulders would make this adequate.
  • Mequon Road already has sidewalks that can be used by bikes to get to the Interurban Trail.
  • Only a very small percentage of Mequon residents will use this kind of path.  The money could be better used to do other things (maintain the city’s roads and capital investments, maintain existing services, etc.).
  • This is not a one-time expenditure.  Wider roads mean more maintenance and plowing costs and will add to the future cost of repaving.  This one small stretch is not a big addition, but these kinds of projects have cumulative effects.

FOR

  • This project will complete the connection from the western detached paths to the Interurban Trail.
  • These shoulders will create a new way to get to the Mequon Nature Preserve.
  • Doing this now is much less expensive than trying to do it once the road has been repaved.
  • These shoulder paths will be heavily used by the residents of the new subdivisions between Wauwatosa Road and Swan Road (I do not totally understand how they will get to it).
  • These paths will be used by workers in the business park to get to and from work.
  • It is important to keep adding riding shoulders like this throughout Mequon to create a grid throughout the city.
  • These shoulder paths will provide additional ways to get to the Town Center.

Again, I would appreciate your input.  Please identify where you live when responding.

John Wirth

Mequon Common Council, District 4

9531 West Donges Bay Road

Mequon, Wisconsin 53097

262-242-7462

jwirth@ci.mequon.wi.us

www.Wirth4Mequon.com

And We Don’t Want to be River Hills

A couple of people have sent this article to Mequon aldermen, congratulating us for making the newspaper. They highlighted a quote from River Hills resident, PR executive and Buffalo Water Beer Company owner Craig Peterson.

Mr. Peterson said “We don’t want to be Mequon.”

Perhaps Mr. Peterson was being cute. I know the Mequon residents who sent the article thought they were being clever. They were pointing out that they do not like apartments (more on that below).

But Mr. Peterson is right. River Hills residents do not want to be Mequon. They shouldn’t. River Hills has its own distinct character. It is a commuter, bedroom village with big homes mostly on five acre lots. It is a nice place, if you like that sort of thing. The village board should keep it that way.

On the other hand, perhaps to Mr. Peterson’s surprise, most of us in Mequon do not want to be River Hills.

Ours is a vibrant community with excellent neighborhoods. That’s right, we have neighborhoods. We don’t only have a patchwork of individual homes (but we have those also for people who want them). We have kids. We have schools and churches. We have great restaurants, nice shops and a theater. We have parks and a pool and nature preserves and farmland and some bicycle lanes. We have community events. And, although (like River Hills) we have a lot of expensive homes, we also have a variety of housing types. We have places to live when we are younger, and places to live when we no longer want a big home.

And we have lower taxes – about $10 per thousand, or 40%, less than River Hills. So, a $500,000 home in Mequon pays about $5,000 less per year in taxes. We like that too.

The article argues that Mequon has traffic. Yes, we have a lot of traffic on Mequon Road and Port Washington Road. However, the last time I checked, River Hills has Brown Deer Road and Good Hope Road, and those two roads also have some traffic. The difference is Mequon residents shop, go to restaurants and work on Mequon’s busy roads. Some even live on those roads. River Hills’ main roads just pass through it. Most of its traffic is not even its own. Yet, everyone in River Hills lives within a mile of its busy roads. Much of Mequon is miles away from Mequon and Port Washington Roads.

I am not arguing that Mequon is better. I am simply arguing that is better for those of us who live in Mequon. I expect River Hills is better for those folks who live there (just as Greenfield, Whitefish Bay, Brown Deer and most other communities are better for their residents). Some people like chocolate ice cream, and some like vanilla.

If I was on the River Hills village board, I would not support the new apartment project. It is not what River Hills is about. However, here in Mequon, we have allowed a limited number of apartments in a limited number of places. They are consistent with Mequon. They are high-end, quality apartments. The most recent development rents its units for $2,000 to $4,000 per month. Most of us do not want Mequon to become a community of apartments. As a percentage, we have appreciably less than most every neighboring community other than River Hills. It will stay that way. And all of the new apartments are in a very small geographic area.

Most people in River Hills do not want to be like Mequon. We understand that. However, most people in Mequon do not want to be like River Hills.

Budget 2016-Keeping Taxes Low

financial-houseOn Tuesday, September 20, starting at 6:00 p.m., the City’s Appropriations Committee will meet.

The Appropriations Committee is really nothing more than the Common Council sitting to discuss the annual budget. However, when sitting at the Appropriations Committee, there typically are less structure and fewer rules.

Perhaps the most important thing the Council does each year is pass the City’s budget. This week is the second meeting in that process, and is the first time the Council begins to see what City staff is suggesting. The Council has asked staff to come back to the Council with a no-tax-increase proposal. For more information, click here.

Keeping taxes low is important. It is one of the reasons people move to Mequon. Government at all levels spends money and raises tax too easily.

In my prior terms on the Council, I was one of the more outspoken aldermen advocating for controlling expenses and keeping taxes from increasing. I authored a policy that the City lived under for a number of years that kept the total dollars levied constant except for growth. I voted against tax increases. I made creative proposals for cutting costs. I think these were sound policies.

However, keeping the tax rate constant becomes more difficult each year. Costs increase regardless of how frugal the City is. Although city revenues increase even without an increase in the tax rate (development growth, fees, and so forth), those revenue increases typically do not keep up with inflation or natural price increases.

For at least the last 15 years, the City has found ways to do more with relatively constant revenues despite cost increases.

Please remember that the City receives only about 20.7% of your real estate taxes (23.8% if you do not have public sewer). If your real estate taxes have increased, it is either because the value of your home has increased faster than other Mequon homes or because other taxing authorities (the other 80.3% of your bill) have increased the amount they take from you.

Significant efficiencies have been found. That has been a focus. Moreover, some new revenues were generated. Total budgeted revenues (including taxes) increased by a total of 7% over those 15 years, or a little less than 1/2% per year. However, the inflation rate increased by about 2% per year over that period, and many costs, like health insurance (even though employees pay a much larger share) and the costs of roads, have increased far in excess of the inflation rate.

Sooner or later, flat revenues will not work. Costs increase. Either revenues will need to increase, or real programs and services will need to be cut or eliminated and maintenance will need to be deferred irrationally.

I recognize that all government entities say the same thing. However, federal and state government have the benefit of the income tax, which naturally generates additional dollars as incomes rise. The City relies primarily on real estate taxes. The only way city revenues increase is through increased rates or accelerated growth.

I am not suggesting the rate will go up this year. It might not, but I do not know. However, I believe that the City must maintain its excellent police, fire and ambulance services, must keep roads in decent repair, and must maintain its buildings and other capital assets reasonably well. I also do not think most City residents want to eliminate the relatively small amount of money the City spends on things like parks and the pool. Most of the rest of the City’s costs are mandated by state law, so we cannot eliminate those. There may be room for some more savings, but ultimately revenues need to increase. The city has made some long term investments to increase tax revenues through new development, but that will not be enough.

I will continue to be an advocate for low taxes and frugal spending. However, I also want to be certain the City provides good services, maintains its properties, and is fair to the people who provide services.

These are difficult issues. Your input is certainly welcome.

THIS ARTICLE WAS EDITED TO ELIMINATE AN ERROR IN THE ACTUAL REAL ESTATE DOLLARS COLLECTED  IN 2015. THE CHANGE DID NOT AFFECT THE ARGUMENT IN THE ARTICLE.

 

Questions & Answers Regarding Indoor Gun Range

Gun Range

I have received, by phone and email, many questions regarding the common council’s review of the indoor gun range proposal for Granville Road.  I summarize many of those questions, and provide answers, on this document.

If you would like to see the materials that the planning commission considered, you can do so here.

Please send me an email if you have other questions or if you would like to provide your opinion regarding the gun range.  I will provide all such emails to the common council.

Indoor Shooting Range: Your Input is Requested

The Mequon planning commission approved an indoor shooting range tonight for the property at 9653 North Granville Road (the Dhaliwal building).  The approval was a “conditional use grant,” meaning that the owner can operate the business under a set of conditions established by ordinance and the planning commission.  The planning commission can also later revoke the approval if the business owner does not satisfy those conditions, or if circumstances in the immediate area dictate that the approval is no longer appropriate.

The facility consists of eight indoor shooting lanes, some classroom space and some offices.  You can read about it by clicking clicking here.

I am not on the planning commission and did not have a vote tonight.  However, I do have the ability to request that the common council review the planning commission decision.  I have to make the request within 14 days.  The common council cannot review the decision unless at least one other alderman also makes the request.

In 2015, before I was on the council, the council debated a similar application for a location on Port Washington Road.  That application would have required a rezoning.  The council denied the rezoning request.  The argument was that Port Washington Road was a bad location because of the number of people there.  In my opinion, that is backward.  The more people in an area, the greater the natural surveillance – more people would be around to keep an eye on what is happening.

Then, in November (again before I was elected), the council changed the zoning code for areas zoned B-5 and B-6 to allow this kind of use as a conditional use (meaning it needed specific planning commission approval).  The city has very limited B-5 and B-6 land.  The ordinance largely limits such a facility to this site or the business park.  Our former alderman, John Leszczynski, voted against the change that allowed this in these zoning districts.

I have mixed feelings about this proposal.  I am not opposed to guns, I am a hunter, and I believe the owners will be responsible.  Indoor ranges in other communities have proven to be safe and do not make noise or emit odors.

On the other hand, I would prefer to see such a facility in a place that is better patrolled with better natural surveillance.  I also do not think it should be next door to a residence.  It is quite a distance from Huntington Park (about one-half mile), but there are no natural barriers.  Moreover, I wonder if it is an attractive nuisance considering the crime statistics for the areas just south of the facility.

I would feel better about this approval if I thought it was the result of good planning rather than an attempt by people in the rest of Mequon to stick it in our neighborhood.

I would appreciate input from people in the area.  I have never made land use decisions based primarily on popular sentiment.  Decisions should be made based on sound planning with respect for property rights.  Ignoring sound policy and property rights for NIMBY arguments is a bad way to govern.  However, in this instance, I would appreciate input.  There are good arguments to be made for either position.

Of course, I run a risk in making this request.  With certainty, I will disappoint some of the people who write.  However, I could use as much information as I can get, and I only have 14 days to decide whether to ask the council to review this decision.

Please mail me at jwirth@ci.mequon.wi.us.

Anonymous Letters

Tonight I received a rather angry and condescending letter. It was anonymous.

People have the right to express themselves however they want, and certainly people have the right to criticize me.  It comes with the territory.  I received a few of these in the past.

If, however, the writer believes he/she made some sort of impression, he/she missed the mark.  I am not losing any sleep over it.  How can I when it is anonymous? It is hard to take any correspondence seriously when there is no name on it.

By all means, let me know what you think. Communication is important and, even if we disagree, I will listen and consider what you say – if you put your name on it.  I will call or write to you – if you put your name on it.  If I was wrong, I will apologize and change the way I act – if you put your name on it.

What the City of Mequon is Doing this Week

I have not yet taken office (that will occur on Tuesday, April 19), so I will not be voting on the matters described below, but I said that I would provide more communication, and there is no better time to start than now.

Here is what the City is doing this week:

Planning Commission

This evening at 7:00 p.m., the Mequon Planning Commission holds its April meeting. Highlights include applications for:

  1. Two room additions to each of the following schools: Donges Bay Elementary School, Oriole Lane Elementary School and Wilson Elementary School
  2. A 35,239 square foot memory care center (Artis Senior Living) for 72 residents on the parcel immediately north of the Mequon Fire Department on Port Washington Road.
  3. Additional signage and artwork on the new Café Hollander building in the Town Center.
  4. Technical approvals (fill, sewer and so forth) for the next phase of The Enclave at Mequon Preserve, the new subdivision south of Brighton Ridge and Knightsbridge Estates. This application does not change the zoning or lot sizes of the already approved subdivision.
  5. A nine home, single family condominium development on 10+ acres of land south of 11104 Oriole Lane. This item is not scheduled to be considered by the Common Council until May at the earliest.
  6. Removal of 2.5 acres from the Sarah Chudnow Campus. This item is not scheduled to be considered by the Common Council until May at the earliest.
  7. A produce stand on Farmdale Road.

There are also a couple of other less interesting applications on the agenda.

More information about all of these applications can be found by clicking here.

Common Council

On Tuesday evening, the Common Council will hold its April monthly meeting. Highlights include:

  1. Item 4 above.
  2. A request by Kohler Credit Union to change its zoning to allow for more diverse tenant uses in the building. Both planning staff and the Planning Commission (unanimously) recommended against the rezoning requested.
  3. An ordinance to make Mequon’s ordinances regarding hunting with a bow and arrow or crossbow consistent with state law.
  4. Approval of crack sealing in certain areas of the city, including in the 4th district parts of Huntington Park, Donges Bay Road, County Line Road, Wasaukee Road, the Industrial Park, Mequon Trail Townhouses and Windsor Estates.

More information about all of these matters can be found by clicking here.

Also, the City’s Public Welfare Committee will be reviewing a few provisions of the City’s Ethics Code on Tuesday.

Although I cannot vote on these matters this month, I will be following them carefully. Of course, please provide comments to me or to any elected official.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who posted a yard sign or talked to their neighbors about yesterday’s election. Mostly, thank you to everyone who voted! I am humbled by the overwhelming support. We will make positive change in Mequon, but we are not going to change all that is great about our community.

I also would like to thank Janette Braverman for running. Democracy works best when people get involved. Mrs. Braverman put in a lot of work, and ran a positive campaign. Running for office is far more difficult than most people appreciate. A campaign takes-up evenings and weekends; sacrifices family and work time; and costs money. It is stressful. For three or four months, a candidate’s life is put on hold, all for the honor of attempting to provide a community service. For all of that, she should be applauded.

Elections say a lot about a community, and should be learning experiences. Despite some of the vitriolic, and often incorrect, accusations by some candidates, Mequon voters clearly stated that all is not wrong. Our city government does a good job, and we live in a great community. However, as the dust clears, we need to look at some other messages from the election. Most of the complaints heard during the election can be resolved by better communication. Also, people have some very real concerns. I intend to work on these issues. I expect that my future colleagues on the Council heard these concerns. If not, I will remind them.

Again, thank you!

Please Remember to Vote Tomorrow

VOTE

Candidates have done what they can (in some instances, they have done more than they should).  Now, it is time for you to play your part.  If you vote in Mequon’s 4th District, our polling place is at the Pieper Power Education Center in the Mequon Nature Preserve (8200 West County Line Road).

The polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Remember to bring an appropriate form of photo identification.

If you live in the 4th District, I ask for your vote.  I will represent you, keeping your taxes low, emphasizing safety services, good roads, other city services and intelligent development policies.  I will communicate with you, and work on those issues that make a difference in your neighborhood.  Click here to see my latest flyer.  Click here for some examples of neighborhood issues on which I worked in the past.   To see a recent profile on the race, click on one of the following: North Shore NOW; News Graphic; Highlander.

But in any event, please vote.

ONE VOTE MATTERS.

One vote makes all the difference in dozens of local elections and referenda each year.  In 2015 alone, according to the Ohio Secretary of State,  14 races in that state for local office and nine referenda were either tied or won by one vote.

Here in Mequon, Mayor Dan Abendroth was originally elected as an alderman in 1986 by a flip of the coin after a tied election.

In 1982, a Maine state House election was decided by one vote.  The victor received 1,387 votes to the loser’s 1,386 votes.

In 1980, a Utah state House election was decided by one vote.  The victor received 1,931 votes to the loser’s 1,930 votes.

In  1980 race, a New Mexico state House was tied at 2,327 votes for each candidate, and decided by a runoff election.

In 1978, a Rhode Island state Senate race was tied at 4,110 votes, and decided by a second runoff election.

In 1970, a Rhode Island state House race was decided by one vote. The victor received 1,760 votes to the loser’s 1,759 votes.

In 1970, a Missouri state House race was decided by one vote.  The  victor received 4,819 votes to the loser’s 4,818 votes.

In 1910, a New York Congressional election was decided by one vote.  The victor received 20,685 votes to the loser’s 20,684.

YOUR VOTE MATTERS.

 

Final Campaign Flyer

Click here to read my final campaign flyer.

Besides knocking on hundreds of doors and sending and responding to hundreds of emails and calls, I have distributed four flyers to the 1,250+ residences in the district.  The first was an introduction; the second addressed the biggest challenges I see for the immediate future; and the third (actually 20 different flyers) addressed accomplishments for each of the 20 neighborhoods or groups of residents in the district.

This final flyer differentiates me, but not through negativity.  There is no place for that.  I have never run a negative campaign, and I was not going to start now.

I will continue to respond to calls and emails and visit with people through Tuesday and, if I am elected, after that.  If you have questions or concerns, please let me know.