Sunday, February 10, 2013

County Grounds: What can you do?

Although, as of this writing, it is snowed over in places, there is a fence line now that indicates the amount of land that will be used for Innovation Park.

My recent post about the tree cutting that was done on the County Grounds generated more response than any previous blog post. The reactions expressed in those responses ranged from anguish to anger. Clearly a lot of people care deeply about what happens on the County Grounds.

Along with the outpouring of emotions, many questions were raised. Chief among them was, “What can I do?”

The short answer is, Participate. There are two Wauwatosa Common Council committee meetings scheduled this week, the Plan Commission and the Budget and Finance Committee. Both will allow public comments. If you can’t attend, write to the aldermen and city officials. Details below. 

Witnessing the tree cutting was painful for many people. Be prepared for a similar shock when construction begins in earnest. But there are still opportunities to make your voice heard.

Credit: HGA Architecture/GRAEF
There are many moving parts to the proposed development and some of them have been changed and are to be presented to the Wauwatosa Plan Commission for approval. One aspect of the new proposal is particularly troubling. The 2010 UWM Innovation Park Master Plan (above) shows a distinct separation between the residential developments around the Eschweiler complex on the north and the rest of the campus.

This separation served several important functions. It was to be a bioswale, which helps manage stormwater runoff. The bioswale also would help to maintain a healthy habitat to support wildlife. Just as important, it preserves one of the most magnificent features of this site, an open view across the high point of the entire Count Grounds. (Future residents may have their own reasons for preferring a green space between their apartments and the business park.)

The new proposal (below) has sited a pair of buildings in the former location of the bioswale and added connecting driveways to the residential zone. The reasoning that is given is that the new HWY 45 exit ramp to be built as part of the Zoo Interchange reconstruction will encroach on the buildable area. This is true, but the amount of encroachment doesn’t justify the amount of shift in the new plan. As with the tree removal, it isn’t an innovative solution.

Credit: Nancy Aten
On the map above the dashed white lines indicate Innovation Park buildings, roads and parking. One feature that may be hard to identify on the map is a large surface parking lot in the center. In other parts of the design parking structures have been used in order to reduce the area taken up with surface parking.

The question I would ask the Plan Commission is why the revision forced by the DOT wasn’t done in a way that is more consistent with the vision of the carefully crafted Master Plan?

Meeting and contact information

Plan Commission meeting:
Monday February 11 at 7 p.m. in the Common Council Chambers at Wauwatosa City Hall.

Send emails to:
Alderwoman Kathleen Causier:
Paulette Enders:

Budget and Finance Committee meeting:
Tuesday February 12 at 7p.m. in Committee Room 1 at Wauwatosa City Hall.

This committee will discuss a proposal to change the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district from $12.5 million to $30 million. The original TIF was created to build utilities and roadways. The new proposal allows the money to be used more “flexibly.”

Questions that a taxpayer might want answered:

What if this project does not develop as smoothly and successfully as projected?

How will the TIF affect overall land use in Innovation Park?

What about stormwater management, natural landscaping in the stormwater features, and other sustainable development features?

What will be the return to the taxpayers on an investment of $30 million?

Send emails to:
Craig Wilson (chair),
Joel Tilleson,
Tim Hanson, (vice chair)
Brian Ewerdt,
John Dubinski,

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