Dave Reid

County Threatened With Lakefront Lawsuit

County committee okays negotiations with The Couture developer, despite a casual threat of lawsuit.

By - Jul 24th, 2012 10:37 am
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The Couture Rendering

The Couture Rendering

At the Monday special meeting of the Milwaukee County Economic and Community Development Committee, the plan to start negotiations between Milwaukee County and developer Rick Barrett to purchase the Downtown Transit Center received approval. Barrett plans to develop a 44-story, $125 million high-rise known as The Couture. The building would include a hotel with 80 rooms and 179 apartments if built.

Despite supporting Sup. Patricia Jursik‘s efforts to block this measure from being heard in July, County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic actually brought the resolution to open the negotiations forward. The resolution includes various conditions that must be met before the county board would approval a land sale. These included: getting a fair market value price for the land, signing a development agreement that includes parts of the Park East Redevelopment Contract, which includes minority and resident participation requirements, and gaining assurances that the site isn’t in violation of the Public Trust Doctrine.

Concerns have been raised in the media and behind the scenes leading up to this meeting as to whether or not the Downtown Transit Center is protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, and therefore not available for private development. Brian Taffora, Milwaukee County Economic Development Director, told the committee he is double checking with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on this issue, but also noted that in August 2011 the Long-Range Lakefront Planning Committee reached out to the DNR to verify that the Downtown Transit Center site was legally developable. At the time the DNR informed the county that the site was available for development as it was not a protected lakebed grant site.

Despite the information provided by the DNR, John Lunz, President of Preserve our Parks, spoke in opposition to the project, insisting that this is a protected site. Lunz warned the committee members that “there’s always the possibility that someone is going to take them to court.”

The resolution was unanimously approved and will go before the full County Board of Supervisors on Thursday, July 26th.

3 thoughts on “County Threatened With Lakefront Lawsuit”

  1. Tyrell Track Master says:

    What an unbelievably stupid waste of time. Shame, shame, shame on these people who cannot see the forest for the trees. They humiliate themselves and everyone else in Milwaukee by totally misunderstanding what is quality development and what is not. No one is taking away parkland here. This is an enhancement to the lakefront, not a hindrance.

  2. Bill Sell says:

    Everything planned for our lakefront is an “enhancement of the lakefront” – everything – in the eyes of its planner. There is a map of many dots, of all the things – even a “Clown Museum” – that could have been located on the lake front had there been no rules about usage.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Bill Right we do have rules about usage. And from what I can tell (this is my understanding) it is about lakebed grants, not simply lakebed or filled land as otherwise that could apply to the Menomonee Valley, much of downtown Milwaukee, and all sorts of sites in Wisconsin. And the line for the protected lakebed grants is in the middle of Lincoln Memorial, which is what the DNR informed the County in 2011.

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