David Clarke’s Wetland Wonder
The Sheriff's home sits on a low marsh, hidden by trees, at the very edge of the county, protected by Honeywell Security.
When David A. Clarke, Jr. and his wife Julie A. Campshure-Clarke scouted for a homesite in 1993, he was still a Milwaukee police officer, so the couple had to look within the city limits. You can be certain the search did not begin downtown. The future sheriff wanted to sink his spurs into the soft (if moist) virgin earth, out on the frontier, where the only law-abiding citizens are gun-slinging, law-abiding citizens.
The Clarkes found a lot on the edge of the city on a dead-end segment of W. Calumet Road, out in the freeway-ringed five-digit address district, where they paid $27,500 for a 30,495 square foot lot in a remote, desolate, and yet-unimproved corner of the city. [Of the lot, 8,716 sq. ft. is listed as “excess land.”]
As a previous owner, Francis J. Schroedel, told a city building inspector in 1960, “this particular location was a low, marshy area, and it accumulated all the surface water from the surrounding high lands. … Mr. Schroedel also stated that this low area has existed as long as he can remember, and may also be recorded as a drainoff area on the geodetic maps of the area.”
In fact, the Clarke’s master plumber had to file a document to “exonerate the City of Milwaukee … from all liabilities” for “installing a building drain in and about the premises before the main sewer is available.” This, in a city where the first sewer was laid in 1835.
The pencil-pushers down at City Hall also made Clarke take out a $70 permit to “install and maintain erosion control measures” as specified by the Wisconsin Administrative Code. More paperwork!
The development that grew to surround the home in the two decades since may be the most suburban-like area in the entire city, (no sidewalk for the Clarkes!) eventually dominated by the Park Place office wasteland immediately to the north. But 20 years later, the Clarkes are sticking it out in the city in their 2,441 square foot 2-story home with 2 full and one half-baths, 3 bedrooms, and a family room with a built-in fireplace. There is a “marble foyer open to 2nd floor,” according to the notes of the City Assessor, who added, “‘B’ Grade [basement] is OK. Many quality amenities.” The home is shrouded by trees, effectively hiding the dwelling even in the bare months of winter. Although the sheriff famously asserts that good law-abiding citizens should arm themselves for their safety, he relies on a Honeywell Security Systems sign in his driveway to deter home invaders at his own premises. An attached 494 sq. ft. garage provides as much security and seclusion for the Sheriff’s SUV as might the jail’s sallyport.
Paying Taxes in “this frickin city.”
“I live in this frickin’ city, I’ve seen it go downhill … I’m still paying property taxes in this city – a lot of them.” — David Clarke, quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 2nd, 2013.
The Sheriff, as an elected official, is the only member of his department who must live in Milwaukee County (all others must reside in the State of Wisconsin), so there is nothing keeping him in the city proper. Even so, heeding his instincts for meddling in others’ business, he issued an opinion that the City should get rid of its residency requirements, and sent a letter to the governor to that effect.
It took the assessor quite a few attempts to find the initial value of the Clarke homestead. There was “no response to letters [sent to Clarke] … no ‘returned undeliverable’ were received,” the assessor lamented in 1994. It took a 1995 assessor’s office call to Lemel Homes, Inc., builders of the dwelling, to learn that Clarke had spent $183,000 on its construction. Those wily bureaucrats have their tricks to dig up information, just like cops!
Fun Fact: Francis J. Schroedel, developer of Rainbow Springs resort (and “Schroedel’s Cradles,” which brought multi-family housing to Whitefish Bay to that community’s horror), had planned to build a hotel on the northwest side in 1960, but it was not until 2000 that the 184-room Hilton Garden Inn Park Place was constructed, right across the street from the Clarke residence, yet with no access to W. Calumet Road, just as the Sheriff would like it. … The hotel also has frontage on W. Liberty Drive, which is the kind of street name a guy like Clarke can identify with.
- Style: “Colonial style”
- Neighborhood: Park Place
- Walkscore: 42 out of 100, “Car-Dependent.” A few amenities are within walking distance, including “Allgauer’s in the Park,” located in the Hilton Garden Inn, a tenth-mile slog away through the parking lot.
- Transit Score: 29 out of 100, “Some Transit.” Clarke can wade through the hotel property and catch the MCTS Route 223 Park Place – Bradley Woods Shuttle right there on W. Liberty Drive.
- Commute: It’s about 16 miles from the courthouse via freeway; but only 11 miles away by foot. “No bicycle route was found,” but Clarke could saddle up his horse and get to the jail by high noon on a good day.
- Street Smart Walkscore: 11 out of 100, “Car-Dependent.” There are no coffee shops in walking distance, and the nearest place the Clarkes can put up for provisions is the Woodman’s Market, 1.4 miles away, across the county line, out in Menomonee Falls.
- Size: 2441 square feet
- Year Built: 2004
- Assessed Value: $259.400
- Property Taxes: $7,891.74
How Milwaukee Is It? It’s about 17 Sheriff Department-patrolled highway miles to City Hall.