Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Company’s Move to Northwest Side On Hold

Council members want more information from manufacturer, city officials on proposal.

By - Jul 2nd, 2019 03:28 pm
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Western Building Products Site Plan. Image from Biohn Building Corporation.

Western Building Products Site Plan. Image from Biohn Building Corporation.

After spending more than an hour hearing testimony about the proposal, the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee decided to hold until its next meeting a rezoning request and city subsidy for Western Building Products’ proposed move to the Joy Farms site along Interstate 41 on the city’s northwest side.

The millwork distributor is seeking to have the 31-acre site at 7007 N. 115h St. rezoned to allow a 325,000-square-foot building to be constructed. The company, which is landlocked on W. Glenview Pl. in Wauwatosa, would relocate its entire 208-employee operation to the new northwest side facility.

As part of the proposal, a developer-financed tax-incremental financing district would be created that would effectively rebate $2 million in increased property tax revenue generated by improvements on the site to the employee-owned company.

City officials have been working with the company since October 2018, but neighbors still have a number of questions about the proposal. As does Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, who said she just heard about the proposal and believes her constituents will have concerns.

A corner of Lewis’ district, at N. 107 St. and W. Calumet Rd. is .95 miles from the site. “It’s not a slight on the company, but you didn’t talk to us,” said Lewis.

Western’s recovery operations manager Bill Zacher stressed that the company would be a good neighbor in his testimony to the committee. He detailed how the “eight to thirteen” trucks that would come and go daily from the facility would be rerouted to avoid a nearby residential street. “It just adds a mile. It’s basically three right turns and you’re into the property,” said Zacher.

Zacher said the company, which sells approximately 1,000 doors a day, would also consider eliminating audible noise from trucks when they reverse and adding other sound-dampening techniques that it has undertaken at its Wauwatosa facility.

The company would also construct a berm to hide the new building from nearby homes.

Zacher said the company today is closer to the Menomonee River and nearby residents than it would be at the new facility.

As part of the proposal the company would pay to install sewer service on 14 nearby homes that currently rely on septic systems or holding tanks. The company estimates this cost at $300,000. The homes would otherwise be required to hook up to the sewer system once the city installs the sewer pipe as part of connecting the new building.

“I think that Bill and his group have done an exceptional job in trying to gain the respect of the neighbors and I feel that they have gone above and beyond,” said area Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd.

But Ald. Robert Bauman would like to see more vetting of technical concerns with neighbors and a clear answer from the City Attorney’s office if the sewer hookups can be legally required as part of the deal. “We’re launching you in the hope that you follow through with these folks, and I believe you, but they may not,” said Bauman. The alderman proposed an escrow account to ensure the work was done.

Assistant City Attorney Rachel Kennedy offered to discuss the matter with Bauman and others in private, but Bauman declined. “I’m very concerned that the city attorney isn’t prepared on this issue,” said Bauman in moving to hold the file.

Neighborhood opposition is led by W. Appleton Ave. resident Bruce Winters. The self-described hobby-farm resident raised a list of concerns relating to the installation of plumbing and potential noise issues. He asked that the measure be held so the concerns of himself and other nearby property owners, two of which testified, could be heard.

Robert Kendzierski, who resides on N. 124th St. across the Menomonee River from the site, is concerned about potential noise. “I did not retire to live next to a manufacturing facility,” said Kendzierski. “I did not hear about this until Bruce came to my house.” Kendzierski said he moved to Wisconsin after retiring from the military and is concerned about the noise from the trucks disturbing his quality of life.

“If this deal doesn’t occur, we don’t know what to do with this property,” said property owner Charles Stevens. “We feel not only is this the best possible offer, but it’s probably the only offer for many years to come.”

Both Stevens and Zacher said the site has long had industrial uses, including serving as a bus facility for Joy Farms Transportation bus company and its current use as storage for We Energies.

The committee unanimously approved holding the proposal. It is next scheduled to meet on July 23rd.

For more on the proposal, see our coverage from the project’s June hearing before the City Plan Commission.

Plans

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Related Legislation: File 190159

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