Committee Okays 200-Job Western Building Deal
Alderwoman accuses neighbors of lying and attempting to manipulate process.
A Common Council committee has approved a rezoning request and $2 million financing package for millwork distributor Western Building Products to move to the city’s northwest side from Wauwatosa.
The employee-owned company would bring all 208 of its employees to the 31-acre site at 7007 N. 115h St. It intends to construct a 325,000-square-foot building.
The committee approved the deal after more than 10 neighbors testified in opposition. The hearing was the third on the project, with the opposition again led by Bruce Winter who resides on a hobby farm near the site.
“I do appreciate the neighbors coming out and sharing their testimony. It is important that we hear neighbors voices. It is important that they share their concerns,” said area Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd. “But this process has been manipulated.”
Dodd said Winter and another nearby property owner, the Adriansen family, were seeking to enrich themselves by killing the deal and attempting to increase the redevelopment of their land.
“The reason we’re even having this meeting is because my colleague made an error,” said Dodd. Alderwoman Chantia Lewis mistook the site at a July 2nd hearing for one that borders her district. The site is approximately one mile from Lewis’ 9th District. The committee held the proposal in early July to allow Lewis to learn more.
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. “If we lose this company it sends a message to anyone that wants to move to Milwaukee that we put them through rigorous hoops for nothing,” said Dodd.
Western’s recovery operations manager Bill Zacher stressed that the company would be a good neighbor in his testimony to the committee.
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.
The Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee voted 4-0-1 to approve the deal. Ald. Milele A. Coggs abstained, telling her colleagues that she wasn’t in the room for all of the testimony and didn’t feel comfortable casting a vote. The hearing, which lasted approximately one hour, was held in the middle of a lengthy meeting.
The zoning request and financing deal next go before the full Common Council.
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