Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Committee Okays 200-Job Western Building Deal

Alderwoman accuses neighbors of lying and attempting to manipulate process.

By - Jul 23rd, 2019 02:48 pm
Western Building Products Site Plan. Image from Biohn Building Corporation.

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

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 value of their land.

She accused Winter and others of lying in their testimony before the committee. Project opponents had a wide range of objections including that the company would drain directly into the nearby Menomonee River, destroy the resale value of their homes and cause their assessments to rise, the latter two arguments seeming to contradict each other.

“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.

For more on the proposal, see our coverage from the project’s June hearing before the City Plan Commission and July 2nd’s hearing before the committee.

The zoning request and financing deal next go before the full Common Council.


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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Okays 200-Job Western Building Deal”

  1. Barbara Richards says:

    With all the vacant industrial space in our city more green space on the edges needs to succumb to more impermeable surface? When will we ever learn? Sure they can put pipes in the ground to send water and sewage away. Can they capture the rainwater, capture carbon, cool our planet, keep green for humans to remain humans. Looks like a mini Foxconn and the new spread out in Waukesha, now that Waukesha can use Lake Michigan water.

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