Op Ed

Save the County Grounds. Again

Company wants to buy portion of conservancy area. Will County Board protect the land?

By - Oct 20th, 2020 04:55 pm
Development Plan for UWM Innovation Campus. Source Irgens.

Development Plan for UWM Innovation Campus. Source Irgens.

In 2010 the Milwaukee County Board resolved to sell a portion of the Northeast Quadrant of the County Grounds to the UWM Real Estate Foundation. We all understood this to be for research, education, and economic development.

The board also understood how precious this land was by adopting the Northeast Quadrant Restoration Landscape Plan as part of the Agreement to assure the unique natural systems would stay intact. In other words, they resolved to hold the developer to a higher standard to protect the County Grounds. The County came through for their constituents, and all trust was on UWM.

Forward 10 years, UWM is selling their land to Irgens Development who is asking to change the agreement. Environmental groups are asking the board to uphold their agreement, retain the fundamental environmental goals to once again “Save the County Grounds” from over-development, hazards to birds, sterile landscapes, and hold this developer to a higher standard.

Already, there have been damaging impacts to the ecology and wildlife from development that have occurred; Changed wind patterns and shadows from new buildings have altered and diminished the monarchs roosting areas, birds are colliding with buildings including the apartments on the site, developers accidentally spread herbicide in the Conservancy area, over pruned their old stand of trees that now no longer provide protective canopies for monarchs. One developer needed to encroach 25’ into the Conservancy during construction. ABB’s is lit up all night- devastating the nocturnal wildlife species including owls- ignoring the Dark Sky’s protocols. Most recently, UWM accidentally mowed a naturalized section of County Grounds Park.

There is a tipping point-a point where the dynamics of the ecosystem will be altered too much. A point where too little area is left, too few characteristics required by the wildlife are changed and there are no longer the right conditions for the monarchs, birds, deer, coyotes, fox, flying squirrels…..  Where is the tipping point and how close are we?

More development will also bring more traffic—parking spaces for the proposed and existing developments are an estimated 5,266 spaces. How much more traffic can be added to the roadway that slices through the environmental corridor on the Northeast Quadrant?

Development has an impact on natural areas. We must do better on the County Grounds. Technology has improved, we know to build with less impact to wildlife and ecological systems.  It is imperative that this developer use the most current and best practices available and it will be up to the County Board to assure us the land they sold to UWM is protected from over-development and that the board continues to protect the interests of the citizens who have fought for over 20 years to SAVE THE COUNTY GROUNDS.

The requests we are making now were vetted and adopted years ago. It is reasonable to ask the Board to uphold these protections and standards. It is even reasonable after 10 years, to improve on these standards! For everyone who has been advocating for the County Grounds over the many many years, now is when we must finally get the protections right.

I feel Irgens Development would be amenable to these protections. If not, we must ask why? And if we do not insist on these higher standards what will the consequences be?

Barb Agnew, Founder of the Monarch Trail and member of the County Grounds Coalition.

2 thoughts on “Op Ed: Save the County Grounds. Again”

  1. just1paul says:

    So typical. Land sold with restrictions. Land sold again and restrictions “accidentally” get encroached on, cut down, changed so the surrounding area is no longer as it was restricted to be. Irgens should be held to standards to restore, but I am certain that will never happen. Greed.

  2. Mingus says:

    In driving around Milwaukee and the suburbs, it is not hard to find large open parcels of land that could be developed. Many of these parcels have building and utilities like the closed Oster Plant on the boundary between Whitefish Bay and Glendale. Maybe if these sites were utilized, developers would not have to come to the local governmental body as they usually do, asking for some type of tax break, loan, or monetary handout for the project.

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