County Executive Chris Abele
Press Release

Milwaukee County to Partner With Wauwatosa to Add New County Parkland

"Protecting our natural spaces has long been a priority of mine."

By - Apr 6th, 2017 04:47 pm

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele today announced that the County will partner with the City of Wauwatosa to add new parkland to the County’s footprint, in the area of the County Grounds referred to as “Sanctuary Woods.”

The County has been working collaboratively and transparently with Wauwatosa officials for months in support of the City’s efforts to do thoughtful planning as it attempts to balance development interest, environmental protection, and build a sense of community on the County Grounds.

City officials and some residents have expressed concern that a portion of the County Grounds land commonly referred to as “Sanctuary Woods” would be at risk and should therefore have the protection of Parks zoning. The county executive also agrees with the City and residents that the woods should be protected by Parks zoning and is prepared to ask the City to rezone the woods to Parks.

Before rezoning can occur and County Grounds Park can be expanded, officials must determine what land in addition to the woods should be protected. Right now, the parcel that includes part of the wooded area also includes an abandoned county building, a parking lot, and land that was never part of the woods. The County is surveying the site to establish what in addition to the woods should be protected, and what should be developed. A complete survey should take 2-4 months.

“Protecting our natural spaces has long been a priority of mine. Since I took office the County has added more than 150 acres of parkland and worked with municipalities to rezone more than 350 parcels as parks,” County Executive Chris Abele said. “In order to support this expanded footprint and invest in critical priorities, we need to grow our tax base to fund the maintenance of environmental and cultural assets. Mayor Kathy Ehley and the City of Wauwatosa have done a great job balancing smart development opportunities with protecting our natural spaces. I thank them for their thoughtful planning process and look forward to working with them to add new parkland to Milwaukee County.”

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2 thoughts on “Milwaukee County to Partner With Wauwatosa to Add New County Parkland”

  1. Jim Maurer says:

    The entire 60 acres of the Northeast Quadrant of the Milwaukee County Grounds which includes Sanctuary Woods must remain undeveloped and added to the adjoining 55 acre County Grounds Park.
    Preserving only Sanctuary Woods and surrounding it with apartment buildings, as proposed, would turn it into a private courtyard for the transient apartment dwellers with little public access. It would also fragment it from the larger environmental corridor and displace the varied wildlife which currently inhabit it.
    It would be like removing your nose and gluing it on your forehead. It won’t function.
    Mr. Abele is negotiation “transparently” behind closed doors with City of Wauwatosa officials. The public has never been allowed to participate in these “back room” negotiations.
    Last night at Heart Park in Wauwatosa Graef USA gave their last presentation of their proposed Life Science District (LSD) development plan for the Northeast Quadrant.
    Graefs president, John Kissinger, currently sits on the (Wauwatosa) Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) made up of six members, only one of which is an elected official. The EDAC advised the City to give Graef USA the $200,000.00 no bid contract to develop the LSD plan.
    Graff presenters flagrantly misrepresented the facts and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the audience, approaching 500 attendees, that development was needed and appropriate despite the fact that Wauwatosa has already met it’s projected “apartment” need through the year 2030.
    Public comment was allowed after Graef’s presentation. Although limited to two minutes each the Graef moderator graciously allowed extra time for some individuals to finish their thoughts.
    All of the commenters were against the LSD plan except one gentleman representing a marginal fringe group who also conceded that the plan still “needed work”.
    The City of Wauwatosa conducted an extremely biased LSD plan online survey. The results, including comments, are posted on
    Mayor Ehley’s assertion that this development adds to the tax base is patently false. This development, as stated clearly in the LSD plan, will use TIF funding which sequesters the property tax from the development into the TIF fund to pay for the infrastructure needed for the development for up to 27 years.
    Mayor Ehley’s “death by a thousand cuts” approach to “protecting our natural spaces” is something one would expect from a developers public relations playbook and not from a Mayor elected to represent the wishes of her continents, which are currently being ignored.

  2. M says:

    Parks have NEVER truly been protected through zoning, which can be, and is, changed in a heartbeat. In Milwaukee County’s case, zoning is relevant only because the county executive sought and obtained power to dispense with any county land not specifically zoned a park. If parks have proper legal protection, zoning is irrelevant for the most part, and debates about it mostly a distraction.

    If the county or Wauwatosa seriously wants to create a more parkland on the County Grounds, or wherever, they would be talking about some form of legally permanent deed restriction, easement or other traditional means of setting aside land for public use forever (the definition of a park)..

    Perhapa such legal protection were never secured for the County Grounds Park since the current County-Wauwatosa LSD development plan calls for taking away 10 acres of that recently created “park.”

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