What will become of former M&I site?
Thiensville officials working to develop master plan for village projects

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

 Aug. 11, 2015

THIENSVILLE — Just days after a developer pulled the plug on a 44-unit apartment project, village officials started a discussion about implementing a more long-range growth plan.

The aborted project by Fox Point developer David Hoff was the third time a development idea for the old M& I Bank site, 200 Green Bay Road, has fizzled, in large part due to opposition from neighbors who said the size of the plans were incompatible with their neighborhood. Previous ideas from another developer were for an assisted living facility and a larger apartment project.

Trustees started the discussion by looking at a potential new ordinance that would have allowed more flexibility than the existing zoning categories. After a discussion, that idea was rejected unanimously.

“Now is not the time,” said Trustee John Treffert. “I think this board and the Plan Commission need to come up with a master plan for the M& I, the Jennings area (next to Walgreens) and then say to our ordinances, ‘fit that ...’ “I’m not comfortable changing anything until we have more of a vision,” he said. “If this ordinance fits that vision, fine.”

Village President Van Mobley said he did not like the proposed ordinance because it “creates ambiguity instead of clarity.” He said that the village’s current maximum-density business zoning gives village officials “plenty of fire power.”

For instance, he said it would allow as many as 20 housing units on the M& I property, which has sat vacant for seven years at the corner of Green Bay Road and Riverview Drive. There could be as many as 70 units on the Jennings property, which is just south of Walgreens on Main Street.

Mobley said it would make sense moving forward to get all of the various players – trustees, potential developers and residents – in a room to have a discussion about what is acceptable and financially realistic.

“I don’t like feeling like a fool and I answer to my constituents,” he said.

Trustee Kim Beck said the village has a starting point for discussions about future development with the existing comprehensive plan for the Town Center area.

“Every time the residents have said, ‘we don’t want rental; we don’t want high-density,’” he said. “If we want to move forward, we have to build a relationship with the neighbors – we just need to figure out how to build a partnership here.”

Several residents also spoke about potential future development.

Randy Short, who lives on Riverview Drive near the M& I property and spoke against the apartment project at a recent public hearing, said that the village developing a master plan would help develop a “cohesive feel so you have an overall ambiance to the community.”

Brian Riels, who is a resident and also the village’s fire chief, urged trustees to have any discussions about moving forward with potential developers included.

“Involve all of the players at the table to have a realistic discussion,” he said.

Gary Achterberg can be reached at gachterberg@conleynet.com.