Public hearing set for Ruby Farm project
Aldermen raise concerns about public funding, rezoning

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Feb. 18, 2015

BROOKFIELD — The Common Council on Tuesday night approved scheduling a public hearing to give residents a chance to speak about spending public funds to help finance a mixed-use development on the former Ruby Farm land.

Alderman Chris Blackburn and Jerry Mellone voted against scheduling the hearing because they are opposed to creating a tax incremental finance district for the project that would be located off Bluemound and Calhoun roads and would include retail, office and hotel space.

Dan Ertl, director of community development for the city, said the project’s cost dropped from about $7.5 million to $7.4 million. As a result, the cost of the TIF decreased from approximately $12.1 million, including capitalized interest, costs of borrowing and debt issuance costs, to about $11.85 million. In turn, the smaller amount of money financed will result in a shorter term for the TIF. Ertl predicted its life would decrease from 16 to 15 years.

Mellone didn’t feel a public hearing should be held for the project because municipalities are having more financial restrictions from the state now and will have them in the future.

“A new TID of $7.4 million is contrary to achieving this goal. I do not see the public benefit in this funding,” he said.

Mellone also pointed out possible state studies on traffic accessibility regarding Interstate 94, which he’d prefer to have done before voting on creating a TIF for The Corridor project.

Alderman Scott Berg said he’d hope that the public hearing before the Plan Commission on March 9 would answer council members’ questions.

Blackburn said he felt the city has already been generous to the developer, Irgens, and it “boggles the mind why the developer would ask for more money.”

Alderman Jeff McCarthy said developers have come to expect some financial help in return for the risk they are taking with a project.

“If you like this project on this land, this is what it is going to cost us,” McCarthy said. “If you don’t like this project, absolutely don’t vote for it.”

During a discussion on rezoning land at 15425 Lisbon Road from lower-density housing to medium-density housing to accommodate a single-family residential development planned by Neumann Companies, Blackburn said he did not favor changing zoning for the project.

“When residents move into a community and see what the zoning is, they have certain expectations and I feel those expectations should be upheld,” he said, adding he didn’t feel the Elmbrook Estates would add anything new to Brookfield’s mix of housing options.

Alderman Dan Sutton, whose district the project is in, said he didn’t see any negative effect on local communities because the subdivision would be self-contained.

“All people who are moving into there know what they are getting into,” he said.

The vote to rezone the land was 12 to 2 with Blackburn and Alderwoman Renee Lowerr opposed.

Lowerr, Blackburn and Alderwoman Lisa Mellone voted against rezoning land for a 70-unit, single-story condominium project at 13635 Lisbon Road for similar reasons. They also opposed changing zoning for The Glen at Woodside Creek planned on Lisbon Road.

Blackburn, Lisa Mellone and Alderman Bob Reddin voted against approving a deed change for an upscale apartment project proposed for Bishop’s Woods because they questioned whether the location was appropriate for a building other than for office use.