TOWN OF WAUKESHA - It has
been touted as a high-end development that could bring $25 million
to the Town of Waukesha's tax base.
But nearby property owners
shared a litany of concerns about a proposed 33-single unit gated
community at The Legend at Merrill Hills. The potential development
would encompass some of the existing Merrill Hills Country Club
driving range on the north side of Sun Valley Trail and Oak Knoll
Jack Gaudion, co-owner of
Merrill Hills, gave his initial pitch to town officials Thursday
amid back-to-back Plan Commission and Town Board meetings.
When he began overseeing the
venerable country club in 2013, Gaudion said, it was struggling
financially from the prolonged affects of the economic downturn that
resulted in at least a thousand country clubs closing across the
"We've put the club in a much
better position," Gaudion said. "We've turned it around. It's back
in its rightful position as a top club."
Springboarding off the
renewed momentum, Gaudion said he is interested in developing the
gated residential community, which would feature high-end
condominiums for members of the country club.
Gaudion said interest in the
would-be residential community has already been high. Seventy-nine
club members were given priority if the project moves forward
through a lottery system.
"We're going to bring
high-value homes to this development with high standards," Gaudion
said during his pitch.
Residents living beyond the
gates of The Legend, however, have raised a range of concerns,
including how the new development would impact their own property
values. Other issues that have been raised include noise and
traffic, particularly along Highway 59.
At the urging of Town
Attorney John Macy, municipal officials did not directly take public
comment while the proposal was discussed. But the concerned
residents did sound off during a general public comment portion of
the Town Board agenda.
"I picked a neighborhood that
was quiet, on purpose," resident Dyann Harp said at Thursday's
Harp said she was concerned
about the impact construction equipment would have on existing
municipal infrastructure and also raised concerns about drainage.
Lori Barton also went up to
the microphone and shared a unique perspective. Barton said her
father sold the farmland on what today is the Merrill Hills golf
course with the understanding it would not be developed.
"It's not something we want,"
Barton said, speaking on behalf of her family. "It's not something
our dad wanted. This is really upsetting - not only for us, but for
the neighbors. We need to be heard about this."
Macy and other town officials
indicated multiple times during the meeting that residents will have
a formal opportunity to offer up comments when the public hearing
Thursday's presentation was
the first of multiple steps. The Plan Commission offered up several
directives to Gaudion and others involved in the proposal.
"One thing I'd be interested
in finding out is whether the petitioner would be fixing the
(municipal) roads if they are damaged (during construction)," said
Town Chairman John Marek, who heads up the Plan Commission.
Gaudion will likely return to
the town in the near future with a range of additional details,
including a lighting and landscaping plan for the proposed property,
as well as civil engineering details that would touch on the
drainage issues some nearby residents have raised.