Controversial subdivision plan advances
Neighbors say area is prone to flooding

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

August 17, 2017

MEQUON — Plans to build a 13-lot subdivision in a neighborhood on vacant land north of Mequon Road ran into a flurry of neighbor opposition Aug. 7 before it cleared an initial hurdle by a divided Mequon Planning Commission.

Developers Fred Bersch and Paul Apfelbach represented longtime landowners as they requested rezoning and presented a concept plan for the 21-acre property in the 2100 block of West Ranch Road.

Many neighbors filled the council chambers at City Hall. Six spoke against the proposal; none spoke for it. Others registered in opposition, but did not speak. Several who spoke said they appeared 20 years ago to oppose a prior attempt to build homes there.

That time, one speaker said a 22-home development was proposed. While the homes never were built, the speaker said the city reached a “compromise” by changing the zoning to a conservation subdivision zoning category that would not allow as many homes.

Under that C-2 zoning, Assistant Director of Community Development Jac Zader said about five or six homes on 5-acre lots would be possible. He added that those homes likely would use wells for water, rather than the city water utility.

The city recommended approving the rezoning request with a variety of conditions. After hearing from the residents and a lengthy discussion, commissioners agreed in a 5-3 vote with Mayor Dan Abendroth and Commissioners Becky Schaefer and Brian Parrish opposed.

Just prior to the vote, the mayor – who was an alderman the last time an attempt was made to develop the property – urged everyone to find common ground. He said the plan still must go to the Common Council and likely will be the subject of a protest petition, meaning three-quarters of aldermen would have to vote in favor.

“Maybe there’s another look at this we can try,” Abendroth said. “If this is going to end up being a controversial project, it’s not going to fly.”

The disagreement centered on whether the property is suitable for development. Apfelbach argued that it was considered part of an environmental corridor in the 1970s due to “a mistake of information” and the parcel is “certainly very buildable.”

Most of the residents who spoke said their neighborhood already is prone to flooding and argued that adding more homes only will make matters worse.

“This is a bad idea,” said Howard Schlei. “This was a bad idea 20 years ago – and it has not improved with age.”

He called the area “a peninsula of very wet land” and said there have been occasions in the past where homeowners in the neighborhood have had 2 to 3 feet of water and sewage in their basements.

The rezoning request likely will be taken up by the Common Council Sept. 12.