The parcel that was eyed for 13 homes was south of the
Milwaukee River and north of Ranch Road.
Image courtesy of Google
MEQUON — For the
past month, Tuesday’s looming Common Council meeting
over a planned 13-home subdivision on Mequon’s Ranch
Road was building up to be a verbal Shootout at the OK
The city’s Planning Commission Aug. 7
approved rezoning for the development 5-3 despite a room
full of neighbors, who argued the land is prone to
flooding and inappropriate for such a large project. In
the past month, as the plans advanced, they took sharper
One opponent put
together a 26-page-long packet stating their case. All
aldermen received it, along with a flurry of emails and
letters that led up to Tuesday’s showdown with the
Common Council. Residents – mostly opposed – filled the
council chambers. Howard Schlei, an organizer of the
opposition, presented petitions with 239 signatures.
During an hour-long public hearing, 13 came to the
podium to voice their opposition; two, including the
developer’s wife, spoke in support.
Bersch and Paul Apfelbach represented longtime
landowners as they requested the parcel be rezoned from
a C-3 conservation zoning to R-3 – a single-family,
one-acre category – on the 21-acre property in the 2100
block of West Ranch Road.
At the outset,
Mayor Dan Abendroth surveyed the room.
“Please try to be
brief and to the point so we don’t all die sitting
here,” he quipped, eliciting chuckles.
residents had their say, city staff provided an outline
of the project and studies about water runoff from the
property. The developers’ presentation included a
measuring stick marked with various elevations that
nearly touched the ceiling. Aldermen then discussed the
issue, considered a possible compromise and voted.
When the smoke
cleared, they rejected the rezoning request 4-3.
Aldermen Glenn Bushee, Mark Gierl and John Hawkins
favored rezoning. Aldermen Rob Strzelczyk, Dale
Schneider and Andrew Nerbun voted no. Alderman John
Wirth recused himself and was not present for the
hearing, debate or vote.
Even though the
plan died on a simple majority vote, it would have
required a three-quarters vote of the Common Council to
pass because residents had filed a protest petition with
During the public
hearing, Jay Schauer, who lives 2-1/2 blocks away, said
the city should heed recent severe weather events around
“What did we
learn? You can’t take what Mother Nature gives you and
try to alter it and beat it,” he said. “I don’t care
what the reports say; this area floods. … The studies
may show all kinds of great stuff, but take it with a
grain of salt. We live there. We know what’s going on.”
In addition to the
developer’s wife, Bob Arnold spoke in favor of the
project. He has lived in Mequon for 55 years and has
watched it grow.
“This plan is
perfect for Mequon; it is not a subdivision, it’s an
extension of a neighborhood,” he said. “These
improvements can be made. I think we have two developers
who are not here to hurt or harm the neighborhood, but
would like to improve it.”
developers’ presentation, Bersch said he and Apfelbach
are concerned with flooding in the area and have worked
with engineers and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional
Planning Commission to make sure there are no adverse
impacts on the neighborhood.
argued the parcel was incorrectly placed in conservation
zoning – which would limit it to no more than six lots –
after a similar controversy over a development 20 years
ago. He said the homes will be 7 to 9 feet above the
flood elevation and should have the R-3 one-acre zoning
like the surrounding neighborhood.
were not given conservation zoning, even though they had
similar attributes,” he said.
discussion, aldermen staked out turf on both sides.
Gierl said he
walked the property Saturday with one of the developers.
“That water comes
off of this parcel; it’s higher and dryer and it flows
downward. I don’t see how it can add to your drainage
problems where you’re at,” he said. “It is a buildable
Abendroth – the
mayor does not vote with the Common Council except to
break a tie – said he was an alderman 20 years ago when
the property was rezoned. It was the right thing to do,
“If you look at
this land, it looks more like a Caribbean island than it
does developable land,” Abendroth said. “I would say
it’s environmentally sensitive. I would say it’s
developable under the C-2 (conservation zoning). I don’t
think you should more than double the density of the
“All of the good
things Fred and Paul talk about can be done on a
property with six lots instead of 12 lots,” he added.
Bushee, who joined
the Common Council in April and represents the area,
attempted a compromise. He offered an amendment to make
the rezoning contingent on limiting the site to 10 lots.
unanimously, but it didn’t make any difference. Aldermen
turned next to the main motion and shot it down.
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