Residents object to Prestwick project
Challenge hearings scheduled near Christmas

By Kelly Smith - Special to The Freeman

Dec. 1, 2017

DELAFIELD — Nearly a dozen citizens are accusing city officials of conducting public hearings five days before Christmas in effort to “fast track” approval of a light industrial and corporate office campus near the Interstate 94/Hwy C interchange.

The city has failed to follow its rules in accepting an application and requiring justification of a proposed zoning change from the developer, the Prestwick Group of Sussex, according to Lynn Holton, one of the protesting citizens.

City officials counter they are abiding by traditional practices in scheduling a hearing during the holiday season and are following the advice of their attorney.

City Attorney James Hammes told the Plan Commission at its Wednesday meeting that before the development can be approved there must be public hearings on proposals to approve a conditional use permit and change the zoning and land use for the development site.

Mayor Michele DeYoe has scheduled those public hearings in conjunction with the Dec. 20 Plan Commission meeting “To schedule a public hearing so close to Christmas is not right,” Holton told commissioners, pointing out that residents objecting to the development would be busy that week with holiday plans and family.

“The timing of this public hearing is not in the best interests of the citizens,” added Laura Schult, who said residents were promised years ago by city officials that commercial development would be restricted to low density office space.

Holton said Prestwick has not filed an application or submitted documents justifying a zoning change, which are required by city code.

She questioned how the city could schedule a public hearing before it had received the zoning code application and supporting documents from Prestwick.

City Administrator Tom Hafner later told The Freeman he was advised by Hammes that a zoning application and supporting documents would not be required since Prestwick provided information about the zoning change when the development plans were submitted to the city several months ago.

Schult and Holton are leaders of a group of residents living near Highway C and Indian Spring and Behr roads, who have successfully blocked a series of proposals during the past two decades to commercially develop about 28 acres of land adjacent to the interstate exchange.

The neighbors claim they would not object to commercial development that complies with existing zoning, is compatible with the scenic woodland residential character of the neighborhood, and the city’s long-range land use plan.

The Prestwick development does not meet any those criteria, yet the city appears to be trying to “fast track” approval of the project, according to some of the neighbors who have attended commission meetings or wrote letters and emails objecting to the proposal.

The Prestwick Group wants to move its assembly plant and headquarters from Sussex to Delafield.

They are proposing to develop an approximately 63,000 square-foot assembly plant, a similar-sized corporate headquarters, and a large barn as part of an outdoor gathering center that could be used for corporate and community events.

The company uses recycled products to manufacture outdoor furnishings and equipment.

DeYoe later told The Freeman that public hearings are customarily held in conjunction with commission meetings, which are usually held on the last Wednesday of the month.

The December meeting is often scheduled earlier in the month, because of the Christmas holiday, to assure there will be a quorum of commissioners, she added.

The Prestwick Group proposals are among a series of public meetings that were recently added to the Dec. 20 agenda, according to the mayor.