Mequon taps the brakes on development
Moratorium proposed near Donges Bay Road

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

March 15, 2018

MEQUON — The city of Mequon is taking what amounts to a deep breath.

The Planning Commission and Common Council each moved this week to put the brakes on development for a year in an area surrounding Cedarburg and Donges Bay roads.

The Planning Commission approved a request for a year-long development moratorium for the area that would include about 30 properties on a 5-2 vote Monday. The Common Council followed suit Tuesday, giving unanimous approval with no discussion. Final adoption is expected in April after a required one-month waiting period to pass an ordinance. The moratorium gives the city an opportunity to be proactive about the direction development takes in the area, Kim Tollefson, Mequon’s director of Community Development, told the Planning Commission. “In other areas where we’ve been proactive about change and let the private market know what was expected, we were successful from a financial standpoint,” Tollefson said. The city got out in front of development in the Town Center and in the Central Growth Area, which is the subdivision that has been built on land previously owned by the Mequon-Thiensville School District between Wauwatosa and Swan roads, she said. “We want to ensure that as redevelopment happens, it happens in a harmonious way and increases property values,” she added.

The affected area includes Donges Bay Road properties between the Ozaukee Interurban Trail and the Milwaukee River and properties from 10208 to 10518 W. Cedarburg Road, as well as 10402 Burning Bush Lane.

While it was not specifically mentioned in discussion or a city memo, the affected area includes the long-closed Alpine Village property on the northwest corner of Donges Bay and Cedarburg roads. City staff have told the News Graphic the property has been sold, but they do not know the new owner’s intentions. The city has not received a development-related application for the site.

Tollefson said she believes there are about 10 properties in the area that could be subject to redevelopment. Not all are for sale.

State law sets criteria that must be met to impose a development moratorium. The city must either show there is a lack of infrastructure to serve a desired development or delineate concerns related to public safety.

“We can’t do a timeout just because we want to look at development,” Tollefson told a reporter after Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

During the Planning Commission discussion, Alderman John Wirth said the moratorium will provide clarity for developers about what the city would like to see.

“It’s one of the gateways to Mequon,” he said. “It’s (now) kind of a hodge-podge, a mish-mash.”

Commissioner Brian Parrish – who opposed the moratorium along with Commissioner John Stoker – called it “somewhat overreaching.” He said he sympathizes with property owners who are trying to sell.

“We’re talking about development – and we’re tying it to a rise in crime,” he said. “It’s more of a policing issue. I don’t see how it’s our issue.”

State law allows for a one-year moratorium with a possibility for a six-month extension. Tollefson said the moratorium can end sooner. Wirth suggested he would like to see that happen, if possible. As part of his motion to approve the moratorium, he added a condition that city staff return in three months with a report.

Police data show an overall 123.2-percent increase in public safety calls in the area between 2015 and 2017. During the same timeframe, Mequon police “responded to 17 new types of public safety calls, including types considered by the Mequon Police Department as substantial crime within the city,” according to a memo.

MPD has increased the number of business checks – activity that could include a brief visit or checking a closed business to ensure doors are locked – by 389.7 percent since 2015 and 263.8 percent from 2016 through 2017, Tollefson wrote in a memo to Common Council members.

“This increase is in part due to the number of businesses that are open to the public 24 hours a day and the concentration of these and similar-type uses, which include bars, hotels and gas stations,” she wrote.

Kwik-Trip, on the southeast corner of Cedarburg and Donges Bay roads, is one of three businesses in Mequon that are open around the clock. The other two are near Port Washington and Mequon roads. The moratorium area includes Finn McGoo’s, a restaurant and tavern at 10365 N. Cedarburg Road, as well as Libby Montana Bar & Grill, 5616 W. Donges Bay Road.

It also includes Sybaris. The hotel and a now-closed adjacent restaurant, Sip/Yummy’s to Go – both in the 10200 block of North Cedarburg Road – were the subject of complaints by the city in February 2017.

Police said then that there were 18 police responses to Sybaris between April 16, 2016 and Jan. 6, 2017. Those calls included disorderly conduct, damage to property, a nearby drunk driving arrest and an allegation that a guest was engaged in prostitution.

At Sip, the event that drew the most concern from city officials was a Jan. 21, 2017, incident. Officers responding to a call about an argument in the parking lot found a private security guard holding a man at gunpoint. The customer, a Milwaukee man, 20, had a handgun with an extended magazine. He was arrested for use of a dangerous weapon, carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.

The city’s complaint was the first step in a process that could have led to revocation of the establishments’ liquor licenses. Both organizations agreed to make a variety of changes – and the situation appeared to calm down.

Police Chief Steve Graff told a reporter Tuesday that Sybaris had been “very responsive” in trying to correct the issues there. He added Kwik-Trip always has cooperated with police.