West Bend Council OKs steps toward industrial park on southeast side

By McLean Bennett

May 21, 2019

WEST BEND — Common Council members took a few key steps Monday toward creating an industrial park on West Bend’s far southeast side despite objections from nearby residents who said the future development could effectively encroach on their back yards.

City leaders have said they’re running out of shovel-ready properties for industrial expansion, making this week’s move to transform the roughly 63acre parcel of rural land — located just south of the corner of Rusco and River roads — key to attracting new businesses or accommodating growing ones.

Council members agreed to permanently zone the area as “heavy industrial,” as well as change an existing city comprehensive planning document that previously slated the area for “single-family residential” use. Both measures are pivotal in allowing for the sorts of developments city officials someday envision in the area.

Monday’s moves didn’t come without pushback, though, from adjacent Town of Trenton subdivision homeowners who said an industrial park near their houses could threaten their property values. One neighbor on Monday night suggested homeowners could consider a legal challenge to stop the move.

“If this goes through — against the planning commission’s advice not to put it through — you’re basically forcing us into the possibility of only using litigation as our only way out of this,” said Patrick Falkowski, who lives in the subdivision and who’s previously spoken out against the industrial zoning. He declined to speak in more detail with a reporter Monday night about his remarks concerning litigation.

Falkowski was referring to a Plan Commission vote earlier this month that recommended against zoning the property for heavy industrial use. But Mark Piotrowicz, the city’s development director, reminded Common Council members the commissioners’ vote was merely advisory and that they had the final say on the matter.

Council member Chris Jenkins said he understood some of the neighbors’ concerns, noting in remarks before a vote authorizing the zoning change Monday that he also lives near industry in West Bend.

“As issues come up — which are, by the way, very, very far in between — the city has done a great job with handling those issues,” Jenkins said. But on the other hand, he noted, the city has been mulling the need to expand its industrial areas “for quite a while.”

“We don’t have enough space for them,” Jenkins said of businesses in the city that are running out of room to expand.

Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said after the meeting that the city doesn’t have any specific developments lined up for the future industrial park. He and others noted the city could take neighbors’ nuisance concerns into consideration when contemplating permitting specific businesses to move into the area.

“I fully understand their fears and concerns,” Sadownikow told a reporter late Monday. “However, this is prime industrial development property, and our role here is to look out for the future of West Bend. And we think we can do that — look out for West Bend’s industrial future — and at the same time be conscientious of neighboring properties.”