Questions raised about Delafield public hearing
Enough time for citizens to prepare?

By Kelly Smith - Special to Conley Media

Aug. 25, 2019

DELAFIELD — A citizen activist, a plan commissioner and an alderwoman are not happy about the city’s plans to conduct a public hearing and a Plan Commission vote on the same night next week about significant changes to the downtown business district zoning code.

City Planner Roger Dupler said the public hearing and vote will be conducted “by the book and according to city ordinances” and are part of an informal agreement between the city and a developer.

Citizen activist Lynda Holton, Plan Commissioner Laura Schult, and Alderwoman Jackie Valde, in separate interviews, said citizens do not have enough time to study the amendments and prepare comments for the public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

They suggested the commission’s vote should be delayed, allowing commissioners more time to consider testimony received at the hearing.

The hearing is about amendments in Central Business District 1 regarding the height of buildings, number of floors in buildings, and how far buildings must be set back from sidewalks or streets. However, the details of those amendments were not released until Friday.

The Plan Commission is scheduled to vote on the amendments after the public hearing Wednesday night.

It is not unusual for details regarding public hearings to be released on Friday before the hearing and the commission often casts votes following public hearings.

However, these amendments could have a profound effect on the downtown business district, according to city officials and business owners, because taller buildings with more floors might be permitted and setbacks, for the first time, might be imposed in the district.

“I thought the purpose of the public hearing was to gather information. Based on that information, amendments would be drafted for the Plan Commission and Common Council to consider, possibly after conducting a second public hearing,” Schult told Conley Media.

“How can you expect citizens to intelligently comment at a public hearing if you do not give them time to prepare? People have lives, they should not be expected to have to spend a weekend preparing for a hearing,” Holton added.

Valde: ‘Democracy is a sloppy process’

“If you are going to hold a public hearing and then vote on the same night, it becomes a de-facto public hearing,” according to Valde.

“I understand the need for expediency and reducing the number of meetings at City Hall, but democracy is a sloppy process and I like it that way,” she added.

“I would have much preferred holding the public hearing and then taking our time before having a vote,” Valde concluded.

The hearing and vote were scheduled on the same night as part of an informal agreement between the city and Hendricks Commercial Properties of Beloit, according to Dupler.

The developer agreed to extend a deadline for city approval of the company’s proposal to build two fourstory buildings on the corner of Genesee and Main Street.

If the deadline had not been extended, according to Dupler, the city would have rejected the development because the buildings do not comply with the code regarding the height, number of stories, and building setbacks.

Downtown business owners and citizens supporting the development urged the city to either amend the zoning code or provide exceptions to the code to allow the buildings to be built.

Opponents argue the buildings are too large and not compatible with downtown Delafield’s historic Colonial ambiance.

The commission recommended the exceptions be granted, but City Attorney James Hammes said those exceptions are not permitted by the city code.

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