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Business park plan irks town residents PDF Print E-mail
Written by JOE POIRIER   
Wednesday, 14 February 2018 17:16

Village’s proposed use of Hwy. C land for industrial district sparks concerns about land use, financial impact

    Several Town of Grafton residents voiced concerns about the proposed building of a business park near their homes during the Grafton Village Board meeting Feb. 5.
    “We love Grafton, and we specifically moved here for the quiet and peaceful country setting,” said Robin Hansen, a resident of the Waterstone subdivision near the development site on Highway C.
    “We feel our quality of life will significantly change and be negatively impacted by the light-industrial manufacturing business park. We feel our home values will be negatively impacted by this.”
    MLG Properties, a commercial real estate firm, is negotiating the purchase of 114 acres of farmland, which could be annexed by the village to develop the park at the northwest corner of Highway C and Ulao Road.
    “When I bought my property, I thought this would be the perfect place for my kids where they could play by the lake, and now we’re going to have something ugly staring at us every day,” Waterstone resident Al Mejia said. “I feel a little bit betrayed because we thought it was all for residential property.”
    In 2016, the village contracted with MLG to conduct feasibility studies of several sites with an eye toward establishing a business park.
    A concept plan for the Highway C site shows 15 business-park lots ranging in size from 4.2 to 9.1 acres and extending from Highway C west nearly to the railroad tracks that run along the east side of I-43.
    The land, currently in the Town of Grafton, would have to be annexed into the village and rezoned from agricultural to a planned industrial district.
    The village would be responsible for infrastructure improvements for the project, and officials plan to create a tax incremental financing district to pay for the work, Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said.
    Residents are concerned the TIF district could take potential property tax revenue from the Grafton School District.
    “What are the benefits of this subdivision to the village and the school district?” Mejia asked.
    “We believe this is going to have a negative impact on our property values because of all the side effects with heavier traffic, pollution and contamination, etc.”
    In a letter to the editor in this week’s Ozaukee Press, Town Chairman Lester Bartel stated his concern for the future of the district.
    “The School District just incurred $40 million in debt and the Village of Grafton taxpayers felt the largest brunt of that,” Bartel wrote.
    “In order for that burden to lessen, the School District needs two things — more valuation and more students to keep from losing valuable state aid. An industrial park where homes with families should be, deprives all of us who pay school taxes of both. And once prime residential property is developed for industrial, those families and what they bring to the community and the schools are gone forever.”
    The Town Board on Wednesday, Feb. 13, could take action on a resolution objecting to the village’s “pronounced intent” to annex town land for the business park.
    According to Thyes, the TIF district would have an ongoing tax-base value that will go to the other taxing jurisdictions such as the school district.
    A feasibility study shows the preliminary cost for the TIF district is $8.9 million and the potential revenue would be $13 million after 20 years.
    “There’s a lot of hoops and hurdles that have to be done. I’m still not completely sold yet if this is the best use of a change of a land’s use,” Village President Jim Brunnquell said.
    “I believe the community of Grafton doesn’t have boundaries. Before we take action, we need to consider the greater good of the community.”
    During the meeting, the board awarded a public-relations contract to The Broydrick Group for $14,400. The company was previously involved with high-profile projects in Grafton, including Aurora Medical Center and the Meijer store.
    “Their job is to hold public hearings to hear what citizens have to say about this, and to explain how some of the negative impacts are going to be mitigated so everyone is happy, and it’s a project that’s acceptable,” Trustee Tom Krueger said.
    “We won’t go forward until we get some of the answers we’re looking for, because we need them as well as you.”
    The board previously awarded contracts to two firms for financial and engineering work for the project.
    For financial services, Ehlers & Associates was given a $14,500 contract and Ruekert & Mielke was awarded a $246,000 contract for engineering and infrastructure work.
    “Grafton is a pretty popular place. The reasons why you’re here are the same reasons businesses want to come to Grafton, because it’s a great place to be and do work,” Brunnquell said.
    “If the developer did not feel the demand was there and they did not feel the project was viable enough to investigate, they wouldn’t be bringing these projects to the village.”

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