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90 acres sought for respite center PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitch Maersch   
Monday, 08 May 2017 15:52

Plan would require rezoning, take about $3.7 million off town tax rolls

A Cedarburg woman has in motion an effort to purchase approximately 90 acres of land in the Town of Saukville to operate a non-profit, 24-hour respite care center for people with special needs.

To be called The Gathering, it’s the dream of Sue Reel, the mother of a young adult woman born with severe birth defects. Reel will be  addressing the town’s Plan Commission on Tuesday, May 9, to provide details.

However, Town Chairman Don Hamm warns that many hoops and hurdles likely await.

“She wants to put in a bid, but we’re not nearly there. This will be a long process,” Hamm said. “Everyone (on the commission) supports the concept, but we need to know how the neighbors feel and more of the nuts and bolts of the operation — like how much traffic can be expected and how many people will be staying overnight.”

The land is home to three properties — one is undeveloped, one holds a house and a barn, and the third is home to what Hamm calls “our town’s mansion.” Located at 3657 Birchwood Rd., it boasts 8,000 square feet  and a swimming pool on 35 acres featuring a private lake. It was last listed for $1.95 million. 

sauk property 4CThe parcels are located just southwest of the intersection of Highway 33 and Birchwood Road in the town’s western section.

The buildings will likely be utilized in their current form, but according to Reel’s website her desire is to build more structures, such as guest houses and an aquatic center, in the future.

The existing septic is designed for single-family homes, Hamm said, and he wonders how it could support a larger complex.

Another potential snag comes in the fact the town doesn’t have any land designated as institutional.

“We’d have to rezone it to a category we don’t even have,” Hamm said.

The properties have been for sale for some time,  and the aggregate purchase price is yet to be determined. Reel did not return calls seeking comment.

Hamm said the combined properties are valued at about $3.7 million. The proposed complex would have tax-exempt status, so the town would be taking a substantial hit.

“It’s one of our highest assessed properties,” he said of the parcel with the large estate, “and we’d be taking that off the tax rolls.

“We already have the Cedarburg Bog, which belongs to the DNR, and Hawthorne Hills Golf Course, which belongs to the county. That’s a lot of land.”

Backed by investors and donors, Reel first attempted to purchase 156 acres near Trenton, along the border of Washington and Ozaukee counties. The area used to serve as a YMCA camp.

But the deal fell through, and Saukville became the next choice.

According to Reel’s website, the retreat-like center would offer a safe setting for those with special needs while “caregivers get time to recharge.”

When asked if such a complex would fit in with the town’s landscape, Hamm paused before answering.

“I’m not sure yet,” he said. “I’d like to hear the neighbors’ reaction.”  

Public hearings are required before a Town Board can vote on any rezoning matters.

PHOTO INFORMATION: THIS PROPERTY along Birchwood Road is the focal point of 90 acres a developer is attempting to purchase in order to establish a respite center. Google Maps


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