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Residents voice a resounding no to respite center PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Morton   
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 20:29

Potential developer a no-show at planning meeting, leaving town officials with many unanswered questions

When a Town of Saukville Plan Commission member on Tuesday asked an overflow crowd of 30-plus residents to raise their hand if they oppose a possible plan that would allow a 24-hour respite center to be created on the western edge of town, the response was overwhelming.

“That’s very telling,” commission member Tom Ravin said after nearly every hand went up. “Do I think it would fit in? No, it does not — not when you consider our comp plan. We’d have to amend it to even consider a proposal like this.”

It’s a plan that doesn’t include zoning for an institutional facility. That category would have to be created by the town if the proposal were to be approved.

“It would mean re-doing our map, and our map is our final authority,” Ravin said.

He said he had eight or nine questions he expected answered at the meeting, including details of a business plan, but no one representing the proposed entity, called The Gathering, was present.

Officials said Sue Reel, the Cedarburg woman who is considering purchasing 90 acres at the corner of Highway 33 and Birchwood Road to establish the facility for special-needs care, told them she would be in attendance to answer questions.

“I’m surprised she wasn’t here,” Town Chairman Don Hamm said.

Reel had asked officials to discuss the plan before she made an offer to purchase.

“This is simply in the conceptual stage — a ‘what-if’ stage, but she wanted to know our thoughts in case it influenced an offer,” Ravin. “But this is an exceptionally ambitious plan and the process could take up to nine months — or quite possibly a year.”

The land is made up of three parcels. One includes an 8,000-square-foot house recently listed for just shy of $2 million, one includes a house and barn, and the third is undeveloped. 

Ravin said some of the land sits in “a primary environmental corridor,” featuring wildlife, vegetation and water resources.

For starters, he fears the facility, which Reel told officials would begin with at least 50 employees and eight buses arriving daily, and could eventually include as many as 10 new buildings, would result in a situation too taxing on the area’s groundwater supply.

“I did some research and the average person uses 78 gallons of water per day,” Ravin said. “But to be conservative, let’s say 30. So, if 50 people start there, you’re talking 547,500 gallons per year.

“Tack on the vendors, the gardens, and she talked about having livestock, and we’re looking at 2 million gallons of well water per year.”

Ravin said large amounts of water use at the nearby Bog Golf Course a few years ago showed signs for potential problems.

“It tapped out a neighboring farm,” he said.

Other concerns Ravin raised included septic capacity, with groundwater contamination a potential fallout, as well as a possible strain on the town’s third-party fire service.

“We’re not going to get rich compensating for this,” commission member Jeff Walczyk said.

As a non-profit entity, the proposed center would likely not be taxable if it meets the necessary criteria associated with medical facilities.

Already, the town consists of more than 3,000 acres of non-taxable land, the county-owned Hawthorne Hills Golf Course and state-owned Cedarburg Bog making up most of that.

Hamm estimates the land sought after by Reel has a value of $3.7 million.

Residents, meanwhile, also voiced opposition to the proposal. 

“What will happen to the property value of my house?” Kathy Nissen, whose property abuts a lake on the land, asked. “It doesn’t make sense in a residential area to turn it into this.

“And I have safety concerns. It abuts Highway 33, where cars travel fast, and there’s an open pool and the lake. I don’t want to be on my dock, looking to rescue someone.”

Greg Goetzman’s property also abuts the lake.

“A zoning change would change my reasoning for being here,” he said.

Nathan Nissen, husband of Kathy Nissen, told officials to stay true to their comprehensive plan.

“This is not a decision on The Gathering, but a decision on the land use,” he said.

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