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Brown Deer Plan Commission holds off on Beaver Creek rezoning decision

Brown Deer resident and petition organizer Don Uebelacker addresses the Brown Deer Plan Commission on Tuesday about the proposed conversion of condominiums to apartments for rent at the Beaver Creek development. The development is on Brown Deer Road and 60th Street and would need rezoning.

Brown Deer resident and petition organizer Don Uebelacker addresses the Brown Deer Plan Commission on Tuesday about the proposed conversion of condominiums to apartments for rent at the Beaver Creek development. The development is on Brown Deer Road and 60th Street and would need rezoning. Photo By Michael Meidenbauer

May 29, 2013

Brown Deer — The rezoning decision to allow for a Bradley Crossing-esque development at the Beaver Creek site on Brown Deer Road and 60th Street will have to wait until June 10.

After more than two hours of testimony from developer General Capital and Brown Deer residents — a large majority of whom oppose the project — Tuesday evening, the Plan Commission decided to lay over its deliberations until the June meeting to give commissioners more time to think it over and village staff more time to gather pertinent data like North Shore rental and low-income statistics.

General Capital's plans call for a 44 rental unit expansion of Beaver Creek, with 75 percent of the units for general population and 25 percent disability, with 37 of the 44 units at a low-income rental rate and seven at a market rate. Including the 10 existing condos, four of which General Capital will buy back if the expansion is approved, 17 of the total 54 units would rent at a high-end market rate. With a combination of strict background and criminal screenings, on-site management, condo-style units, community meeting room, and a "Beaver Creek Community Association," General Capital is trying to replicate a condo feel with its apartment development.

"You can have a very good building go very bad if you have bad management, and we take that very seriously," General Capital Partner Sig Strautmanis said. "This would not be, as what is commonly referred to as low-income housing and what is stigmatized as low-income housing."

General Capital is trying to make good on its 2007 investment in the Beaver Creek site, which has stalled since the developer built 10 condos before the 2008 economic downturn, four of which sold before the remaining six languished and were eventually rented. At present the village has invested $1.75 million in the site through tax incremental financing in exchange for General Capital to guarantee certain property values.

The most recent amendment to the agreement between General Capital and the village, passed in January, allowed General Capital to apply for Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority tax credits for the Beaver Creek project. It would also allow the village Community Development Authority to provide an additional $550,000 to General Capital if the project goes through and the property value of the site increases to approximately $10.2 million by 2015.

Voices for and against

Of an estimated 269-resident crowd, those who spoke out against the project far outnumbered those who supported it. As the night wore on and people eventually began to leave, the Plan Commission called for a show of hands from the remaining residents. One hundred-ten indicated they were against the development, while 12 raised their hands in support.

Many of those who spoke against the project had already signed a petition that was turned in to the Village Board in April with 1,044 signatures. Since then, the count has risen to 1,080 signatures, petition organizer Don Uebelacker said.

Petition-signers Tuesday, as they did in April, said the village should stand by its original 2007 agreement with General Capital, which requires owner-occupied condominiums. They said the pride of ownership would make for better neighbors and create stability in the area, and that the village shouldn't compromise that original vision because of the economic downturn.

"If General Capital can't sell condos, that's their problem, not ours," project opponent and petition-signer Mike Christopulos said. "Brown Deer citizens shouldn't be expected to pull General Capital's chestnuts out of the fire and bail that group out."

Others expressed concerns over impacts on property values, quality of life, and crime, calling for the Plan Commission to reject the rezoning. Several suggested, to applause from the crowd, that the issue be brought to voters through referendum.

Most of the residents who spoke in favor of the project are themselves residents of Bradley Crossing. Two told anecdotes about their disabled children, and the lifeline Bradley Crossing has been for their families, which otherwise may have not had a home. Bradley Crossing resident Alanna Thompson, whose son, Elijah, was paralyzed as a complication of cancer, urged the Plan Commission and crowd to think of cases like theirs before dismissing the project.

"There are a lot of Elijahs out there who are stuck," Thompson said. "He didn't ask for cancer, or to be paralyzed, but (Bradley Crossing) is allowing him to live his life to the best."

More data on the way

Planning and Zoning Director Nate Piotrowski, quoting 2010 U.S. Census data, said Brown Deer is approximately 31 percent renter-occupied, with 6.9 percent of its overall housing stock fitting the low-income criteria. Compared to area communities like Oak Creek at 5.2 percent, Glendale at 4.5 percent, and Cudahy at 5.6 percent, he said Brown Deer is "ahead by a reasonable number, but not terribly out of whack."

However, as several residents in the crowd pointed out, other North Shore communities like Fox Point, Whitefish Bay and Shorewood were absent from the data Piotrowski presented.

At the request of those residents, Piotrowski said he would have North Shore and southeastern Wisconsin data available for the June 10 meeting.

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