CONCERNED CITIZENS AD ON DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT By JUDY STEFFES
Last Saturday a half-page-advertisement directed at ‘Fellow residents of West Bend’ ran in the West Bend Daily News. The ad focused on the proposed River Bluffs downtown housing development and outlined a series of landscape upgrades made over the past year in the TIF-5 district.
Mike Husar and Mary Martin Husar are part of a group of concerned citizens and business people that financed the ad.
“We feel the property has way more value and potential than the city is giving it credit for,” said Mike Husar noting the additions of the art gallery, train depot, The Binkery and upgrades to Veterans Avenue.
“We have the mayor telling us it’s blighted and low income and that’s not what we stand for,” he said.
The property in question is off Veterans Ave. near Wisconsin St.
Real Estate Equities from Minnesota is a private firm that has been working with the Redevelopment Authority and the city to construct townhomes on that parcel of vacant land.
The Husar’s, owners of Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds located on Main St., are across the river from the proposed housing project.
They, along with about 80 concerned citizens, said the ad was designed to drum up attention and prompt discussion on the true potential of the property.
“We want the community and the aldermen to be brought up to speed on what’s going on with the project and hopefully better understand our concerns,” said Husar.
“This is not like saying we’re putting the Farmer’s Market back there and if it doesn’t work we can move it. Once this project is built, it’s done, it’s over; there’s nothing we can do to change it.”
Some of the group’s concerns include the financial feasibility of the housing project and the long-term income value of the property. “I question the occupancy levels, the rental amount of $650 to $950 a month – there are too many ‘what ifs’ and speculation,” said Husar.
“That housing project belongs some place in the city, but not there,” he said.
Mary Martin Husar said their ultimate goal is “what is going to be best for this community and that is to bring in something that is going to bring more tax increment.”
“This group has offered to the community and to every one of the powers that be that we are willing to help find the right mix over there,” she said.
The newspaper ad concluded with a statement – ‘Give the Downtown a chance to develop its real potential.’ Taxpayers were also encouraged to call city officials and offer their input.
The Husars have held one-on-one meetings with Mayor Kris Deiss, city administrator Dennis Melvin, community development director John Cappelle, police chief Ken Meuler, a handful of alderman and representatives from the Redevelopment Authority.
On Monday the West Bend Common Council will receive an update on TIF#5 and the River Bluffs development.
Melvin confirms there have been items of concern about the project. He said new findings regarding pro forma and tax increment will be discussed Monday.
Police chief Ken Meuler met with Real Estate Equities this week and also expressed concerns regarding traffic and parking issues and other potential disorder.
As of Wednesday, council members confirmed they received feedback from the ad.
Mayor Deiss received five calls, all against pursuing the housing development.
District 4 alderman Nick Dobberstein fielded 11 e-mails and six phone calls – three favored the development and 14 spoke against pursuing the housing option.
District 7 alderman Deb Anderson received 17 calls and emails with two in favor and the rest either against the housing or looking for clarification on the development.
District 8 alderman Roger Kist received three responses and two were against the proposed housing.
District 6 alderman Mike Schlotfeldt received five responses with one in favor of the housing and four against.
District 1 alderman Tony Turner said he received a handful of calls with a majority against the housing proposal.
Calls from aldermen Steve Hutchins or Ed Duquaine were not received by deadline.
*NOTE:- District 1 West Bend alderman Tony Turner has changed his phone number. Turner said he dropped his land line for a cell phone. His new number is 262-366-5374. Turner’s information has been updated on the city’s Web site.