Save the County Grounds: UPDATE

The fight to save the last remaining wooded acres of the County Grounds is not over. Although we all won some major victories earlier this spring, the Mayor of Wauwatosa and other city officials are working hard behind the scenes to reverse the progress we’ve made. They’re trying to carve several natural areas out of the proposed expansion of County Grounds Park, including wooded green spaces bordering the Sanctuary Woods, for their development plans.

We have to stop them!

We need your help now more than ever!

Because of everyone’s hard work and the overwhelming popular opposition to any development on the County Grounds’ remaining natural areas, including Sanctuary Woods, the Wauwatosa Community Affairs Committee on May 9, 2017, placed the Life Sciences District Master Plan (LSD-MP) on hold until 5 conditions were met:

  1. A report from the Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission on the ecology of the area.
  2. A zoning proposal from Milwaukee County for land they own within the LSD-MP area.
  3. A report from Milwaukee County on the impediments to development at the UWM Innovation Campus and Research Park.
  4. Milwaukee County takes action to preserve the natural areas commonly known as the County Grounds Park and Sanctuary Woods in perpetuity.
  5. That Milwaukee County facilitate with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to preserve their forest land west and north of Swan Boulevard in perpetuity.

The Community Affairs Committee will reconsider the LSD-MP when all 5 items are completed to the committee’s satisfaction.

It is our understanding that item 1 will be completed this fall; item 2 is being reviewed by the City (this is discussed in detail below); item 3 is done; items 4 and 5 incomplete.

So what has happened since the Common Council meeting May 9?

We hosted town hall meetings with Wauwatosa alders

In addition to working on these five items listed above, with your help we have hosted “town hall” style meetings with most of our Common Council members. Each now has a better understanding of the problems with the LSD-MP and the need to preserve in perpetuity the last remaining natural areas of the county grounds.

Milwaukee County asked Wauwatosa to protect the Sanctuary Woods area

On May 25, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Resolution 17-453, which reads, “A resolution by Supervisors Schmitt and Weishan Jr., opposing the disposition, compromise, or sale of any County Grounds Park land acreage, and supporting and encouraging the rezoning of remaining Sanctuary Woods parcels to the equivalent designation as parkland.”

The County Executive signed it five days later, May 30.

This was the first step taken by the county to meet the second condition (listed above) required by the Wauwatosa Community Affairs Committee before the Common Council can take up consideration of the LSD-MP.

Milwaukee County Application to Rezone Sanctuary Woods

Once the County Board and County Executive passed the Sanctuary Woods Area resolution, county staff began work on the City of Wauwatosa’s rezoning application form. Several of us, including Ald. Welch, met with county officials to discuss the exact boundaries and conditions of the rezoning application. We were unhappy with some of the areas county staff excluded from the rezoning request — specifically the expanded area around the food services building and the wooded green space between the Ronald McDonald House and the Wisconsin Athletic Club — and told County Development Director James Tarantino so at a meeting that included County Sup. Luigi Schmitt, as well as coalition members.

County staff later reworked the map, but expanded those excluded areas even further, especially around the food services building, in the application it submitted to the city August 9. We are currently working with county and city officials to address these concerns. We will keep you posted and may call upon you to help ensure the rezoning application is consistent with the intent of the County resolution and truly protects ALL the County Grounds’ remaining natural areas.

The Wauwatosa Rezoning Process

City staff is currently giving the county’s application a technical review, after which they will forward it to the Wauwatosa Plan Commission, which will schedule a public hearing and another commission meeting before forwarding its recommendation to the Common Council. It will then go to the Community Affairs Committee, which decides what goes on the Common Council agenda.

The Plan Commission normally meets once a month. The meetings are open to the public. The earliest the Plan Commission would consider the County’s application to rezone Sanctuary Woods is Sept. 11, but we don’t know yet when the commission will schedule consideration of the application. We’ll keep you posted.

So what can I do now to protect the Sanctuary Woods area?

Keep your yard signs up — and buy one for your neighbor. You can get your yard signs delivered by calling LuAnne at 414-324-6586

Attend the “Get up to speed: Save the County Grounds Forum” — 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, in the Firefly Room of the Wauwatosa Public Library.

For more information — visit our website, countygroundscoalition.org, or email us at info@countygroundscoalition.org.

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