March 3, 2020 – West Bend, WI – It appeared almost all of the 70 homeowners and their spouses were in attendance at Monday night’s West Bend Common Council meeting as a public hearing was held on a special assessment for neighbors in the Westminster Place subdivision located in the area of Decorah Road and 18th Avenue. The special assessment is tied to road improvements on 18th Avenue between Decorah Road and Vogt Drive along with curb and gutter, street lights, sidewalk, etc. About 85 properties are included in the special assessment.
The group appeared in an organized effort to try and convince the council to back off on a special assessment that could tag properties an additional $1,757.14 to $5,449.47 to over $16,000. That last increase is for an address that houses a non-profit organization on 18th Avenue.
Brett Berquist kicked off the public hearing with a list of prior court cases, details of municipal code, and developers’ agreements.
Steve Ahles – 9,600 vehicles per day use 18th Ave. Subdivision is 70 homes. Deficiencies in the road. 18th Ave has had a rural cross section and the subdivision not the reason why it should be an urban road. Road is generally flat, if our subdivision were the reason for this or make sure we’re safe then why take until 2019 to open the road. Few N & S arterial streets in WB. Next road is 2 mi to the east. Allows travel from Paradise Drive biz and serves as alternate to US 45. Would adding a bike lane to two blocks of road make it safer for bikers. How much do adjacent property owners benefit vs the traveling public. Please consider who really benefit from the reconstruction of 18th Avenue. Go back, sharpen your pencil and rework your numbers.
Brett Berquist – special benefits. Ignore those that support the people.
City engineer report shows direct benefits to subdivision.
No. 1 – curb and gutter result in improved roadway. The subdivision as some reverse frontage lots. New curb and gutter benefits the entity who pays for it. After road done the city became responsible for maintenance.
No. 2 – pedestrian and bicycle access. S. 18th Ave. is part of larger network of bike and walking trails.
No. 3 – wider road for improved vehicle capacity. When does increased number equal benefit to subdivision. Basically road is no wider than it was – other than
No. 4 – improved emergency vehicle access
No. 5 – improved safety with street lighting. Only helps drivers and not property owners.
No 6 – benefits have to be articulated and detailed showing an uncommon advantage. Developer would waive future rights and there’s wording in developers agreement. Reconstruct 18th Avenue on “some future date.”
Clear on provisions in state statutes – the use of a special assessment to recoup costs. This would not pass legal scrutiny.
Comments – in 2017 as part of design process – the traffic forecast was 8300 cars in 2013. More vehicles from community use 18th Ave than residents of subdivision.
Arterial road – 18th Ave benefits general public – 2020 land use plan – any street must move people efficiently and safely and provide direct access to homes.
Heavy volumes of traffic can’t be in a subdivision.
A street with heavy traffic is not attractive for neighboring subdivisions.
Other cities have chosen special assessments – except on two blocks of Eighth Avenue.
Not a benefit to Westminster Place Subdivision.
Tim Riedl –It’s obvious any sort of road improvement helps the city overall. There are times in life when you have the right to do something or it’s the right thing to do. In this case this is clearly not the case. Please do the right thing when making a decision.
Harry Shaw – Examine the issue of special assessment through a different lens. First word is integrity. Definition according to Webster – an unimpaired condition. Two examples – website gets hacked and impaired. It no longer has integrity. Military code broken it’s compromised. The issue at hand is the local contract. I feel integrity was compromised when Joseph G. Altschaefl– was part of the Plan Commission and then the agreement was passed along to future property owners. I firmly believe this was not an oversight. No. 2 ethical – conforming to accepted standards of conduct. City has to file rules for state statutes of conduct. To not follow these would compromise the city’s responsibilities. I find it incomprehensible the city engineer is trying to pass off that the improvements are for our subdivision and not the city as a whole.
Bob Roecker – The city shall have the right to impose special assessments. It doesn’t say the city must. We’re being assessed over $11,000; this increases speed and volume of traffic and we have to do snow removal. This benefits all of West Bend. Why isn’t the cost distributed evenly among all taxpayers? Are all road improvements in the city of WB financed by special assessments? Then if not – why this one? This money doesn’t fall from the sky. This isn’t fair or ethical. I hope you will decide to levy this tax on all taxpayers evenly.
John Peterson – 18th and Schloemener – few years ago received notice that I’m from the government and I’m here to help you. I attended public hearings. I raised objections. Was told this would be for the greater good of the city. A hill was created in my yard and I lost five trees and now there’s 150 feet of sidewalk that I must shovel. Lived on corner since 1989. I paid school taxes even though my family has gone to private schools since ????. Why should I be charge for a street that I only use a couple times a week. My assessment is $13,000.
Lay Rosenheimer – board of directors of Friends, Inc. In existence for 42 years and shelter is on S. 18th Avenue. Not in the subdivision but on 18th. This is a non-profit agency. Operate 20 bed shelter for people experience abuse and human trafficking. Provide 7,000 bed nights annually. Shelter and transitional living make up half of annual budget of $480,000.
As the rest of residents impacted – we have an assessment of just under $15,000 and that’s a crippling amount. We don’t receive county support anymore but do receive United Way funding. I’m asking this committee to reconsider charge to Friends, Inc. It’s the largest amount for all homeowners involved. We were cut out of county budget in 2017. These families experience trauma in their homes and if we were not here to provide this. Our budget is set on grants, donations. To relay the cost to our services – it could me a loss of 428 advocacy sessions. 441 education lessons. This loss would be felt throughout the county.
Lay’s words – I’ve been a city resident for 26 years and in the county for 60 years. We have problems in our community and we exist to help victims of the crimes. This is a substantial assessment and this is a nice road but it’s difficult. This agency relies on donations, grants and an assessment like this is damaging.
Louie Santini – this is an arterial roadway joining north and south West Bend to the west. The special benefits have been challenged. These benefit the general public. City six statements – curb and gutter on 18th Ave. Subdivision was already designed with water diversion easements. Helping other modes of transportation. This will benefit the city as a whole. Improved vehicle capacity with wider roads – will that rally benefit the subdivision? Improve emergency vehicle access – that’s not improved just if the road is new. Lights help road and not Westminster. City is asking developer that there’s a special benefit to Westminster. Without acknowledgement the project would have been denied. The road was widened on Eighth Avenue but no special assessment happened there.
No sunset provision in this developer’s agreement. Will this go on into perpetuity. Developers agreement says city MAY not SHALL issue a special assessment. We ask respectfully to vote no to resolution
Douglas Kieckhafer – lifelong 626 S. Eighth Avenue. I’ve traveled 18th many times. As I heard about this – when I drive through 18th from Decorah – every time I think how ridiculous this type of assessment would be. The people here that are affected have been well behaved. If I had been living in that area – or the non-profit I would be quite upset. My concern is this setting a precedent. Might you start doing this elsewhere. One important thing – 9,600 cars per day and something says the subdivision people in attendance are small. Other people are benefiting… as are the businesses on Paradise Drive. How ridiculous this assessment is. Who ever would go along with this should be ashamed of themselves.
Following about 45 minutes worth of comments the public hearing was closed.
The council then discussed the issue for about 15 minutes hashing over items like the developer’s agreement, state statute and escrow.
“This is a tough situation here and I feel sorry for all these residents because of one person, the developer,” said District 1 alderman John Butschlick. “If we relinquish and say we won’t hold them accountable then in the last minute the city has no rhyme or reason – would it be the property owner or city.”
The council eventually voted unanimously to table the issue until the next meeting.
After the meeting neighbors from the subdivision gathered in the entrance to City Hall. They praised each other for maintaining a professional demeanor and for giving the council “something to think about.”
“The feeling I got was the council members received a lot of information tonight,” said Westminster subdivision spokesman Louie Santini. “I didn’t think they felt they could make a decision on the resolution based on what they heard tonight. I think they will do their own research as to what’s the right thing to do in this situation. We truly believe this is not a fair assessment to S. 18th Avenue residents and the Westminster subdivision.”