Monday, April 20, 2009

City Plan Commission Approves South Side Comprehensive Plan


In photo: (L-R) Ernesto Nava and H. Nelson Goodson spoke against the proposed plan on Monday to the City Plan Commission.

Menomonee Valley proposed development would not provide enough jobs needed for the district, according to Carolyn Seboe, HNTB Consulting

Updated April 22, 2009

Milwaukee -On Monday, members of City Plan Commission chaired by Patricia Torres Najera unanimously decided to approve the controversial South Side Comprehensive Plan despite opposition to approve it. The plan has come underfire for the lack of community awareness of the plan, affects, and possible gentrification affect it will have in the predominately Hispanic area.
The planning advisory group in favor of the plan was led by Michael J. Maierle, Strategic Planning Manager for the Milwaukee Department of City Development. Maierle told the commission the plan had been in the works for two years and the community had been informed. Dr. Tony Baez, executive director for the Council for the Spanish Speaking who spoke in favor of the plan said that El Conquistador Newspaper was used to advertise the plan and meetings. Baez also said that Maria Cameron-Monreal was in favor along with others who participated in the planning, but Maria was not present at the meeting.
Victor Huyke, Publisher of El Conquistador Newspaper said, “I published the ad the weekend before they unveiled the plan at the Harley Davidson museum. The city didn’t pay for the ad, I paid for the ad to let the community known how important it was for them to participate.” The Department of City Development has had no ads published in El Conquistador within the last two years concerning the South side Comprehensive Plan, according to Huyke.
Another member of the Maierle’s advisory group, Carolyn Seboe from HNTB Consulting said that the South side was predominately residential and the advisory plan would bring jobs to the area although the Menomonee Valley proposed development would not provide enough jobs needed for the district. Maierle said, the South side “provides the labor force for most of the metro area.”
In opposition, H. Nelson Goodson who resides in the area where the comprehensive plan is being proposed says, the community just became aware of the proposed advisory plan last month when it was unveiled at the Harley Davidson museum. The lack of awareness was contributed to a lack of advertising in the Latino community. Goodson told the commission that the plan failed to mention the taxes and revenues generated from the South side district for the city. “The city of Milwaukee needs transparency and the public needs to know how much tax revenue has been generated in the area to benefit the city, compared to other districts. I don't believe the plan will actually benefit our community in the South side, if aldermen and developers use it as a tool to try and force small businesses and residents from the area just because they no longer fit in the plan. I suspect, if an audit would be requested on how much money was actually used from the $150,000 to fund the advisory Near South Side Area Plan was geared for advertising in the Latino community, we would be surprised to learn very minimal or none advertising dollars were used,” Goodson said.
Goodson emphasized, the 12th Aldermanic district alone is not just residential, but has at least fifteen business districts within and some of those Business Improvement Districts (BID) including the Cesar E. Drive was not included in the planning. The plan shows a new market place between S. 5th St. to S. 6th St. on the South side of W. Historic Mitchell St., which Alderman Jim Witkowiak owns most of the block.
On Tuesday, Witkowiak said he learned about the proposed market on his property on March 17, when the plan was first unveiled at the Harley Davidson Museum. Baez told the commission that he personally met and talked to Witkowiak various times and he knew about the market from the beginning. Witkowiak denied Baez statement, but said he was aware that an arch with the named of W. Historic Mitchell St. was proposed on Mitchell.
In brief, the conceptual plan eliminated Witkowiak Funeral Home, the SER Jobs for Progress building and various other businesses on W. Historic Mitchell St. and replaces those businesses with a Market place. The plan eliminates the Milwaukee Ballet School, La Perla Restaurant, La Fuente Restaurant, Texture night club and other businesses from W. National Ave. to W. Priece St. along S. 5th St. and replacing them with other buildings and residential lofts. On S. Cesar E. Chavez Dr., the South West corner where the Old El Rey Super Market parking lot is located at on W. Walker St. is replaced by a three story apartment complex.
The plan has no reference to naming streets in Spanish, Latino leaders monuments or any historical markers identifying the area predominately Hispanic and its reach culture.
No Spanish interpreters were available at the City Plan Commission meeting. Few Latinos that attended could not speak because of the lack of an interpreter. Maierle told the commission a short summary version of the proposed plan was available in Spanish, but on Tuesday Karen Mierow, Project Manager for the Near South Side Plan said there is no summary plan in Spanish yet until the final project approval is granted by the Common Council. The project summary in Spanish would then be posted on the web for the Department of City Development site, according to Mierow. “This is one of the reasons I’m opposing the plan, because people, residents, and businesses in the district are being excluded from participating in the plan. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Maierle and Dr. Baez say advertisement was made in the Latino community for the plan, and for Mr. Maierle to actually tell the commission that a Spanish summary of the plan was available, when none is available yet,” Goodson said.
Ernesto Nava who lives in the South side also opposes the current advisory plan. Nava told the commission Maierle’s advisory group failed to properly inform the public about the proposed plan, because in our community there are multiple media outlets in Spanish, television, radio, magazines, newspaper, and none were used to inform the Latino community in last few years. “The project sounds to good and beautiful, but it doesn’t cover our needs in the area. We need development in the area of providing hospitals, clinics, gyms for teenagers, newer schools, and to repair our streets and side walks. One of my major concerns is how low income families are going to afford to live in the area and to keep up with the proposed development and also how small businesses are going to fit in the plan. None of these concerns were addressed in the plan by Maierle’s advisory group,” Nava said.
Both, Goodson and Nava requested the commission to postpone or table approval of the plan until the community and the BIDs in the area participate. The request fell on deaf ears.
Juan Luis Gutierrez, a South side resident was also present and opposed the plan, but did not speak.
The commission allowed Maierle, Baez, and members of their advisory group to speak various times while Goodson and Nava were denied by the commission any further comment to tried to clarify and provide information that would contradict the advisory group comments. Why?, probably the commission is rubber stamping the proposed South side project.
The plan controversy ignited back in December when the South East Comprehensive Plan approved by the Common Council was used by an alderman to keep AK Food Mart in Bay View from getting a Class “A” Malt license. At a License Committee hearing on December 15, 2008 they even brought Michael J. Maierle, Urban Planner from DCD to testify that it wouldn’t further the development plan, if a license was granted.
But a month later Ald. Tony Zielinski spear headed the approval of a liquor license to another business under construction called the Tonic Tavern in the 2300 block of S. KK without advising the neighborhood residents as required by law. Currently, Zielinski is a member of the License Committee and why hasn’t the DCD filed a formal complaint against Ald. Zielinski with the Common Council for violating the approved plan.
The South side Comprehensive plan which includes the 12th Aldermanic district and portions of Aldermanic districts 8, 11, 13, and 14 goes before the Zoning, Neighborhoods, and Development Committee, on May 19, at 9:00 a.m. in Room 301 B, City Hall, 200 E. Wells St. Finally, the Common Council is scheduled to vote on the plan on May 27, at 9:00 a.m. in the Common Council Chambers in Room 301 B at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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