Thursday, June 11, 2009

City of Milwaukee Zoning Committee Approves Eminent Domain To Take Land

Aldermen passed land acquisition after proposed Latino restaurant and nightclub denied liquor license

By H. Nelson Goodson
June 11, 2009

Milwaukee - Last Tuesday, the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee decided on a 4-0 to approve a land acquisition resolution for job creation and development growth in the S. Cesar E. Chavez Dr. corridor. The Zoning committee is chaired by South side 12th District Alderman James Witkowiak.
During the meeting, Elaine Miller from the Department of City Development (DCD) told the the committee members that “the city is exercising eminent domain...that will facilitate the expansion of Pete's Fruit Market in the area of 16th and Greenfield and will contribute to the revitalization of the area.” The privately owned properties at 1443 and 1445-47 South Muskego Avenue were blight designated to facilitate the acquisition of the land by the Redevelopment Authority two weeks ago, according to Miller. The properties are currently owned by Anna and Eligio Cetina. The Cetina’s bought the land in 2002 and their business plan was to built a Mayan flavor food restaurant and night club. They previously received a liquor license, but expired due to various requests for basic improvements of their property by the DCD, which prevented them from developing their land, according to the Cetina’s. The property is not considered a nuisance and has never been cited as such.
The Cetina’s land acquisition resolution now goes before the full Common Council for approval on June 16th. The Cetina family plans to file a civil suit once the city takes final action to seize the land.
This action by the City of Milwaukee caught the attention of former U.S. Attorney and radio talk show host Jeff Wagner who said on Wednesday during his radio show on WTMJ 620 AM, “I think is shameful, I think this is gross abuse of eminent domain.”
Eminent Domain is used to purchase land for public interest such as building highways, public schools, hospitals and government facilities.
Pete Tsitiridis, owner and operator of Pete's Fruit Market at 1400 S. Union St. wants to built a $5.7 million, 51,790-square-foot expansion of his business. Ald. Witkowiak said he supports the expansion, which is not surprising considering that Witkowiak’s campaign contribution records indicate that three members of the Tsitiridis family have donated the $2,000 collectively to Witkowiak’s campaign in 2008.
In May, the Zoning Committee also approved the South side Comprehensive Area Plan considered discriminatory towards new immigrants, low-income residents, and Latino business growth.
The crafters of the plan included, the consulting firm of HNTB, Department of City Development (DCD) planners, the Contract Management Team, and funding partners. The planners have been criticized by South side residents for creating one of the most controversial development plans in Milwaukee’s history.
In April 20th, the City Plan Commission approved the plan even though complaints were made about the lack of information in Spanish concerning the plan.
The DCD and the planners failed to included the proposed Pete’s Market expansion in the S. Cesar E. Chavez Dr. corridor and in the South side comprehensive plan when it was finally approved by the Common Council on May 27th. Implying, the HNTB Consulting and DCD’s continued practice of deceit and not providing information to the public and taxpayers they are paid to serve.

The following letter was sent by the Cetina family:

Communism in Milwaukee?

My family owns 3 vacant city lots at the 1443,1445-47 block of Muskego Ave. Our dreams and property were both taken away by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM). 3 well maintained lots with grass has now been declared by RACM to be "blighted". This means green open space is somehow "detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare." Now that RACM has declared our property to be blighted, they are taking it by eminent domain. They have become the arm twisting hand of Pete's Marketplace that will force the sale of our property. What happened to the rights of property owners to develop their own property and fulfill their dreams? Why is my family punished for being a working class family that does not have millions available for development? Why has RACM taken away my family's rights as property owners and given them to a rich developer? If RACM decides your neighbor has better plans for development, beware, as your ownership rights may be taken away too. The protections of the law which prohibits the government from taking unblighted property in order to convey it to a private entity apparently no longer applies to RACM. [32.03(6)(b)].[wis.stat]

Sincerely from a Hispanic Family,

Rafael Cetina y Familia
June 11, 2009

1 comment:

brad said...

On behalf of the Libertarian Party in Milwaukee, I started an online petition:
The Celinas have our support.