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Residents take cautious view of city's 'gateway'

City explains goals in cooperative planning effort

June 25, 2012

Muskego - In its quest to create a redevelopment district along the northern end of Racine Avenue, the city faces some concerns tied to its "gateway" ideals.

At last week's public hearing on the topic before the Community Development Authority, the concerns included whether city water would be forced on people who are perfectly happy with their private wells, whether new development would contaminate a creek that flows into Little Muskego Lake, and whether Racine would become a four-lane road.

First, Jeff Muenkel, the city's director of community development, explained to about a dozen people who attended the public hearing what Muskego hopes to accomplish.

Road to the gateway

Muskego officials want to establish the redevelopment district to make it easier to work with New Berlin and eventually the state Department of Transportation on enhancing Racine Avenue as it is a northern "gateway," Muenkel said.

Cooperation is seen as essential, given that New Berlin is seriously thinking about developing the Mill Valley Sand and Gravel site on its side of Racine Avenue into an office park, and the road itself is a county highway, he said.

Muskego's proposed redevelopment district would be mainly on the east side of Racine Avenue from the city limits at College Avenue south past Tans Drive almost to Lembezeder Drive. A tract of mainly vacant land and a few homes on the west side would also be included.

Even though New Berlin's office park development might not happen for many years, Muenkel said he wants to be able to reinforce Muskego's desire for an attractive entrance to the city. He also wants the grants and loans that a redevelopment district offers available to Muskego business owners wanting to expand or redevelop.

The reason the office park might not come anytime soon, Muenkel said, is because New Berlin officials have to figure out how to bring water and sewer service to the site.

Water issues, above and below

Because New Berlin might ask Muskego to help in that regard, Elizabeth Leahy was concerned about water mains coming into an area that now uses private wells. Sometimes people don't want municipal water because their wells are fine.

Muenkel didn't address that point specifically, but he detailed where city water current exists in that neighborhood. He said the nearest city water to the redevelopment area is east of Hillendale Drive around Tans Drive. That is roughly three-quarters of a mile from the College Avenue border with New Berlin. It also is less than a quarter of a mile from Racine Avenue.

It was the above-ground water that concerned Howard Schneider of Jewel Crest Drive, who wanted to protect the creek that forms the headwaters of Little Muskego Lake.

"We want to see that water quality maintained," Schneider said.

The city is well aware of the need to protect the creek, Muenkel responded. That concern could be emphasized in the redevelopment district plan documents, he said.

Four-lane road?

If New Berlin develops an office park, Debbie Baseler of Maple Court worried that part of Racine Avenue could become four lanes, as in Waukesha County's long-range plans.

That could happen fairly quickly if New Berlin develops that area rapidly, but the four-lane design would probably stop at Tans Drive, well north of Maple Court, Muenkel said. More likely, the four lanes are decades away, he added.

"The county is not discussing it anytime soon," he said.

The Mill Valley redevelopment district proposal will make its way to the Muskego Common Council for approval.

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