When the Wauwatosa Common Council convenes Tuesday night, two loooooong-discussed propositions will finally move forward – or, perhaps, again be stopped in their tracks.
In one case, approval is such a foregone conclusion the vote is really but a necessary formality. The council's nod will at last launch HSA Commercial Real Estate in its redevelopment of the Burleigh Triangle, something the city has been striving for over many years.
Former Roundy's distribution center warehouses north of Burleigh Street and west of Highway 45 will become The Mayfair Collection retail center, including a Nordstrom Rack, Sak's Off Fifth, ULTA and Dick's Sporting Goods stores, among others. Restaurants are also being recruited for the development but none has been announced.
The final plan approval spells an end to a saga that saw the city, in some frustration, pass a "big-box" ordinance that requires advance guarantees from large-scale developers that the city won't be left holding the bag if the properties are vacated.
The Burleigh Triangle site of about 70 acres was held up as a rare example of urban blight in Wauwatosa, an eyesore and a blot on the image of the city – and an especially visible one at that, standing in full view of millions of annual passers-by on Hwy. 45 and at the Burleigh Street "portal."
It is also likely, although unconfirmed, that it was the impending agreement late last year between the city and HSA on TIF funding for the Burleigh development that spurred Nordstrom to finally move on bringing a full-line department store to Mayfair Mall. Nordstrom likes having both full-line stores and Racks close to one another.
Chickens a much less certain proposition
Much less certain of approval is an ordinance allowing the keeping of backyard chickens in Wauwatosa.
Again, it's a longstanding question, raised a number of times over nearly a decade, but it has never been formally proposed before last year.
Last spring, a small but stalwart group of citizens asked the city to again consider letting residents have a few laying hens in backyard coops. City staff and many aldermen were dismissive or downright derisive, but there was just enough support to hold the item over until fall for more research.
Lo and behold, staff found that dozens of American cities and more around the world successfully regulate urban chicken-keeping – including Milwaukee – and this time an ordinance change resolution was introduced.
Coming out of the Community Development Committee, the measure had strong support. But one alderman has privately predicted a tie vote in the full council. If that were so, assuming no odd number of absences or abstentions, Mayor Kathy Ehley would have to cast a rare tie-breaker.
Fired up to write grants, save city money
One more agenda item could cause the council to rise in applause before or after their predictably unanimous vote.
The Wauwatosa Fire Department is asking for city approval to accept a FEMA grant of nearly $250,000, with just over $25,000 (10 percent of the combined total) in matching funds, to buy new respirators for our firefighters.
The grant will save the city about an equal amount and get many firefighters the new equipment they need ahead of schedule. Purchasing of new respirators had been budgeted at about $500,000 and wouldn't have been bought until 2015 without the grant.
Fire Chief Rob Ugaste told the Budget and Finance Committee last week that the equipment his fire companies use is nearing the end of its useful life, and he paid particular thanks, as all Wauwatosans should, to Fire Lt. Brian Tellow, who wrote the grant.
"We're very fortunate that we have a very talented grant writer in the department," Ugaste said.
Finance Director John Ruggini said that Tellow's successful grant – which was approved at the full amount applied for – would in the final analysis save the city's taxpayers $275,000.