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The Week Ahead: Bundles of Big Issues on City Agendas

Name a major matter of public discussion in Wauwatosa, it's probably slated for debate Tuesday night in a barn-burner exercise in civics.

School zone safety, traffic in general, costly sewer projects, County Grounds development, TIF tax support for private companies, pay for public employees in the wake of Act 10, new businesses coming in, old businesses in transition – most of the hot-button issues that have stirred the pot in Wauwatosa lately are on some agenda this week.

The public's business actually starts out at a whisper Monday night with a School Board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. that has no items on its agenda.

Tuesday night, though, things perk up to a peak with four city committee meetings that are packed with presentations and action items on major issues.

Some of this business is deemed so important that, in a rare move, the Budget and Finance Committee plans to take care of a few quick items, then recess so its members may attend the Community Development meeting, then reconvene in a larger room so that Development members may attend to Finance's final discussion.

As Tosa traffic increases, can we calm it down?

First up Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m., is the Traffic and Safety Committee, which will engage in a workshop and presentation led by traffic engineer and consultant Ken Voigt of Ayres & Associates, regarding a traffic calming policy for Wauwatosa.

The committee and city staff will learn about some of the policy options available to implement traffic calming, as well as exactly what traffic calming policies can and cannot do in a community.

Vogt will present highlights from some existing municipal policies from the City of Milwaukee, Evanston, Ill., and Naperville, Ill., as possible templates for a traffic calming policy in Wauwatosa.

Development of traffic calming policies is eligible for reimbursement by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation under the recently state-approved Traffic Mitigation Plan, and WisDOT approved Wauwatosa’s request to use a portion of $150,000 set aside by the state for Vogt's services. Hence there will be no fiscal impact to the City by approving this proposal. The workshop and supporting materials will cost $2,400.

Drawing the new roadmap for public employment

At 7 p.m. before the Employee Relations Committee, another consultant's study will be presented, this one on policy decisions regarding employee compensation.

That discussion will be led by Charlie Carlson of Carlson Dettmann Consulting, as the city continues to realign its employee policies following the passage of Act 10 in 2011.

While some of the provisions of that act, also known as the budget repair bill, continue to be held up in court, counties, municipalities and school districts across the state have been engaged ever since its passage in reworking policies formerly covered by collective bargaining. 

The business of business, small and large...

At 8 p.m., the Community Development Committee convenes to hear four items:

First up and least controversial, members will be asked to approve a conditional use request to allow Qdoba to set up shop in vacant spaces in the Village at 1417 Wauwatosa Avenue, between Starbucks and the Panda Hut.

The Qdoba would occupy about 2,300 square feet vacated by a dry cleaner and a Little Caesar's pizza place. It would operate from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and employ 20 to 30 people.

Next is a request to operate a Stein Gardens & Gifts garden center at what is now Hawks Nursery, 12217 Watertown Plan Road.

Hawks would remain in business independently and on the same site but only performing landscaping design and installation services. Hawks intends to expand that business through a joint operating agreement with Stein to add Hawks' services through 11 other Stein stores in the region.

The conditional use would occur in an AA Single Family Residence District, and some neighbors have written in opposition because of concerns about increased traffic and parking overflows.

... and very, very large, on Innovation Campus

The last two items before Community Development are related, both dealing with the UWM Real Estate Foundation's Innovation Campus development.

A certified land division is necessary for the foundation to sell a 2-acre parcel of its campus to , a Swiss corporation with local operations currently in New Berlin.

To complete the sale and get the project under way, the UWM Foundation and ABB's developer, Zilber Ltd., also need an amendment to the Business Planned Development created for the campus in 2010.

Changes to the design of the Zoo Interchange Rebuild project have forced Innovation Campus building sites, including the ABB plot, to be pushed farther north on the tract. That has open space advocates upset because another building planned to share a parking lot with ABB would encroach on a large swale buffering UWM's tenants from the Eschweiler Historic District.

City again proposes transfer of creek to MMSD

Also beginning at 8 p.m. in other chambers, the Budget and Finance Committee will again take up a recommendation from the Department of Public Works to apply for a transfer of jurisdiction over Schoonmaker Creek from Wauwatosa to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Much of East Tosa lies in the historic watershed of Schoonmaker Creek, which in a series of recurring heavy rain events in 1997, '98, 2008, '09 and '10 has contributed to widespread basement flooding and sewage backups.

Public Works estimates that upgrading the on average 80-year-old storm and sanitary sewers in East Tosa will cost $100 million.

Transferring juridiction of the creek to MMSD would oblige it to pick up part of the design and implementation costs, possibly totaling millions of dollars. MMSD has agreed in principle to take on the jurisdiction and to partner in the work, because Schoonmaker Creek demonstrably contributes not just to localized but also to regional stormwater management issues.

The matter was brought forward to Budget and Finance for approval a month ago, but some residents of the Washington Highlands forestalled it because of fears that transferring local control of the creek that runs through their subdivision could be detrimental, and they felt they didn't know enough about why it was being done or what it would mean.

The resolution to apply for the transfet will have to pass Tuesday and at full council next Tuesday if it is to have any chance of making a deadline for MMSD's budgeting process for this year.

First formal request for TIF funds for parking

After acting on that a couple of minor matters, Budget and Finance will recess so that members may join in the discussions mentioned earlier on Innovation Campus issues at Community Development.

When those are complete, Budget and Finance will reconvene in the larger Committee Room 1 so that all council members may hear its final agenda item: an analysis of a request by developer Zilber for tax-incremental financing assistance for its ABB development.

An amendment passed last week to the TIF No. 6 project plan now allows public funding incentives to be used to pay for private parking stalls within the development zone.

Zilber has asked for $2 million to help pay for a 100-stall underground parking structure beneath the ABB building under the new allowances. The parking amendment projects that as more developments occur, with additional needs for parking, as much as $10 million more in requests for TIF assistance could be met.

With debt service and administrative costs over the possible 27-year life of the TIF, it could grow from 2010's planned $10 million public investment to $30 million or more.

Target is safety around every school

On Wednesday night, the Wauwatosa School District will host a workshop on "How to Start a Safe Routes to School Program."

Beginning at 7 p.m. at Wauwatosa East High School, the first of two meetings – another is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 6 at Whitman Middle School – will focus on getting kids, parents, teachers and administrators on board with safe practices for getting to and from Tosa schools.

All schools that send a representative will receive a crossing guard kit including a storage box stocked with in-road pedestrian signs, an LED "STOP" paddle, traffic cones and a safety kit.

Wauwatosa's Safe Routes to School Program was started at McKinley Elementary School two years ago by parent Sarah Lerand. Since then, she and Ald. Jeff Roznowski have been building and expanding the program there and offering assistance to the rest of the district.

Lerand and Roznowski were recently to further their efforts, with aims to have an active Safe Routes program in every Tosa school.

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