Trinity of Politics:

 Ethics, money, power take the field at the Plan Commission on June 1 to decide the fate of Sunseekers-site development proposal


 SHOREWOOD, Wis. (June 1, 2021) – The brawl over a proposed development at the Sunseekers site, at Capitol and Stowell, will reconvene June 1st back at the Plan Commission, after the Board of Appeals bounced the matter back to the Plan Commission on May 4th.  Lawyers for the residents and the Plan Commission have both submitted memos regarding the Plan Commission’s decision on whether to grant an exception to the parking requirements mandated by current zoning.  The developer has also had a parking study done by the engineering firm, TADI, which gave a new spin on the question of the number of needed parking spaces.  


One important question is the potential recusal of Trustee Tammy Bockhorst, who is new to the Plan Commission. Speaking as a trustee before her appointment to the commission, Trustee Bockhorst said at the Feb. 23rd meeting that while she did not favor one side over the other, she found the proposed project “exciting,” and she characterized current parking requirements as “antiquated” and representative of a car-based culture.  Trustee Bockhorst also raised equity issues. She asked the Plan Commission, “So what do we want to promote?  Do you want to go with our vision which is of a municipality that welcomes people from all walks of life, looking for multi modal and intermodal transportation or do we want to be known as the two-car family per unit or in this case per efficiency household?”  


After the April election, Trustee Bockhorst was appointed to the Plan Commission by newly elected Village President Ann McKaig.  Plan Commissioners must act in a quasi-judicial manner which means that they must hear items in an unbiased, fair and impartial manner.  Attorney Joseph Cincotta argues that commissioners that have predetermined their position must recuse themselves.  Although Attorney Bayer was present for Trustee Bockhorst’s comments at the Feb. 23rd meeting, he genuinely appears to have no idea what Attorney Cincotta is talking about, saying “Because no specific evidence or authority was offered in support of this contention, it is difficult to address.”  As is frequently the case, in the absence of an ethics commission or state bar opinion, Trustee Bockhorst will have to make that determination on her own.   Both Trustee Bockhorst and President McKaig have received substantial campaign contributions from the owner of the property, Paul Hackbarth.  


Attorney Cincotta, representing the neighborhood association, says neighbors did not have adequate notice to review any new information.  In his letter, Attorney Cincotta claims that holding the hearing the day after Memorial Day is “an obvious intentional act by the Village designed to minimize resident participation . . .  and contributes to the growing feeling by appellants and many others that the Village leaders and staff have a bias in favor of the project despite its inconsistency with the intent and plain language of the ordinances and Section 535-51 in particular.”


Catalyst Development has submitted new evidence in the form of a parking study done by the engineering firm of Traffic Analysis & Design, Inc.  The consultant study concludes that the 42-unit development would require, at a maximum, only 34 parking spaces. This estimate is based on Institute of Traffic Engineers standards for General urban/suburban low-rise multi-family development with no nearby rail transit. Given that the development will provide 43 spaces, the developer’s contention is that there will be no traffic impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. 


Another factor which may affect the decision of the Plan Commission is the adoption in March of a new Village Comprehensive Plan.  Based on general dissatisfaction with recent redevelopment projects on Oakland and Capitol, the updated plan emphasizes community input and consensus building in considering new development.  


Memos from both attorneys, the parking study, and numerous communications from residents are included in the packet for the June 1st, meeting which can be accessed here.