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Weickardt unveils new River Club subdivision deal

Neighborhood support key to success of project

Feb. 19, 2014

Mequon — River Club of Mequon owner Tom Weickardt is bringing back his plans to build a 19-home subdivision on a 42-acre lot near the club and along the Milwaukee River.

At a River Advisory Committee meeting Feb. 12, River Club representatives unveiled plans similar to those shot down by the Planning Commission in 2012. The plans will be filed this week at the Plan Commission for consideration in March.

The main difference between the 2012 proposal and new version is Weickardt's willingness to concede development rights on a number of easements throughout the Ville Du Parc neighborhood and donate a tract of land along the Milwaukee River to the city. The concessions constitute Weickardt's latest attempt to win over the neighbors and various Ville Du Parc homeowners associations, whose support will be crucial when the Planning Commission takes up the proposal.

Mequon developer Dave Leszczynski said talks between River Club representatives and neighbors have produced "groundswell" support for the plan.

"We're going to move this thing forward next month at Plan Commission," Leszczynski said. "We're going to talk to all the homeowner groups, and we'll probably have support from all of them except Deer Trail."

Plans to 'clean up' easements

The planned 19-home subdivision would sit on the northern half of a 42-acre lot set aside by an open space easement when the nearby Deer Trail Estates subdivision was built. That easement has been the subject of fierce debate in recent years in light of Weickardt's plans to build a subdivision. Last year Weickardt prevailed in a lawsuit between the River Club, city, and Deer Trail Estates families, winning the right to keep neighbors off the 42-acre parcel.

Since then, Weickardt has attempted to win support from the neighbors for his subdivision project. A proposal to build a riverfront half-acre park with a boat launch exclusively for Deer Trail Estates homeowners, in exchange for their support, was rejected by a 23-1 vote of Deer Trail Estates homeowners in September.

According to Leszczynski, in exchange for neighborhood support, Weickardt is offering to "straighten out" the rest of the easements throughout Ville Du Parc.

"What Tom has agreed to do, is on the land he owns, to never develop it, to sign away his development rights to all this land," Leszczynski said. "(The easements have) never been very clear. What we're trying to do is make this very clear for everybody."

Other key components of the plan are that, with the exception of six piers built for six lots in the planned subdivision, the river shoreline will be untouched, and the project is engineered to have no impact on the local water table or river floodplain.

Leszczynski cautioned the committee that a future River Club owner may not be willing to concede so much.

"He would have a lot of things he could do on that land that we're taking away on that stretch of the river," Leszczynski said. "That's gotta be worth something."

Audience skeptical

The River Advisory Committee raised concerns that the scenic view of the river, and view from the river, could be compromised by the plan. They also said the addition of more piers, and likely more power boaters, could affect the existing balance between canoe riders, other paddlers and power boaters.

"There's kind of a delicate balance that goes on in there," committee member Ken Quant said.

Also attending the meeting were a handful of skeptical residents including outspoken project opponent Wendy Porterfield and Mayor Dan Abendroth.

After the meeting, Porterfield questioned just how many people in the neighborhood are on board with the plan.

Abendroth reiterated his position that preservation of the land would be ideal and lamented that, in his view, Weickardt's plan secures easements throughout Ville Du Parc at the expense of Deer Trail Estates homeowners.

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