For residents hoping to halt the development of a U.S. Postal Service mail processing and distribution center at College and Pennsylvania avenues in Oak Creek, time — and hope — is running out.
In a 5-3 vote, the Plan Commission on Oct. 28 voted in favor of recommending that the Common Council adopt conditions and restrictions developed by city staff as part of the rezoning and Planned Unit Development for the site.
Commissioners Dimity Grabowski, Jeffrey Sokol and Edward Siira dissented.
Grabowski cited lingering, unanswered concerns as her primary reason for opposing the measure — something residents indicated as a problem as well, along with the sheer size of the development and its proximity to their homes.
“It’s like a giant swallowing us up,” said Caroline Kobb, who resides in the 2000 block of East Spruce Court.
Kobb was one of several dozen residents, many of whom also reside in the Chapel Hills subdivision adjacent to the proposed USPS site, to pack the Common Council chambers for the commission meeting.
Residents voice concerns
Development plans call for an approximately 820,000-square-foot building on 64 acres at the southwest corner of College and Pennsylvania avenues. Kobb questioned whether the building could be reconfigured so that it is not so close to the portion of the subdivision that abuts the site, which could reduce the impact on home values, she said.
“My background is in real estate for 26 years, and we’re all going to take a hit,” she said. “We’re going to lose $20,000 to $30,000 each … meaning the city gets less money.”
Residents also cited concerns about the development not generating tax revenue.
Because USPS is part of the federal government, it does not have to pay property taxes to Oak Creek. However, the city has been working with USPS and developer Cobalt Partners to develop a payment in lieu of taxes to replace that revenue.
Traffic worries officials
For members of the Plan Commission, traffic concerns seemed to dominate, particularly regarding the Traffic Impact Analysis for College and Pennsylvania avenues and surrounding area.
The analysis is designed to address traffic flow and patterns, and recommend necessary improvements to accommodate USPS-generated traffic. The study was undertaken by Traffic Engineering Services of Elm Grove nearly a year ago.
Grabowski questioned whether the analysis had been completed, and when it would come to the Plan Commission.
So far the analysis has been submitted to Milwaukee County and Oak Creek, Cudahy and South Milwaukee, said Jim Heffernan, Cobalt Partners principal. In Oak Creek, it is being reviewed by the Engineering Department.
Cudahy has taken official action on it, Cobalt Partners Principal Scott Yauck said, and South Milwaukee and the county have indicated support for plans reflected in the Traffic Impact Analysis. All four of the entities have been asked to contribute to the widening of both College and Pennsylvania avenues from two to four lanes.
Wayne Higgins, president of Traffic Engineering Services, said the widening of the streets combined with a controlled intersection at the College Avenue exit to USPS would help ensure truck traffic — an estimated 948 truck trips daily, or about one truck either entering or exiting once every two minutes — does not interfere with other vehicles.
Public hearing next
The next step in the approval process for the USPS rezoning and general development plan will be a public hearing, which likely will be scheduled within about 30 days, by the Common Council.
Residents mentioned the possibility of scheduling a neighborhood meeting prior to the public hearing. Still, they doubt if any amount of protesting will sway their elected officials against it.
Julie Becker can be reached at (262) 446-6606.
AT A GLANCE
Examples of conditions and restrictions being recommended for the USPS site include:
• several screening measures, such as landscaping, berming and screening walls/sound barriers;
• noise and air quality studies, including measures for mitigating noise and air impacts;
• consent from Milwaukee County, Cudahy, South Milwaukee and Oak Creek for road improvements suggested as part of a Traffic Impact Analysis.
For more information, contact the Community Development Department at (414) 768-6527.
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