Village closes the door on senior living center plan

Published on: 5/10/2011

Hales Corners - Two weeks after a six-hour public hearing to decide the fate of a proposed 40-bed senior center, trustees this week extolled the virtues of such facilities - and then voted it down.

In a move that caught some by surprise, the Hales Corners Village Board on Monday decided against rezoning the property where the Applewood Senior Living center at 11940 W. Edgerton Ave. would have been built, against the wishes of dozens of neighbors.

More than 40 residents - most from adjoining properties - crowded the meeting to hear nine of their neighbors voice continuing objections ranging from concerns about traffic to storm water runoff and deflating property values that would be caused by the presence and activity of a large 24-hour care facility in a residential neighborhood.

"I was very surprised by the outcome," said Frank Liska, a local attorney who helped lead the fight against the proposed $2.5 million housing facility. "I just thought the skids would be greased and it would pass despite our objections."

Not even a majority

Because of the more than 100 signatures that had been garnered on the original protest document, the project needed to pass by a "super majority" of at least 75 percent of trustees, or six of seven. As it turned out, the rezoning proposal couldn't even garner a simple majority, though the split vote also indicated the prospect had supporters, too.

Two trustees, one who approved the zoning and one who ironically voted against it, said the project had merit.

"I thought the project would have been great for the village and that's why I voted for it," Don Schwartz said, "and it would have meant $71,000 in property taxes. We are looking at reduced revenue sharing from the state, so we need to make up the difference. These projects are important."

Linda Teschendorf, an 18-year member of the board and a local real estate agent, said the project seemed to fall apart because of the lack of communication between the developer and the residents, a problem that she has seen with other proposals.

"It's really sad," she said, "because we need facilities like these. We are all getting older and we should find ways to get these built."

Too big a difference

Liska said he the turning point may have been the revelation at the meeting when a neighbor who originally supported the plan complained to the board that some had been told by developer Greg Petrauski that the village had already approved the plan and that the next step would be to work on minimizing the facility's impact on the residential neighborhood.

"We were never against the type of facility," Liska said. "It's all about the scale. In fact, we have a number of the same community-based residential facilities here, but they are smaller with fewer residents. This one is just two big for this type of neighborhood"

The original Applewood proposal was a 20-bed facility with 24-hour care. Liska said neighbors listened to the original proposal and generally supported it. By the time the Plan Commission approved it, though, the proposal grew to 40 beds.

"That's when the protest petition was formed," Liska said.

After the zoning vote, Petrauski, who had altered his original proposal with enhanced landscaping and storm water management elements, said he had no further plans for returning to the Village Board with a new proposal for the property, which includes two acres within the village and another 11 that lies directly north within Greenfield. He is the developer of a similar Applewood residential facility at 2900 W. Moorland Road in New Berlin.

"I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed, "he said, noting that he may take his plan to another municipality.