Franklin - As they head into the Feb. 19 primary election, the four aldermanic candidates for District 1 say the current and future growth of the city is their No. 1 priority.
The two top vote-getters will square off in the general election on April 2 to replace Steve Olson, who has announced that he will not seek another term.
Mark Dandrea, Clarke Johnson, Bob Knackert and Greg Kowalski outlined general and specific issues related to communitywide and district residential and commercial growth.
Mark Dandrea, a resident since 1997 and a vice president at Tri City Bank for the past 23 years, is a member of the Board of Review. He said he wants to represent those "silent majority" of residents whose busy lives prevent them from attending municipal meetings.
His "hot button" is the property at the southwest corner of Highway 100 and Loomis Road, where several projects - the most recent the Meijer proposal - have failed due to local resident opposition and state and federal regulations over traffic and wetlands.
"This is the only one of a few local commercial sites in the district that is important to the city's growth," Dandrea said. "I would hope to use my financial background and help put a project in place that will work in this area."
Dandrea said the site needs a large enough project to sustain it financially, a challenge with half the more than 30 areas identified as wetlands. He said the city will need to work with the current owner to clear the land of several dilapidated buildings and make it more attractive for future potential developers.
Beyond that crossroads, Dandrea said the city's challenges include how to mesh the current financially stable and highly regarded police and fire services with possible consolidation of area services to address a tight economy.
"It's going to take a team of city elders to work together to look at these options and what can be implemented," he said.
A city resident for five years, Johnson is retired from the parks administration of the DNR. He said he has been keeping up with local issues by attending Common Council meetings.
Balanced growth, he said, is a main concern.
"No community can exist without diversity in their zoning and planning," Johnson said. "Every community needs that balance. That includes economic development, green space and recreational opportunities."
Johnson said that while he sees businesses come and go, he is encouraged by what he said feels like the beginning of an economic recovery.
"You look around and see that shop doors have been closed," he said. "But it seems that when you go for a fish fry on a Friday night, you can't get into the restaurants, so it looks like people can afford that and that those businesses are doing well."
Ultimately, Johnson said, local government must be sustainable in giving residents value for their tax dollars.
"The question is if government were a sandwich shop, would people go there as opposed to another shop," Johnson said.
Bob Knackert has lived in Franklin since 1978 and has owned Grandpa Frank's in Greenfield for the past 35 years. An eight-year member of the Zoning and Building Board of Appeals and a former member and chair of the Civic Celebrations Committee, he said he decided to "take a shot" at the aldermanic post because he wants to help shape the city's growth.
"I don't have any particular issue that I am running on," Knackert said. "I know the Meijer store not going in was a disappointment, but I think the city is going to have to work out some sort of deal with the agencies regarding the wetlands before any other project can be considered."
Balanced growth, he said, is the key.
"I know the city has wanted to keep a 70-30 balance between residential and commercial," Knackert said. "It will be important to keep that in mind as we see potential developments in both areas come before the council. "
A 16-year resident of Franklin, Kowalski is a student at MATC and owns G&C's Collectibles, a website connected to eBay. He has headed Citizens for Community development, an independent community development organization, and is also a member of the city's Complete Streets and Connectivity Committee.
Kowalski has been a proponent of developing a city central connecting City Hall and other services with residential and commercial properties. He said he sees the troubled intersection at Highway 100 and Loomis Road as a critical point in the conversation.
"We may need to start retooling and rethinking that situation," Kowalski said. "Maybe retail is not the answer."
He said that medical and dental offices connected to local hospitals may be the answer. He also said Franklin should begin working with the state and federal agencies associated with development approvals.
"We need to develop this center so that we can develop a sense of community," Kowalski said. "We need to think about developing an area that will not only support those who live in Franklin, but also work in Franklin and those who will stay in or come to Franklin for their entertainment."
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