MEQUON - Twenty years after a similar proposal prompted protests and petitions, a developer has received preliminary city approval to build a 13-lot subdivision near the Milwaukee River in Mequon. 

The Frick family has owned the 21-acre parcel at 2100 W. Ranch Drive since 1958 and has been paying taxes on the land ever since.

Frederick Frick wished to develop the property into a subdivision, but a 12-lot subdivision proposal was shot down by aldermen in 1995. A year later, in 1996, an 11-lot subdivision was rejected by city officials. 

In 1997, the upland portion of the parcel was rezoned to C-2 (conservancy) despite an objection from Frederick Frick.

The city’s decision to rezone the parcel to C-2 was based on information from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission that indicated the land was suitable for designation as a "primary environmental corridor." If the lot was to maintain its C-2 conservation zoning, a developer could build five to six lots.

Now, Frick's son Bill Frick wishes to rezone the property to single-family residential to allow 13 lots.

Working with developers Fred Bersch and Paul Apfelbach, the proposed lots range in size from 0.56 acres to 0.81 acres. Fifty-two percent of the subdivision is open space, not including the lawns on each lot.

Apfelbach, Bersch's partner on the development project, said the council's rezoning of the land to conservation in 1997 was caused by "a mistake of information." 

In a letter to the property owner, a wetland identification specialist with the Department of Natural Resources confirmed the developer's wetland delineation map was acceptable.

When contacted by the Mequon planning department, SEWRPC officials defined the areas considered to be primary environmental corridor, based on flood probability and natural resources in the area.

The new SEWRPC findings do not hold much water for neighboring resident Howard Schlei, who rallied neighbors to oppose development efforts in the 1990s.  At that time, he said 600 Mequon residents signed a petition opposing development on that parcel. 

Frick's property floods whenever the Milwaukee River runs high, Schlei said.

"This is a bad idea," he said. "It was a bad idea 20 years ago and it has not improved with age."

The Mequon Plan Commission on Monday, Aug. 7 voted 5-3 in favor of recommending the common council rezone the property, as well as approve the concept plan and land use plan. Commissioners Becky Schaefer, Brian Parrish and Mayor Dan Abendroth voted against the proposal.

Schlei was one of 11 people at the meeting who spoke in opposition of the project. 

Peter Gardner, who owns 30 acres to the west, was also concerned about the Milwaukee River backing up into the area of the proposed subdivision.

"This parcel is incredibly sensitive, and we need to have that land soaking up the water to protect the houses that are already around there," he said.

Amy Kirkland, who lives on Oriole Lane, said she can canoe from her house down to Turtle Creek, which is on the edge of the proposed subdivision. She said sandhill cranes live there.

"These developments are not on high land," she said. "It's going to affect everything. Everybody is going to flood."

A public hearing will be held in front of the Mequon Common Council at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12 at Mequon City Hall. The council will consider approving the developer's request after the public hearing.

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