12 Nov Doctor Jon Cartu Announces – Ascension clinic approved after Mequon council overrides mayor’s …
MEQUON — The Ascension Medical Clinic slated for the corner of Port Washington and Highland roads is officially a go, after Mayor John Wirth was unsuccessful in flipping any of the aldermen who voted for it last month.
Wirth vetoed the Oct. 13 6-2 decision, saying the 29,500-square-foot building was too large for the newly created neighborhood commercial zoning on the corner and that it sets a precedent for future developers.
The site is currently zoned low-density residential and is part of the Ulao Creek — formerly called the East Growth — study area, which has been subject of numerous discussions to update the land use from Highland Road north to Pioneer Road, east to the freeway and west to Ulao Creek.
Alderman Brian Parrish said at Tuesday’s common council meeting that too much misinformation about the clinic’s size has been circulated, including on social media sites like Nextdoor Gazebo, where neighbors are misinformed by others.
“We encourage citizens to contact city staff or elected officials to obtain factual information about projects,” Parrish said.
Parrish, a member of the planning commission policy subcommittee, said it is recommending 25,000-square-foot buildings in the neighborhood zoning category, which makes the new clinic 18% larger than will be allowed, not the 50% figure so many have been saying.
Parrish said that, while the subcommittee’s recommendations are not official yet, they are “very, very, very far along in this process.”
The policy subcommittee is finishing up its Ulao Creek technical and design standards, and will work its way through the plan commission and common council by the first quarter of next year.
The Ascension clinic will occupy 3.93 acres of the 40acre parcel owned by Highland Investments and will house offices for Ascension, Madison Medical and Premier Radiology. The rest of the parcel is slated for residential development.
Alderman Andrew Nerbun, said the zoning for the property includes a planned unit development overlay, which allows city officials to modify the zoning and gives them much more control.
“If we don’t want anyone to ever exceed 20,000 square feet, then we should change the language and write it out of there,” Nerbun said. “We can’t just say, we’re violating our code. That’s not telling the whole story.”
Council members Nerbun, Parrish, Glenn Bushee, Jeffrey Hansher, Mark Gierl and Kathleen Schneider voted for the project last month and again on Tuesday. Aldermen Dale Mayr and Robert Strzelczyk voted against it.
Mayr said that Ascension has been a great partner with the city, but that there’s no reason to grant a city partner special privileges.
“And that is what this is doing,” Mayr said.
He said that just because the planning subcommittee is recommending 25,000 square feet doesn’t mean that it will be approved. He added that even more shocking for him is that if the maximum building size in the NC zoning district is increased, that they would still allow a developer to go beyond that.
“Then go with something that large and then come forward with something from the subcommittee and say it’s going to be 30,000 square feet,” Mayr said. “Don’t come forward with something and say, it’s going to be 25, and then exceed that the minute that you have a development that’s coming forward. It just sends the wrong message.”
Wirth said he did not expect his veto to be successful, but that he stands by it. He said that even if the building size allowance is increased to 25,000 square feet, the 18% or 20% difference is still not small.
“It’s not like it’s 1% and there’s no real difference here,” Wirth said.
Exceptions should be for very specific reasons and he said a medical clinic in Mequon is not one of them. The city is home to many clinics and many doctors.
“Ascension is a good one, but so are the others. I’m in favor of having as many as we can in Mequon,” Wirth said. “I’m also in favor of having as many as we can in the right locations that make sense and follow the rules that we have. And I see no basis for granting this exception.”
He also said that not enough thought was paid to the many residents in the area who opposed the development.
“It makes it very difficult for me, going forward to participate in a process that has no discernible set of fair standards,” he said.