Dental expansion denied in De Pere
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – Plans for a proposed expanded dental clinic, in one of De Pere’s oldest neighborhoods, suffered a setback Tuesday, July 16, when the Common Council denied a request to rezone property owned by the clinic.
MAC Dental of 233 S. Erie St., wants to raze a house it owns at 221 S. Erie to allow for a larger clinic and parking lot to be built on the two combined proErieperties.
The proposed clinic would be about 5,300 square feet in size and would house at least two doctors and 13 employees.
Longtime residents of the historic neighborhood spoke at the meeting to voice their concerns about the expansion, which would more than double the current clinic’s size.
“This will literally blot out the sun,” said Erie Street resident Lisa Cherney, who estimated the clinic building would be 20 feet from her living room.
Ontario Street resident Jack Pasterski said young families with small children are moving in to the neighborhood again, thanks to the proximity of Legion Park, but he’s concerned about their safety.
“Someone’s going to get nailed,” Pasterski said.
In 1973, the Plan Commission and Common Council granted conditional use to allow for dental offices, and also that year, the Board of Appeals approved setback and parking variances for the two properties.
Around that time, a small dental office was built at 233 S. Erie St., which is now MAC Dental’s office.
Allowing the MAC clinic to go forward would be the beginning of a slow creep of commercial buildings into De Pere’s residential neighborhoods, said Ontario Street resident Elaine Flora.
“That (1973 decision) is an example of unwise spot zoning,” Flora said. “It will change South Erie Street from a residential corridor into a commercial corridor.”
Some 111 people, three-quarters of whom live in the neighborhood and including all six property owners whose property is adjacent or within 100 feet of 221 S. Erie, signed a petition protesting MAC Dental’s plans to expand.
“We’re a neighborhood of people who take care of each other. MAC Dental has no connections to us,” Pasterski said. “We want our neigborhoods to stay intact.”
Lewis Street resident Matt Roloff lives across the street from the would-be clinic.
“We live in a prime residental location because of the nearby schools and we have the park, which is going to get a fantastic aquatic center,” he said, adding that most people expect to drive to the dentist and asked MAC Dental to consider a more appropriate location for its business.
Eric Dombrowski, who lives on Ontario Street, said he’s got three small children and there have already been several incidents and near-incidents involving cars from MAC Dental’s current clientele.
“I have nothing against MAC Dental or their clients, but they’re not always paying attention when they’re driving in and out,” Dombrowski said.
Chris Walsh moved into the neighborhood last October and wrote in a handwritten letter to the board that her family looked forward to this being their “forever neighborhood.”
“We live on a corner lot and see so many joggers, bicycles, children walking and playing, moms with strollers and dog walkers,” she wrote.
But, she said, they were disappointed to hear of the dental building’s proposal to expand into a “5,300-square-foot giant with an undesirable big ugly parking lot.”
Their garage backs onto the alleyway currently used by the dental clinic.
“We have to watch carefully now not to get hit when we mow our lawns and back our cars out of our driveway now,” Walsh wrote, also adding they wouldn’t have moved into that neighborhood had they thought there was a possibility of a property being zoned commercial.
Architect Chris Helwig, of Design Unlimited of Marshfield, said he took offense to the term “monstrosity” being thrown around.
He said MAC is a good neighbor, and the plan would invest $1 million to $1.5 million into the neighborhood and its design and landscaping would complement the area.
Helwig said he designed the clinic to look as much like a home built in the relevant era as possible.
He also said the clinic has already made concessions and changes to its plan, including changing the main traffic entrance from the alleyway between Ontario and S. Erie streets to Lewis Street.
Alderman Dean Raasch asked about the height of the clinic, to which Helwig replied the building’s height would be within 4 feet of that of the typical house in the neighborhood.
“It’s not going to be 10 or 20 feet taller than the other buildings,” Helwig said.
MAC Dental senior partner Dr. Gary Noble responded to the claim that MAC Dental isn’t a part of the community, saying that it’s been there for over 20 years, has given $10,000 each to the police department and Notre Dame gym and is willing to help others requesting charitable donations.
That didn’t appease Pasterski.
“You don’t understand: A business is an office, it’s concrete, bricks and mortar,” Pasterski said. “A neighborhood is people, kids, bikes and walking on sidewalks. We may not have $10,000 to give to a Little League diamond, but we have kids who play Little League.”
Voting to deny the request to rezone the property were Alderpersons Jonathon Hansen, Casey Nelson, Scott Crevier, Amy Chandik Kundinger and Ryan Jennings, while Aldermen Raash and James Boyd voted against the denial, for a 5-2 vote to deny the request.