De Pere votes down amendment to comprehensive plan
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – At its Tuesday, Oct. 6, virtual meeting, the De Pere Common Council voted down an amendment to update its 2010 comprehensive plan.
A dozen community members spoke during a public hearing before the council’s 4-4 tie vote for a request to amend the comprehensive plan.
The area in question, located at 347 Libal Street, is approximately 475 feet east of the Libal Street and Chicago Street intersection.
The request was made by Simoncre JC Arnold V, with the consent of the property owner at St. Anne’s Protestant Episcopal Church, to rezone the future land use from institutional/governmental facilities to commercial.
The proposed amendment, which was sent to the council based on the recommendation from the plan commission, would have allowed for an automobile parts store with an amended comprehensive plan.
“We certainly appreciate everyone who chimed in,” said Alder Dean Raasch, who ran the meeting because Mayor James Boyd was not present after he announced Sept. 25 he had contracted COVID-19.
Most of those who spoke during the public hearing were against any rezoning of the property.
“We are trying to decide if this is in the best interest of the public,” said Alder Shana Ledvina. “When I look at this location, I see a largely residential area with a park, a medical facility and a church. I think because it’s primarily residential, we need to listen to the city neighbors in this area.”
Alder Jonathon Hansen also spoke against any change.
“There might be some commercial uses that fit this property, but if we approve this amendment, we are opening up a Pandora’s Box for possible commercial uses that would negatively impact the character of the neighborhood, which I care deeply about,” he said. “I think an auto parts store would be a bad fit for this neighborhood.”
The parcel was used for agricultural purposes until a church was developed in 1984 and expanded in 1988.
At that time, the church parcel extended between Libal Street and Brule Road. However, the two streets did not exist until the 1990s.
In 1996, the parcel was divided into two.
The church retained the westernmost parcel and sold the easternmost parcel for the development of a clinic via a planned development district (PDD) and a precise implementation plan (PIP).
The 2020 proposed amendment area was part of the church parcel to the west, not the clinic parcel to the east.
In 2013, a building was added at the north end of the church property.
The lawn area to the east of the church driveway remains undeveloped.
Also in 2013, an amendment to the PDD/PIP occurred for the adjacent clinic property.
The amendment included a 5,105-square-foot building addition and a 42-stall parking lot addition.
“I can’t say I’m a fan of any auto parts store, but I do think we should move forward with the process and do our due diligence as a council,” said Alder Kelly Ruh.
Alder Dan Carpenter echoed Ruh’s comments.
“I took two strolls through the area, and I respect everyone’s view on this,” he said. “But, if we don’t allow this to happen, are we always going to say ‘no’ when looking into changing things and what’s better for the city?”
Alder Casey Nelson said he received emails from people before he had much of an idea what the change would mean.
“After looking at the area in question, I don’t see how this would change the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s across the street from a gas station. I do admire the passion of everyone who spoke, but I agree with Dan and Kelly – we have to look at the betterment of the city. An empty lot is not benefiting the city.”
Carpenter, Nelson, Raasch and Ruh voted for the amendment change, while Mike Eserkaln and Amy Kundinger joined Ledvina and Hansen in voting against.
Because the vote ended in a tie, the proposed amendment to the plan was rejected.