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After months of deliberation and public hearings, Campbell Woods, a senior living development in Mount Pleasant, moved forward Monday following approval of a re-zoning ordinance.
The $40 million development will see a 170-unit senior care facility in the Campbell Woods subdivision at the northeast corner of highways 31 and KR. The vote of approval for rezoning the 17-acre parcel passed 4 to 3 by the village board. The plan commission in December denied the rezone, despite approval from the village planning staff.
Trustees Jon Hansen, Gary Feest, Ken Otwaska and Village President Gerry Garski voted to approve, while Sonny Havn, Dave DeGroot and John Hewitt voted to deny.
For Degroot, a vocal opponent to the development, said putting a senior care facility in the middle of a subdivision simply didn’t make sense. He went on to chide the developer Joe Campbell ambivalence towards the concerns of the Campbell Woods residents, evidenced in a 101 foot buffer zone that legally invalidated a protest petition for any development with 100 feet of the resident’s properties, saying it was: “You giving them the finger you flipping them off, and that doesn’t play well with me.”
Other Trustees, like Ken Otwaska said despite receiving a lot of calls on both sides of the argument, he was moved to support the rezoning by the language of the law, having received advice from attorneys on potential outcomes of the vote tonight.
“But the point of this whole thing is, does Mr. Campbell have the legal right,” he said.
Planning for the development began in 2012, according to developer Joe Campbell. The subdivision, Campbell’s Woods, was first developed over a decade ago on land he inherited. The development was a source of controversy among the current residents of the Campbell’s Woods subdivision, as nearly all opposed it and many attended the several public meetings voicing their opposition to the board.
Many alleged that the re-zoning would constitute a case of spot zoning, which is when a small area of land is zoned differently than the surrounding property, and be grounds for not approving the rezone. However, legal counsel retained by the village found this not to be the case.
Chris Geary, of Pruitt, Ekes &Geary S.C., said the decision made by the board should be upheld in the event of a lawsuit, adding: “Courts give a great deal of deference to local zoning decisions because they recognize that it’s an inherently local process.”
Bob Szymcak, who spoke on behalf of the homeowners association, told Racine County Eye that members of the homeowners association are undecided about taking legal action thus far.
Other complaints about the development included lack of proper notification from Campbell and the potential environmental impact, despite the fact their subdivision was previously pristine land cleared for development. Others objected saying they thought any future developments would be more single family homes.
According to Campbell, the planned senior care development involves clearing 50 percent of the land that would be razed for development of single family homes. Feest also thought the development was more environmentally friendly, saying that protected wildlife does not tend to live in subdivisions.
“I’m sure most of the homes do not have fox dens underneath the porches,” he said.
Many of the opponents speaking at the public meetings said they supported the development of a senior care facility in Mount Pleasant, just not in Campbell’s Woods.
“To put a business in my backyard that’s not what I want, that’s not what any of my neighbors want,” said Scott Secora, a resident of Campbell Woods.
This was an argument that didn’t hold water for board members like Feest and Otwaska. The two said they sympathized with the residents the spoke in opposition, but that the law was on Campbell’s side.
Randy Bryce, president of the Racine Labor Council, said he supported the project because of the construction jobs to be created by the development. One man read a letter on behalf of Linda Boyle, a Racine resident looking for a senior care facility, who wrote in support of the facility decrying the lack of options in Racine county.