I was proud to represent South Milwaukee — along with our city engineer and Alderman David Bartoshevich, and residents — at Tuesday’s Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources public hearing regarding a wetlands permit for the proposed Oak Creek postal facility bordering our city.
It was the first public meeting of any kind on the project, and that’s deeply frustrating. More on that later.
Check out the NOW story here. It includes new details on the project that the public had not seen, unless someone had decided to go to City Hall and ask to view the “70%” project plans.
From the NOW story …
South Milwaukee rescheduled its regular plan commission meeting to allow representatives to attend the Oak Creek meeting.
“This would never be allowed in the private sector,” said South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks. “I ask the post office to step up here.”
Brooks also expressed concern about how the development’s wetland fill could affect the Oak Creek watershed restoration work.
I was happy to see Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s and Rep. Bryan Steil’s offices represented at the meeting. Someone asked at the meeting, “Just who is the USPS accountable to?” Great question. I would say that’s Congress.
So I ask Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Steil to step up in support of public engagement of this project, and hold postal leaders to account.
I look forward to hearing from them on how they plan to do this.
For now, I have questions — many, many questions. And judging from the crowd on Tuesday, I’m not alone. Among them …
- When will the United States Postal Service step up and be transparent with their plans on this project? Will they at all?
- Will they schedule any public meetings on this?
- The plans shown were for a 423,900 square-foot facility, but the DNR notice references an eventual facility nearing a million square feet. When is this “second phase” coming? What does that do to the footprint of the site, and potential impacts to things like wetlands and stormwater (topics relevant to Tuesday’s meeting), as well traffic, noise, and other issues important to neighbors?
- Why did they have to grade — clear cut — the entire site, for a development (at least in phase one) that will not take up nearly that amount of property?
- The USPS representative said Tuesday that they still haven’t submitted 100% plans to the city, even for phase one. How can the DNR even rule on the wetlands permit until they do?
- Speaking of plans, the USPS said submitted their first set of “70%” plans in early November … days after they started grading, which they said was done to ensure they meet project timelines for a 2021 opening. How in the world is that OK? I wonder what would happen if a private developer showed up and started digging on his site without having submitted any level of plans to the city …
I’ll keep you posted, and promise to stay engaged on this, to continue to demand transparency.
The USPS has repeatedly said they do not need to comply with the traditional development process because they are the federal government. The truth is, they don’t. But they should.
In fact, I argue governments have a greater responsibility to doing things the right way, to show the way in being open and honest in their communications with the cities they build in and residents they are impacting. The exact opposite is happening here, and I won’t stand for it.