Hundreds of Brookfield residents thronged a public hearing Monday night, with a clear majority against a company's recent proposal to turn the Sileno Quarry into a city park in five years after using it as a disposal site for topsoil from nearby construction sites.
The idea of turning the property into a park was virtually uncontested, with some acknowledging that they have been enjoying and trespassing on the property for years.
However, in public comments to the city's Plan Commission, an approximate majority of four-to-one speakers voiced opposition to the idea of trucks filling in part of the lake with about 1 million cubic yards of topsoil, primarily from the Zoo Interchange and other Wisconsin Department of Transportation projects, over the course of five years.
Those who opposed the project often used the term "dump," despite repeated assertions from city officials that it would not legally be considered a dump by Department of Natural Resources definitions.
"It just doesn't make sense for a residential community to have dumping in our backyard," said Mark Regal, whose family owns two apartment complexes adjacent to the site on Burleigh Road and recently founded the group Brookfield Residents Against the Dump or BRAD, to contest the proposal.
The Hidden Lake Park project is being spearheaded by Super Excavators Inc. and realty firm the Siepmann Group to buy the 85-acre parcel of land bordered by Burleigh Road to the north, Lilly Road to west, Center Street to the south and 135th Street to the east from the Quarry Group Venture Lands.
Super Excavators would use that land to deposit 1 million cubic yards of construction-site topsoil over the next five years, shrinking the 35-acre lake to 22.5 acres. This is down from the original plan to dispose of 1.8 million cubic yards over the course of seven years, shrinking the lake down to 12 acres.
After five years, Super Excavators would sell 70 acres to the city at a cost of $1.15 million. The Siepmann Group would develop a multifamily housing complex on the northernmost 15 acres, which lie adjacent to Burleigh Road between the Regal Crest Village and Regal Crest West apartment buildings.
Jim Siepmann, president of the Siepmann Group, said that those 15 acres could hold up to 120 multifamily homes. He added that making subsidized or low-income housing is not under consideration.
Fits city plans
At a sparsely attended public information meeting before the hearing, Bill Kolstad, director of parks, recreation and forestry in the city of Brookfield, said that a long-time goal of the city has been to make Sileno Quarry into a park — but not without extensive grading to make it safe for the public and less susceptible to erosion.
"(The project) can ultimately provide the basis for the development of a park that's been in the city's Park and Open Space Plan for well over 20 years as well," he said.
The appraised value of the site is $1.34 million, according to a frequently-asked-questions sheet issued by the city. Additionally, a study in 1993 estimated that the city would then face at least $1.5 million in grading work.
Pete Schraufnagel, vice president of Super Excavators, explained that the company would do the grading work with the fill it brings to the quarry and then sell the land to the city for $1.15 million, substantially reducing the cost of making the property a park by just purchasing the property outright.
In contrast to the meeting, the public hearing attracted a large, raucous crowd of nearly 500 people that filled up one set of bleachers in Brookfield Central High School's old gym. The crowd largely ignored Mayor Steven Ponto's request that attendees keep quiet during and between speakers, applauding and sometimes booing speakers.
One of most often-voiced problems of the 32 residents who spoke in opposition to the proposal during the three-and-a-half hour hearing was the amount of truck traffic the fill operation would generate.
Speakers decried the sheer number of trucks that would be necessary, the noise, dust, traffic and safety problems they might cause, and how all of those things might affect property values and the tranquility of the neighborhood.
A loud groan erupted from the audience after the largely unexpected revelation that operations might need to occur outside of the regular 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekday hours originally proposed.
"I feel that the rights of my private property are being infringed upon by someone who doesn't even own property yet in our area," said Sally Flaschberger, regarding a law that city officials said would bar them from keeping trucks out of the area that are going to private property.
Organizers offered compromises meant to assuage the trucking concerns, including leaving a wide perimeter of trees to shield neighbors from noise and sights, adding specific lanes for trucks on Burleigh Road to ease traffic, monitoring damage to the road surface, and limiting the noise of trucks to 60 decibels.
However, many residents greeted compromise efforts with suspicion and skepticism that the businesses and city officials could or would enforce the terms of the agreement.
Residents also expressed concern about how the dumping would affect the nature and wildlife that has reclaimed the quarry since it went out of use in 1978, and in particular the quality of the quarry's lake, which flows into the aquifer that supplies Brookfield with water.
Shraufnagel explained that the type of material that will be deposited into the quarry will be local topsoil, or clean fill. The DNR does not classify this material as solid waste that needs to be disposed of at a specified facility or dump, and can even come into contact with the water table, according to city officials.
This did little to ease the concerns of residents worried about water contamination.
"I also know about clean fill because I have run a large construction company around the country, and I know that you cannot guarantee that there isn't going to be any hazardous waste thrown into that pit," said Milt Kuyers, who has lived near the quarry since 1962.
Eight speakers also spoke in favor of the proposal, saying it would make for a safer, more publicly accessible park with trails and other activities available to residents.
"As a citizen of Brookfield I can appreciate the short-term problems this may cause … but I feel that the long terms gains of a good park, a quality park … will greatly add to the quality of life we've come to find in our city," resident Dave Carpentier said.
The Plan Commission took no action on the proposal, but is expected to take it up Sept. 23. If the commission is able to come to an agreement on the proposal at that meeting, it can be taken up at the next Common Council meeting for final approval.
WHAT: Plan Commission consideration of Super Excavator proposal for Sileno Quarry
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23
WHERE: City Hall, 2000 N. Calhoun Road
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