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UWM campus plan advances

By Sean Ryan

Progress trumped caution Thursday when the Milwaukee County Board took an official step toward selling a Wauwatosa property for development of a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee engineering campus.

Before the county can sell the land to the UWM Real Estate Foundation Inc., Milwaukee County Board supervisors had to approve a land-use plan that permits development but preserves portions of the 89-acre property east of U.S. Highway 45, north of Watertown Plank Road and south of Swan Boulevard.

College of Engineering and Applied Science Campus for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The board approved a plan that creates a park on more than 50 acres, but the fate of a 13-acre section in the middle of the property generated the most debate.

County Board Supervisor Theo Lipscomb opposed the plan because it allows development of those 13 acres.

The disputed land south of Swan Boulevard originally was slated for preservation, but the proposal approved Thursday offers the land up for development in exchange for preservation of another area to the west where the university had planned to construct a building and road.

Lipscomb said he was not willing to allow development of 13 acres that were supposed to be green space. If the university were to decide it has no option but to build on some of the 13 acres, Lipscomb said, he would be willing to consider other proposals.

But, he said, he does not want to give blanket approval for construction without more information.

“We’ll be reasonable,” Lipscomb said, “but there is no evidence that they need that much land to compensate for a single building.”

Despite his arguments to preserve the 13 acres within the planned engineering campus, the County Board rejected Lipscomb’s land-use plan amendment to that effect.

Lipscomb said he could accept construction of a road through the 13-acre parcel.

“I don’t think we should be giving up protections on land that we’ve protected without good reasons,” he said.

Yet Supervisor Jim Schmitt said the County Board will not see a better offer than the one the UW-Milwaukee is willing to accept for the property.

“We need, after 10 years, to put a small amount of closure on this, and I don’t think UWM is 100 percent excited,” he said, “I don’t think some environmentalists are 100 percent excited. But you know what? We represent everyone.”

Environmental organizations asked the county to prevent all development on the 13-acre site because it is between two environmental areas that will be preserved when the campus is built.

The overall plan was approved with Lipscomb casting the only dissenting vote.

“I’ve been working on this for more than a year, and I didn’t want to blow it at the end of the rainbow,” County Board Chairman Lee Holloway said after the vote.

The UWM Foundation will draft a land-use plan for the property and plans to submit the proposal to the city of Wauwatosa for approval in early 2010.

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