Mayor Steve Ponto is recommending the Common Council pass an ordinance requested by a community group that would require the city to hold a referendum before acquiring any property that has been previously mined or filled.
Brookfield Residents Against the Dump submitted more than 3,600 signatures to City Hall on Oct. 18 supporting the direct legislation attempt, which could delay development action on a former sand pit southeast of Burleigh and Lilly roads that has been known as the Sileno property. The city clerk confirmed Oct. 24 that there were sufficient signatures to force the council to consider the ordinance.
Ponto said he does not think the city should have to have a referendum in order to acquire property, but he said passing the ordinance is better than the alternative. If the council does not pass it, the city would be forced to hold a referendum on the proposal.
"I think it's a better way, procedurally," Ponto said of the council adopting the ordinance. "It saves a lot of time. It would take a lot to educate the public about it, and I think it's generally better for the council to make decisions than to send it to the public."
Ponto also is calling for a meeting of B.R.A.D. and the two companies that want to develop the property.
"The city's interest is trying to get a reasonable resolution in this matter," Ponto said. "We recognize the needs of the neighbors, and we've been trying to protect them all along."
B.R.A.D. member Mark Regal, who owns Regal Crest Village Apartments adjacent to the proposed development site, said the group is happy about Ponto's recommendation and willing to meet any time to discuss the project.
"We're glad that we're finally being heard," Regal said. "It's kind of been a struggle for the last five months, and now we're able to sit down and actually talk."
The property, which was operated as a sand pit from 1921 to 1978 and never remediated, is now owned by The Quarry Group Joint Venture, where Jim Sileno is managing partner. Super Excavators wants to buy the land, level out the pit with clean fill from construction of the Zoo Interchange, and prep the land for a city park and multifamily housing development by Sieppman Group.
B.R.A.D. members have long opposed the project, worried about the noise and pollution that would come with trucks dumping fill. Regal said his group has proposed not bringing in any new fill, instead using some land from surrounding berms to stabilize the land and make a park.
But according to state statute, the city cannot prohibit a company from dumping clean fill on a site if the property owner agrees to it. The city has proposed buying 70 acres of the property from Super Excavators for $1.15 million, putting the city in the position to negotiate with the company over how much fill is dumped on the site. The most recent plan was to fill in 1 million cubic yards over five years.
Though Ponto said last week the city was negotiating an operating agreement with Super Excavators, now he said it will have to wait — and it's possible Super Excavators could back out.
"I am concerned that someone who isn't local, doesn't have a good reputation, could come in and not be as cooperative — and it could be an unfortunate result," Ponto said.
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