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Neighbors decry plans for memory-care housing in Brookfield

While purpose supported, location draws worries

July 11, 2012

When it comes to a new memory care facility in Brookfield, Silverado Senior Living developers and members of the community don't agree on much.

The disagreement came to a head when at least 100 residents jammed the council chambers Monday for a public hearing in front of the Plan Commission on the proposed development, which would bring 100 new memory care beds to Brookfield.

Silverado representatives said their studies found a need for as many as 8,000 new memory care beds in Waukesha County as of 2010.

But a Wauwatosa resident who said he worked with similar developments in the past pointed to a study by an independent firm out of Minneapolis, using data from 2010, suggesting only 40 new beds were needed, perhaps 60 by 2015.

Silverado reps said they couldn't be better neighbors, while community members worried about the impact on traffic, safety and property values.

After three hours of debate, the Plan Commission approved, on a 5-1 vote, to recommend the $14 million senior-living complex to the Common Council, which is to take up the matter July 17.

Pamela Bradley, a Brookfield native and resident, will be the on-site director of the facility, which will cater to dementia patients. Bradley and other Silverado reps said this project could bring as many as 100 new jobs to Brookfield.

But for residents, the question that has come up over and over is, "Why our neighborhood?"

"We are all in agreement that this would be a wonderful facility to have," resident Ken Cavanaugh said before the Plan Commission. "It would be if I had a relative who needed it, but it doesn't need to be in a neighborhood.

"Decisions are going to be made on profit, not necessarily whether they're going to be a good neighbor."

But Paul Mullin, vice president of development for Silverado, said that the city already has shown that these types of developments can work in Brookfield's residential communities, citing Elmbrook Hospital as the prime example.

"We really want to become a vital part of this community," he said.

Unique instance

This situation is, however, significantly different. Elmbrook Hospital was built in 1969 and the community grew around it. Silverado is coming into an existing residential community by way of St. Luke's Parish, which is selling a parcel of its Greenfield Avenue property that would house the 45,000-square-foot building. Silverado downsized from its original plan to build a 48,000-square-foot building as a concession to those worried about the size of the operation.

Director of Community Development Dan Ertl said this lot is zoned residential single-family use, but because the comprehensive plan by the city has this plot designated for a future community facility, the senior-living plan would be consistent with city planning. He added that Franciscan Woods, a similar facility, was built after the Glen Kerry neighborhood was fully developed.

St. Luke's Parish Council Member Michael Lischak said he believes this development is consistent with the values of the church and that it is the type of thing that a community ought to embrace.

"As far as a residential area, if you were to have a business in your residential area, this is exactly the type of business I'd want to have," Lischak insisted.

"This parcel is excess to our need. We don't need to sell the land to pay off our debt."

A number of concerns were raised about potential problems with patients escaping the facility and posing a risk to the local community. It was even suggested that since sex offenders in the 1950s and 60s did not have to register, unidentified pedophiles could be moving into this neighborhood.

Making accommodations

Silverado officials denied this would be an issue since they've never had a problem with security in the past. The company has facilities in seven states.

Ertl said Silverado has made a number of accommodations to address the concerns of residents as expressed at a town hall meeting in May.

Subsequently, police and fire officials agreed not to race through the area with lights and sirens blaring unless absolutely necessary in order to accommodate noise concerns.

Other changes such as the removal of adult day care and even changes to things like parking lot lighting were changed to try and meet objections.

Brookfield officials also rejected the idea that the market is too saturated with memory care facilities, explaining that it isn't up to the Plan Commission to make such determinations.

"That's not our business to judge how many beds are needed," Ertl said. "If that were the case, we'd tell hotels not to be built because there were vacant rooms."

Elected officials respond

The Plan Commissioners, much like the crowd, were not unified in their feelings about the project.

Alderman Rick Owen offered his support for the project, explaining that residents shouldn't be labeling the development as a business in their neighborhood.

"It's designed for being a residence," Owen told the commission.

"I recognize that it's not a single-family residence, but it is something designed to take care of individuals in our community."

Owen went on to say that he believes the need in the community is real.

"I think it's a valid need. I don't think it's something that's made up."

Alderman Mark Nelson though, was concerned that too many residents aren't aware of the city's nuanced plans for the area, speaking of the specific mention of the parcel in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan as a future site for development.

Nelson did say that the use was, nonetheless, legal, even if there are concerns about the size and scope of the proposal.

"I'm not sure we can say, 'We don't want a memory care facility there,' because that would be totally inconsistent with what the city of Brookfield has said could be there for more than 50 years."

Alderman Gary Mahkorn said he sympathized with the dozens of neighbors concerned about this proposal.

"If I lived where this proposal was, I'd be here as well," he said.

"The ideal situation for me would be to make sure, or try to do everything I possibly could to make sure, that land wasn't developed.

"In my opinion, (this) is the next best thing."

The Next Step

WHAT: Common Council discussion of Silverado proposal

WHEN:8 p.m. July 17

WHERE: City Hall 2000 N. Calhoun Road

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