City Attorney: Bauman’s proposal to get $3.5 million from Goll developer not legal

Opinion applies city-wide

Updated rendering of apartment tower by Kahler Slater

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:55 pm

Penalizing a developer for not meeting Milwaukee’s Residents Preference Program and Small Business Enterprise requirements by withholding zoning changes is not legal, according to the city attorney’s office.

Updated rendering of apartment tower.

The idea first surfaced earlier this month when Alderman Robert Bauman suggested Chris Houden, the Madison developer who has been attempting to build a 27-story apartment tower behind the Goll Mansion at 1550 N. Prospect Ave., on Milwaukee’s east side for more than a year, put $3.5 million into two separate escrow accounts.

Bauman wanted $2.5 million of the escrow money to be used to fund renovation of city-owned foreclosed homes in the greater Sherman Park area if Houden failed to meet hiring requirements.

The other $1 million would have been transferred to the Housing Infrastructure Preservation Fund capital account if Houden did not properly restore and preserve the Goll Mansion.

Bauman wanted the money in the accounts before building permits were issued.

Houden is not seeking any city financing assistance for his $55 million project and is not required to meet city hiring requirements, although he has said he will hire Milwaukee residents.

“Zoning, whether code based or the limited scope of contract zoning permitted by the department of planning and development process is intended to regulate land use through the imposition of use-based restrictions,” City Attorney Grant Langley wrote in a letter dated Sept. 14. “It would be improper to expand the scope of zoning to impose regulations unrelated to the use of the property.”

Langley’s opinion applies city-wide.

Bauman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Last summer, Houden’s proposal was unanimously approved at the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee and won approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

More than half the Common Council voted in favor of the proposal, but the plan was ultimately defeated because it did not receive a supermajority, which was needed because residents of the 1522 Prospect On the Lake condo building next door submitted a protest petition.

In August, the plan commission voted in favor of a revised Goll Mansion proposal.

The project will be on the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee meeting agenda Tuesday.

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