The future of a planned Sixteenth Street Community Health Center clinic in West Milwaukee is uncertain after village board members voted Monday to delay a decision on the organization’s rezoning request for the proposed clinic site.
Board members raised concerns about Sixteenth Street’s request to rezone the 2.3-acre property at 4603 W. Mitchell St., questioning whether it was the best use for the site. It follows the village finance committee’s rejection last week of the organization’s proposal to pay the village $30,000 annually in lieu of taxes.
Plans for a clinic were first announced in 2015, along with a $12 million commitment from Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. The process of finding a site that met the project criteria – including being located in a high-need area and one that met guidelines for federally qualified community health centers – took longer than anticipated, officials said.
Sixteenth Street announced in May plans to develop the project at the West Milwaukee site, which is currently occupied by National Spring Inc. auto repair company. Plans call for a one-story, 25,000-square-foot clinic, with a possible future 4,000-square-foot addition.
The clinic is expected to serve 12,000 patients a year who are currently without care and create as many as 60 jobs. Sixteenth Street serves about 38,000 patients annually across its locations, which include three clinics in Milwaukee County and one in Waukesha, school based-clinics in St. Augustine Prep and St. Anthony Schools, and a satellite geriatric clinic at the United Community Center as well as a Women, Infant and Children clinic.
The West Milwaukee project received unanimous approval from the village plan commission in June. Sixteenth Street expected to begin construction by the fall and to complete the project by summer 2019.
Sixteenth Street wants to rezone the the West Milwaukee property from a manufacturing district to a local business district. Doing so would not be the highest and best use of the site, based on the zoning definition, according to several board members.
“This is not a matter of revenue generating decisions for the village,” said Val Anderson, village attorney. “This is a matter of whether or not it’s an appropriate use of the property as a part of the village development.”
Chris Rasch, director of government and community relations for Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, said Monday’s meeting was the first time those concerns had been raised.
“I couldn’t think of a better use – one that’s going to create 60 jobs, good paying jobs,” he said. “It’s a huge development for the community. It’s going to improve the current property. It’s going to improve the park that’s adjacent to it. It’s a high value investment.”
Rasch said he believes the village’s main concern is the organization’s proposed payment in lieu of taxes. He said the village wants Sixteenth Street to pay the equivalent of what a $5.5 million to $8 million property would generate in revenue, which would be somewhere between $73,000 and $105,000 annually, far above the proposed $30,000 payment in lieu of taxes.
Board members did not raise concerns with the proposed payment in lieu of taxes during the meeting Monday.
With the board’s decision to set aside a decision on the rezoning request, Sixteenth Street and village officials will continue discussions, but there is no guarantee that the proposal will be placed on a future board agenda, Rasch said.
It could leave Sixteenth Street looking for a new location. When Froedtert and Sixteenth Street officials first announced plans for the clinic, they identified the 43rd Street corridor, just south of Miller Park, as an area of significant need.
“There has been a number of other sites that have been considered in the past but that process has been stopped since we made an offer and had an accepted offer on this parcel of land, so we will have to reconvene after this meeting to determine what our next step is,” Rausch said.