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Current Issues

West Bend Municipal Airport Expansion

Why did the West Bend Common Council decide unanimously to approve the Airport Expansion project?  In my view, it was the only logical conclusion to years of planning, consideration and debate.  While I understand the concerns expressed by the Town of Trenton opposition group, 'Taxpayers Against Airport Growth', I could not ignore the potential economic benefit to the City of West Bend taxpayer.  My decision to vote in favor of Airport Expansion was based on four primary considerations:  1. Current business competition.  2. Future economic development.  3. Cost justification to the West Bend taxpayer.  4. Historical vision.

1. Current Business Competition

John Torinus, CEO of the Serigraph Co., illustrated this point during his discussion of 'just in time' delivery requirements.  Several other community and business leaders expressed similar views including Ray Lipman, President of the West Bend Economic Development Corporation and Cesar Suarez, Executive Director of the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce.  In today's business environment, companies who lack the ability to provide all necessary services will be at a competitive disadvantage.  Airport Expansion is an investment in the future of West Bend that will provide our business partners with one more resource to remain competitive.

2. Future Economic Development

Currently, the corporate databases of aircraft destinations do not include West Bend because our airport does not meet minimum standards.  The result is a diminished opportunity to attract new business and industrial growth to West Bend, industrial growth that will benefit every taxpayer by offsetting the property tax burden to the homeowner.  We all realize that West Bend industry has declined over the past 15 years and the term 'bedroom community' is used more frequently than ever.  Industry drives any community and promotes a healthy economy while residential and retail development can only follow behind.  Without Airport Expansion our current business partners will remain at a competitive disadvantage and any opportunity to attract future industrial growth to our community will be severely limited.

3. Cost Justification to the West Bend Taxpayer

The Common Council considered three options: 1. Expand the airport to accept corporate aircraft and meet FAA requirements.  2. Use local tax money to maintain the current facility.  3. Close the airport.  Following is a discussion of the estimated cost for each option presented in reverse order:

3.  Close the Airport

This option would seem to be the least expensive of the three.  After all, when something is closed the associated operational costs end, right?  Not necessarily.  The Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics (BOA) has helped finance several maintenance projects with the understanding that we would eventually support airport expansion to meet FAA requirements.  The total of grant money received to date is apx. $5 million that West Bend may have to repay if the expansion is not completed.  In addition, the City of West Bend has hanger lease agreements with 50 private and corporate owners, lease agreements that have been used to offset annual operation costs.  If we close the airport and terminate the lease agreements damages paid by the city taxpayer could amount to several million dollars.  Closing the airport could result in a higher cost to the City of West Bend taxpayer than the expansion project.

2.  Use Local Tax Money to Maintain the Current Facility

The airport has supported its cost of operation by earning $2 in city revenue for every $1 of expense, however, extensive maintenance is now required to address general safety issues.  Necessary repairs to the runways, electrical service, lighting and fencing could easily exceed $4 million.  An expenditure of our taxpayer's money that would result in no return of additional benefit to our community or potential for industrial growth.  We would still have an outdated facility with insufficient runway length to accept corporate jets.  In addition, since our airport would still fail to meet FAA requirements any state or federal support would be minimal at best.

1.  Airport Expansion

The total estimated cost for the Airport Expansion Project is currently $15-$18 million.  The resolution to petition the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics (BOA) for aid will reduce the financial responsibility to the West Bend taxpayer to an estimated $4-$5 million.  In addition, since the state has determined that Hwy 33 will eventually become a 4 lane highway 100% of the estimated $6 million relocation cost will be paid by the state.  The impact to West Bend will be a modern airport and highway extension estimated to cost $21-$24 million supported with a $4-$5 million local taxpayer investment. 

While I firmly believe that all government money from local, state or federal sources ultimately comes from us as taxpayers, the current state and federal systems are designed simply to spend money.  If West Bend does not benefit from this grant application another community will.

4.  Historical Vision

The West Bend Municipal Airport was originally built at the current location in 1930.  Our community leaders even then understood the importance of air travel in an era preceding jet engines and commercial airliners.  When you consider that the Wright brothers' first flight was in 1903 and Lindberg's transatlantic crossing occurred in 1927 you can begin to appreciate their extraordinary vision.  How could we justify taking any action that would not carry that vision forward?


Voting in favor of the West Bend Community Airport Expansion project was the only appropriate action for the benefit of our community.  A modern airport will provide opportunities for industrial growth and is the most cost efficient option for West Bend taxpayers.  

Proposed Restaurant Smoking Ban

The Restaurant Smoking Ban Ordinance was defeated on Monday November 4, 2002 by a vote of 6 to 2.  Alderman Bade and Riffel supported the ordinance and Alderman O'Meara, Goodearle, Carter, Philippi, Vrana and Frederick voted to oppose.

On Monday October 28, 2002 the West Bend Common Council will vote on an Ordinance to ban smoking in all West Bend restaurants.  The proposed Ordinance has been brought to our community by the special interest group WISE (Washington County Initiative for Smoke Free Environments).  The WISE organizers believe it is their responsibility to protect every restaurant customer from the potential hazards of second hand smoke.  To achieve their goal, WISE has launched the 'Restaurant Smoking Ban' campaign in West Bend with the hope of using us as a stepping-stone to our neighboring communities.

For the record, as an individual I support the WISE organization in their efforts to educate restaurant customers and employees about the potential effects of second hand smoke.  After all, I doubt that any of us would argue for the potential health benefits of smoking.  In fact, my personal choice is usually to dine in a smoke free restaurant and always in the smoke free section; a personal choice that the WISE organizers wish to take away!

As a representative of our community, however, I do not support WISE in their effort to dictate to private business owners how to best serve their customers.  In addition, I do not support WISE in their effort to determine for us as individuals how to make responsible choices.

Whether you support WISE or not ask yourself the following question, 'what is the next personal choice that government should take away from us?'  The fast food industry has recently become a target for lawyers seeking to profit from the irresponsible actions of overweight consumers.  Despite all the factual information regarding the importance of diet and exercise, why do some individuals continue to jeopardize their health?  It seems to me that what we choose to eat is no different than where we choose to eat.  If we follow the logic of WISE however, the Common Council should ban Big Macs, Whoppers and the DQ Ultimate burger.  After all, we certainly can't be expected to make a responsible choice regarding our own diet!

Most of us have a new appreciation for the hazards of driving in fog but should we ban everyone from driving in foggy weather?  Again, if we follow the logic of WISE we would only protect the passengers as 'second hand' occupants of a vehicle headed for certain disaster.  And what about karaoke machines?  I can't imagine a more appropriate use of government authority than to ban from our entertainment venues, a device that so completely defies basic sensibility.  

One can argue that each example is unique and has no relevance to the other.  The question is, where does government's responsibility end and ours begin?  Yes, the government has a responsibility to protect us from unknown hazards.  Restaurants in particular have a responsibility to ensure that the food they serve is safe for consumption.  The Wisconsin Food Code was developed specifically to protect consumers from food borne illness.  The difference is that we cannot choose which hamburger is free from E. coli O157:H7 or what omelet may include a side order of salmonella.  We cannot even choose which of our cooks or waitresses are infected with hepatitis.  We can however, choose a restaurant that does not allow smoking.  According to information available from WISE, West Bend already has 28 such restaurants within the city limits.  Of course WISE proponents argue that they are being excluded from all 'smoking' restaurants ... sounds like a personal choice to me.

The success or failure of private business is a very fragile dynamic and special interest groups should not undermine what the restaurant market will otherwise determine.  As for government regulation, it should end where our ability to make responsible choices begin.  As consumers we choose our restaurants for a number of reasons.  Quality, service and selection are important to me but the color of the building may be the deciding factor for others.  Our system of Free Enterprise already offers consumers the opportunity to impact restaurant policy by simply voicing our concerns.  If the owner or manager is not responsive to your request speak louder with your wallet.  Trust me, every responsible business owner will understand the language.

Fleet Farm Relocation, May 2001

Similar to views shared by many of our fellow residents, I fully support Fleet Farm's vision of a new location and modern facility.  As I stated in open forum on January 16, 2001 I view Fleet Farm as an important business partner and believe they should have every opportunity to provide West Bend with the same level of service available at their other 27 locations. 

After reading Fleet Farm's mailing titled, An open letter to the residents of the City of West Bend I was somewhat confused.  Based on my understanding of Fleet Farm's proposal several very relevant issues were not adequately presented.  I offer the following for consideration.

·     The pending boundary agreement between the City and Town of West Bend has been a topic of discussion related to the proposed location at Highway 33 and County Z.  The relevant issue is that regardless of a boundary agreement the location is past the approved sanitary sewer limit.  The future 'City Corporate Limit' that follows County Z is not an arbitrary line defined by the City or the Town.  The boundary represents the extent of Sanitary Sewer approved by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  Extending the sanitary sewer West of County Z to the proposed site would require further application to the DNR, a process that generally takes 3 years to complete.  In addition, it is very unlikely that the DNR would approve the request at all based on the wetland limitations of the site.

·     The reference to Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) is also confusing.  Based on my understanding of TIF districts Fleet Farm would not meet eligibility requirements simply because they are an existing business.   Additionally, tax rates apply equally regardless of whether or not a business is located in a TIF.  

·     I don't understand how Fleet Farm determined that building a 200,000 sq. ft. retail store at the intersection of Highway 33 and County Z would not increase traffic congestion.  Highway 33 converges to only 2 lanes at Highway 144 and the possibility of expanding County Z is remote, again due to the wetland considerations.

·     The Town Board of the Town of West Bend passed Resolution #2001-02 on May 9, 2001 that rejected the Mills Fleet Farm annexation request.  Concerns with increased traffic, appropriate land use and the current boundary agreement negotiations were noted.  In addition, I have stated on numerous occasions that the City of West Bend must work cooperatively with our neighboring townships to best serve our community as a whole.  Approval of this annexation request would most likely result in the end to 3 years of cooperative effort between the City and Town of West Bend and have a lasting impact on any future negotiations with our other neighbors. 

·     In addition to providing jobs and contributing to the tax base, many of our local businesses believe in supporting the general welfare of our community.  West Bend is fortunate to have many such community partners that encourage participation in local service organizations, dedicate resources to promote volunteer activities and make various other contributions.  This relationship between business and community is special and benefits everyone.  Fleet Farm has chosen not to participate at this level.   It is my understanding that Fleet Farm didn't even join the West Bend Chamber of Commerce until January of 2000, just prior to their proposal from a year ago.

The question I have is; why would Mills Fleet Farm actively pursue a location faced with so many challenges when at least 2 appropriate sites are currently available within the City?  Even with City approval chances of DNR approval for the Highway 33 and County Z location are slim at best.  The DNR process normally take up to 3 years, other sites are available for immediate construction and include the supporting infrastructure.  In addition, the proposed site at Highway 33 and County Z serves an important ecological function as a wetland.  The parcel is also within the watershed boundary for both Gilbert and Big Cedar Lakes.  A facility of the magnitude proposed by Fleet Farm would undoubtedly disrupt the sensitive balance important to the surrounding area including the water quality of the lakes.

In my opinion approval for this annexation request will only serve to: 1) Delay Fleet Farm's opportunity to build a new facility.  2) Severely limit the number of available locations.  By the time the DNR would rule on any future application (approval being a very unlikely outcome) how many locations currently available would be gone?  If Fleet Farm is motivated to bring additional jobs and tax revenue to the city wouldn't we all benefit if a new facility opened next year as opposed to 4 years, if at all?

Let us also not lose sight of the fact that we believe in free enterprise, that business owners should have the ability to locate where they deem appropriate.  This scenario seems to place the concept of free enterprise in direct conflict with the best interests of City and Township.  City government has supported SMART growth by proactively developing land use plans ahead of state mandates and negotiating a boundary agreement again well ahead of state intervention.  Town government has also worked with the best interests of the City, Township and future growth in mind.  In addition, I can't recall the last time our City government denied a prominent business, any business for that matter, an opportunity to expand or relocate.

I am committed to our business partners and will work with Mills Fleet Farm to identify an appropriate location in West Bend.  If Fleet Farm is committed to West Bend they will have every opportunity to continue serving this community from a new modern facility.

Recreational Vehicle Parking

The following information will be presented to the Common Council for discussion on Monday November 4, 2002 regarding the parking and storage of recreational vehicles.  The first document is a memorandum from John Capelle, Director of Community Development, that provides an explanation of the Property Maintenance Ordinance as it relates to recreational vehicle parking.  Following the memo are the actual Ordinances as they will be presented to Council.  The November 4th Common Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6pm and is held in the City Hall Council Chambers located at 1115 South Main Street.


DATE:             October 24, 2002

TO:                  Common Council
                        Mayor Miller

FROM:            John B. Capelle, Director
                        Department of Community Development

SUBJECT:       Property Maintenance Ordinance (recreational vehicles)

As you are aware, Alderman Frederick asked the Department of Community Development in cooperation with the City Attorney's Office, to compile property maintenance ordinances which addresses among other things, the storage of recreational vehicles, and the storage of residential and commercial equipment and materials in residential zoning districts. Attached are two recommended ordinances which are scheduled for Council consideration on November 4, 2002.

The proposed ordinances should be put in the following context:

  1. The City of West Bend does not have a comprehensive property maintenance code such as most of our neighboring communities (e.g. Hartford, Jackson and Slinger). Many of the provisions of the proposed ordinances come from these municipalities.

  1. West Bend's primary existing code dealing with property maintenance is Section 9.10 Storage of Junk, ETC. This code provision deals with material and equipment defined as "junk" or "discarded property". Since by definition material of this type centers upon unsightly/or deteriorated material, it may not apply to more common types of unkept property. For example, Section 9.10 is probably not applicable to a homeowner disassembling an outdoor swimming pool and storing it beside the house. The pool could be unsightly and in poor condition, but it wouldn't be classified as junk or discarded property.

More recently (March 27, 2000) this code section was amended to close a loophole dealing with inoperable motor vehicles. Since adoption of Ordinance #2364, the Office of Building Inspection and the Police Department have had removed 712 inoperable/unregistered motor vehicles.

The March 27, 2000 ordinance also addressed the storage and display of materials and merchandise in commercial or industrial zoning districts.

Other sections of the Municipal Code primarily Chapter 7 - Traffic, deal with abandoned vehicles (7.11) and heavy vehicle parking (7.08(4)).

  1. Regarding the parking and storage of recreational and other vehicles, existing City code regulates the following:

  1. It prohibits vehicles having a gross weight in excess of 8000 pounds. Accordingly, most large motor homes, trailers and boats are prohibited from residential zoning districts.

  1. Off-street vehicle parking regulations, which deals with both motorized and non-motorized vehicles, must be within an enclosed building or on an approved driveway or parking area. City code also requires that the driveway or parking area be surfaced with asphalt or concrete.

  1. The location of driveways, parking stalls and parking areas. Since 1962, the City has regulated the location of vehicles within a yard, the setback from a property line and the amount of lot area covered by driveways and parking areas (in effect one cannot pave over the whole lot for vehicle storage).

The net effect of the existing Municipal Code is that recreational vehicles are regulated. These vehicles, however, have been a low priority with respect to enforcement and developing an organized approach towards that enforcement.

  1. The proposed recreational vehicle component of the ordinance does the following:

  1. It limits the number of vehicles parked or stored outside to one (1); all others must be indoors; there is no limit to the number of vehicles one can have.

  1. It limits the parking of vehicles to an area within the driveway/parking area, essentially adjacent to either:

  1. the front of the house - vehicles cannot be parked closer than 15' to the street yard lot line;

  1. the side of the house if properly screened;

  1. within the rear yard if lots have alley access or if the side yards are too narrow.

  1. It also allows a property owner to petition the City, via a conditional use permit, for an exception or modification of the preceding requirements. Adjoining property owners would be notified of this process and would have an opportunity to comment on the request.

Recreational Vehicle Parking Ordinance to be Considered on November 4, 2002

ORDINANCE NO. _________

Creating Section 7.08(11) in the Municipal Code
Recreational Vehicle Parking


A.     WHEREAS, residential zoning districts are intended to provide suitable living environments free from incompatible uses and the detrimental affects of those uses while also protecting the existing and potential property values by encouraging the most appropriate use of the land; and

B.     WHEREAS, the Common Council recognizes that the West Bend Municipal Code was developed to promote the health, safety, morals, prosperity, aesthetics and general welfare of the City of West Bend; and

C.     WHEREAS, regulations controlling the parking and storage of recreational vehicles are an extension of the current Municipal Code consistent with the planned direction of West Bend in defining the number, location, and screening of recreational vehicles allowed to be parked or stored in residential areas.


        THEREFORE, the Common Council of the City of West Bend, Washington County, Wisconsin, do ORDAIN that Section 7.08(11) of the Municipal Code of West Bend is created as follows:

        7.08(11) PARKING OF RECREATIONAL VEHICLES. No recreational vehicle, which for the purposes of this section includes but is not limited to mobile homes, motor homes, trailers, all-terrain vehicles, boats or snowmobiles, shall be parked regularly on properties in an agricultural or residential district except as provided herein. The Zoning Administrator shall have enforcement power over violations of the provisions contained herein. (a) No more than one recreational vehicle shall be permitted outdoors on a property and shall be parked or stored no closer than 15 feet from the street yard property line(s) and shall be perpendicular to the adjacent street right-of-way.

  1. Recreational vehicles are prohibited in rear yards, except:

  1. On properties having access to parking areas from a City alley.

  2. On properties with an inadequate side yard.

  1. Recreational vehicles parked or stored within a side yard shall be screened from the adjacent property by installing a vegetative landscape barrier sufficient in size to screen the vehicle.

  1. Storage of recreational vehicles shall be limited to recreational vehicles owned or registered by the property owner or tenants(s).

  1. Conditional Use. The Plan Commission may, by conditional use permit, permit the parking of recreational vehicles not in compliance with the requirements of this section. In granting such a conditional use permit, the Plan Commission shall take the following factors into consideration:

  1. The property is large enough to accommodate the conditional use.

  2. The recreational vehicle(s) are appropriately screened from neighboring properties.

  3. Proper access to the property is available. 

  4. The recreational vehicle storage will not adversely affect the use and enjoyment of neighboring properties. 

  5. Conditional use permits issued under this subsection shall be reviewed pursuant to Section 17.10 of this Code.

Amended Ordinances to be considered on November 4, 2002

ORDINANCE NO. _________

Amending Section 9.101 of the Municipal Code
Property Maintenance


A.     WHEREAS, residential zoning districts are intended to provide suitable living environments free from incompatible uses and the detrimental affects of those uses while also protecting the existing and potential property values by encouraging the most appropriate use of the land; and

B.     WHEREAS, storage of household, building material or commercial or business equipment and material in residential areas in plain view in the City of West Bend may contribute to the decline of property values within those residential areas; and

C.     WHEREAS, regulations requiring such items to be kept inside buildings will protect property values and reduce detrimental affects associated with keeping such items in residential areas.


        THEREFORE, the Common Council of the City of West Bend, Washington County, Wisconsin, do ORDAIN that amendments and additions are made to the Municipal Code of West Bend as follows:

        Amend Section 9.101(3) - On a lot zoned residential, no person shall store household, building material or commercial or business equipment and material except inside a building.

        Create Section 9.101(4) - This section shall not be interpreted to excuse non-compliance with any provision of a site plan or other provisions of this Municipal Code.


ORDINANCE NO. _________

Amending Section 7.08(4)(a) of the Municipal Code

        The Common Council of the City of West Bend, Washington County, Wisconsin, do ORDAIN that Section 7.08(4)(a) the Municipal Code of West Bend is amended to replace "gross weight" with "registered weight" and shall read as follows:

        7.08(4) HEAVY VEHICLE PARKING REGULATIONS. (a) Restrictions. Except as provided in par. (b), no vehicle having a registered weight in excess of 8,000 pounds may be parked:

  1. On any street other than a heavy traffic route; or

  1.  In any residential district in the City whether or not on a street.

Letter to the Editor printed February 16, 2002

A recent letter to the editor compared the political and economic policy of West Bend to the former Soviet Union.   The letter further suggested that an ‘anti-free market’ policy exists within our governing body.  What this ‘private interest’ failed to consider are the 28,000 residents living in our community that allow his business to grow, prosper and even exist. 

West Bend has developed a reputation for being an attractive city.  We are envied for our parks, recognized for our efforts to revitalize the business district and modeled by other communities for establishing aesthetical guidelines with new commercial partners.   To appreciate West Bend’s commitment to community development simply compare our Wal-Mart Supercenter to the generic box format visible throughout the state. 

‘Private interest’ claims our retail sign ordinance limits his marketing ability.  Exterior signs are only a small part of a comprehensive marketing plan.  In addition, there is no competitive advantage because signage guidelines are applied equally.  Again, compare West Bend to the prevalent ‘billboard’ communities to understand the commitment of our governing body. 

‘Private interest’ claims an outrageously heavy tax burden.  Fact: West Bend ranked 74th in the state with a full value tax rate of $22.54 in 2000 compared to the state wide average of $25.92.  Our tax rate for 2001 was $20.87.  Fact: the proposed loss in shared revenue will have a dramatic effect on our community but accounts for only 9% of state spending.  Fact: our governing body has been rewarded for prudent spending by receiving expenditure restraint payments every year since the program was adopted in 1991.  The point is simple; until spending is controlled at the state level, a tax break offered to business will just be shifted to the homeowner. 

I would encourage everyone to work with our governing body to solve the challenges facing our community, not to focus on any single private interest.

Revised Thursday, August 09, 2007