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Residents Split on Proposed Changes to JCC

With proposed increases to hours and traffic, some residents voiced opposition at a public hearing Monday, while others supported the JCC.

Residents were divided Monday night as they delivered passionate cases to village officials at a packed public hearing about proposed modifications to the .

Representatives with the JCC called the changes “minor,” but some neighbors were concerned about potential increases in traffic and noise, and one group hired a lawyer to represent them at the joint Village Board-Plan Commision public hearing.

Resident Scott Wirig said he worried the changes could be a harbinger of expanding use of the JCC as a regional center, bringing more traffic to the neighborhood. When Seth Meyers  Jan. 21, Wirig said one car parked on his lawn when street parking filled up.

“That’s not a common occurrence, but as you start expanding this out, and you let more and more of these events occur, the possibility of all these things happening, becomes greater and greater,” Wirig said.

The include expanding operating hours, building two fences, and increasing the number of “special events” they are allowed annually.  

However, James Madlom, who represented the JCC Monday, said the center did not have plans to schedule any more events than usual; rather, the greater allowance of 20 will give them flexibility in scheduling events that could require street parking (a "special event"). With their current cap of 12 per year, Madlom said it is difficult to plan an event several months in advance without knowing whether they will have reached their maximum number of special events by that point.

The expanded hours would be as follows:

  • Open Monday through Friday at 5 a.m. rather than the current 6 a.m. opening.
  • Open Saturday at 8 a.m., the same time the center opens Saturday.
  • Permit up to 30 events annually to run until 1 a.m., rather than the current closing time of 11 p.m.
  • Allow snow-plowing before 5 a.m.

The JCC is also requesting an allowance of 150 people for overnight "lock-in" events, such as teen events with BBYO. Currently the maximum is 40.

Many residents who supported the changes said the JCC was part of the reason they moved to Whitefish Bay and continue to value the community.

“It’s a community center in every sense of the word: open space, open heart," Michelle Lafferty, a resident and JCC member, said. "And I believe this place is and should continue to be a central part of this community."

However, others worried the JCC would become more of a regional hub that primarily serves members from outside the community.

"It's not a Whitefish Bay asset; it's a regional asset," Wirig said. “Eventually something of value becomes a liability.”

Currently, more than 1,600 Whitefish Bay residents are members, comprising about 20 to 25 percent of the total membership, Madlom said.

While the JCC does serve members outside of Whitefish Bay, supporters pointed out that it also serves many residents of Whitefish Bay who do not belong to the Jewish community. About 11 percent of residents are members, Madlom said.

"It’s technically called the Jewish Community Center but it serves a much broader community; it serves the entire community of Whitefish Bay and beyond," resident Joe Olson said. "And it would be foolish to stand in its way as it attempts to provide services to us.

"Instead of debating whether they should be allowed to do their service work in our community, we should ask ourselves whether we can afford to prevent them."

Also part of the proposal is two fences, for the back field around the retention pond, and for the front of the south building. The Plan Commission reviewed these plans Monday and referred them to the Architectural Review Committee.

Kathy Gutenkunst, a lawyer hired to represent a group of residents opposed to the changes, said the changes violated the spirit of a moratorium condition that was part of the development agreement agreed upon in 2003, after months of litigation, which stated the JCC would not make any "substantial" new development for 25 years.

"That moratorium makes it very clear that it’s a condition of the approval of the development agreement, that they wouldn’t be back for 25 years," Gutenkunst said.

However, others argued that the changes do not meet the definition of "substantial," and pointed out that the current board is not bound by this agreement.

The Plan Commission will take action on the JCC's proposal after the Architectural Review Commission considers the fencing plan. Once the Plan Commission has made a recommendation, it will go before the Village Board for final consideration.

Absolutelyfabulous March 24, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Throwing out some info./insights for people having to live next door to an enterprise that seems to keep pushing the boundries on what was originally agreed to seems to be a worthwile cause to me and really only a few minutes of my time. These are all possible scenarios that people did not bargain for when they purchased homes next to the JCC. Cars lining the streets in front of their homes so that their guests may have to walk a block or 2 to visit especially during inclement weather. Will all events that utilize street parking take place only during good weather conditions? People parking in front of their driveway to squeeze into that too small parking space available because they didn't want to walk the extra block or so because the lots are full/just too lazy. Possibly parking on someones lawn..Oh that's been done. Though, WFB could institute residential parking for homeowners to get a sticker to allow them to park on the street for unlimited time and then put a time limit on the street parking and strictly enforce it as they do around UWM because of the parking issues on some streets. Doubt it will happen. Being woken up in the summer when you have the windows open and @ 1-2 am as people are streaming out to their cars talking, slamming car doors shut just outside of your house. Being potentially subjected to weekend after weekend of summer festivities/wedding celebrations outside under tents. Nothing like having your neighbors partying til 1 am.
Absolutelyfabulous March 24, 2012 at 05:32 AM
At what point do you stop asking for "minor concessions" when an agreement was signed stating what was to be adhered to and by use of legal force as well. The residents who are not happy with what is currently being proposed and are directly affected do have a right to be represented and not intruded upon because the JCC wants to generate more revenue/expand offerings/attract more people. You don't have an infinite amount of space to work with and none available to purchase for expansion. When does the growth stop or better yet, managed in such a way as to not come to the Village asking for more concessions and potentially imposing on neighbors? This reminds me of UWM looking to expand and expand and they are also landlocked. Neighbors are upset and relations have been quite contentious for years. They are expanding, though at off site locations or by chance acquiring more property to facilitate their growth. Gotta go, because even though things aren't so rosey in WFB, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
JayDub March 24, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Thanks for placing this in the proper perspective for all of us, and thanks for being one of the shining lights in this world. We are so privileged in WFB, it is good to remember the difference between real problems and imaginary ones. Abfab, did Taloba's comments really roll off your back so quickly that you posted twice more with the smallest part of your humanity?
Absolutelyfabulous March 24, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Anytime JayDub. Though, I'm sure the residents who had the foresight to being legally represented at the public hearing didn't view their concerns as "small stuff" Then again, it will be interesting to see if the JCC brings in their own hired legal guns to gain the "small stuff" they are seeking since that is the route that was pursued last go around. Now some questions on these wedding receptions. Is this one of the reasons for the fence? 2 of the "small stuffs" that are being requested. Will these be only held indoors or will there potentially be tented grounds weekend after weekend hosting these events? How many people are going to potentially be coming and going at all hours til 1-2 am? 50-100-300+ w/ their autos potentially overflowing into the streets and car doors shutting/slamming in the wee hours of the morning. If these festivities are to be held outdoors just a hop, skip & a jump away from neighbors, will there be music/people talking & singing/alcoholic beverages served til the early hours of the am? If alcohol is to be served, does a license need to be granted for that? Are there different restrictions from serving alcohol inside a facility vs out in the open? Is it different having a full service bar vs a pay your way bar at a reception? If you give the stuff away vs making people pay present any more approvals/licenses if necessary? Obviously, one would want to avoid as much unecessary licensing/approval as possible once initial approval is gained
Absolutelyfabulous March 29, 2012 at 01:08 AM
How about another way to illustrate a point/s. Now I don't want to scare anyone w/ some mashugana, but better to be prepared as to what could be, over & over. Now, anyone traveling along Lake Dr. in the summer is very familiar w/ the mansion on the lake side just N. of Pandl's. I don't know what annual EVENT this is, but it's a big one, though not nearly as big as what could happen at the JCC and repeatedly. Trucks rolling in/out setting up the tents (the big truck from canopy or whatever that comes when tents are needed), tables, seats, caterers, possibly sculptures & flowers. Then follow all the cars that line the streets for blocks and blocks. Though, I don't know if they have a valet service running these cars out into the neighborhood and the guests just pull up and get out. Either way, the JCC has a pretty big chunk of land that could accomodate many hundreds of people for all sorts of outdoor events w/ trucks coming & going for days preceeding the one special day that is considered the "event" Wedding receptions are HUGE business..All that liquor to be sold/consumed, catered/in house prepared food (I believe the JCC has a chef), setting up a dance floor in a tent under the stars, stringing the lights, setting up the sound system etc, etc. Now this could all be for nothing, but better to be prepared for what could be vs in the dark for some "small stuff" that they are seeking to change from the original agreement. MAZEL TOV!!!!

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