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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Plan to raze S. Milwaukee building would hurt minorities, jury finds

Topic requested...LINK TO STORY HERE


Anonymous Journal Sentinel said...

By Tom Kertscher of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: July 29, 2009

A federal court jury decided late Wednesday that the City of South Milwaukee's plan to raze a 14-year-old apartment complex would have a disproportionate effect on minority and disabled residents.

The verdict - though the jury was hung on several related questions -appears to mean that the Lake Bluff apartments will remain standing.

"Presumably, the judge is going to order that (the buildings) can't be torn down," said Larry DuPuis, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represented tenants.

The verdict, he said, means that razing the complex would violate federal fair housing laws.

The city's attorney, however, says it remains an open question as to whether South Milwaukee can raze the $2.7 million complex, which is home to about 200 people, a third of whom are minorities.

"The verdict is not complete," said the city's attorney, Michele Ford, noting that the jury was hung on the other questions.

Both attorneys agreed that the matter ultimately will be decided by U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert, who presided over the trial. That could come at a hearing within a few weeks.

The jury's decision came after 10 p.m. on the third day of deliberations following two weeks of testimony, and nine years after the case was brought to court.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DON'T OPEN Sharon Anderson's E-Mail
It seem to have a Big "Vi" in them.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found a related article, it seems that the suburb of South Milwaukee tried to block the original construction of the building in 1995 by down zoning it to single family. The developers went ahead and built it and they have been in court ever since.

Interesting case...

Federal Court Takes Up South Milwaukee Zoning Debate
By Susan Bence
July 13, 2009 | WUWM | Milwaukee, WI

The plight of a long-disputed housing complex in South Milwaukee will be taken up in federal court today.

The City of South Milwaukee wants to see the buildings demolished.

Others claim the city will commit discrimination if the apartments, located close to Lake Michigan, are razed.

WUWM’s Susan Bence reports.


In 1995 a multi-family rental complex was constructed in South Milwaukee. It quickly filled with tenants, some disabled, others low-income.

Lake Bluff Apartments has been a point of controversy almost from the moment developers purchased the parcel.

Pete Koneazny is one of the people who thinks the people living in Lake Bluff’s 56 units should stay put. He works with the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee.

“It’s an income tax credit program that’s a way to encourage development where some of the units are reserved for low income, where it’s subsidized, together with some of the units in the building that are at market rate. So the idea is you get a variety of people that live there. That tends to be an opportunity for people of color to move in places that otherwise might not be as welcoming or available to them,” Koneazny says.

Koneazny calls Lake Bluff an integrated, diverse community that works.

“It makes absolutely no sense to destroy that,” Koneazny says.

The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee is one of the groups representing Lake Bluff residents in the federal court case over whether the complex should be torn down.

“Our involvement is because it’s in Milwaukee County and it affects low income people and in our view it goes against the Fair Housing Act,” Koneazny says.

South Milwaukee Mayor Tom Zepecki says discrimination has nothing to do with the city’s wish to demolish the apartment complex. Zepecki calls it a zoning issue – plain and simple.

Between the time the property was purchased and the buildings took shape, the parcel was rezoned, from multi-family to single-family usage.

When asked why the property was rezoned at that particular time, Zepecki responded:

“I just don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that question right now.”

The dispute has been tied up in court for more than 15 years before the case landed in federal court today.

Through it all, Zepecki says discrimination has not been at play.

“We have for a number of years offered to relocate all the residents that are living there now elsewhere in the city of South Milwaukee for as long as it would take, before we would do anything with the building,” Zepecki says.

Now it’s up to a federal judge and jury to sort out what’s at the heart of the Lake Bluff Apartments’ debate.


Chuck Repke

9:07 AM  

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