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Photo by Ann Brummitt,10/25/07

Heartland Development Group: Clearcutting in Glendale

Despite recent community efforts to preserve the natural viewshed and wilderness along the banks of the Milwaukee River, a Milwaukee-based developer recently clear-cut about five acres of river shoreline in the northern suburb of Glendale.  The Heartland Development Group bulldozed directly up to the Milwaukee river in one portion of their 12 acre parcel, which they bought from the city of Glendale last year for $850,000. These actions prompted a notice of intent to sue from Friends of the Milwaukee River (FMR), backed by lawyers from Midwest Environmental Advocates. “The damage has been done at this point,” said Cheryl Nenn, FMR’s Riverkeeper. “We’re hoping to make sure the restoration of the site is adequate.” The restoration includes a Department of Natural Resources mandated seeding and soil stabilization. However, it is very unlikely any trees or shrubs will take root this late in the growing season, meaning that there will almost certianly be significant soil erosion into the water – a violation of the Clean Water Act. Other problems also surfaced after the site was already primed for construction. “It’s a critical habitat for the Butler’s garter snake, which is a threatened species,” said Nenn. She added that the developers had to hire an archeologist to ensure that the site isn’t of archeological significance. {shadowboxwtw echo=no}“Just back from a walk North of the Blue Hole and the communication towers. The existing ‘social path’ has been bulldozed maybe 30 feet wide, leaving just a few trees right along the river, and in one place even those taken down. I walked the length of this which ends north of Estabrook Falls. I walked up a service road up the bluff to the Glendale Office Park where I took a photo of the sign advertising 12 acres for sale by Heartland Development. You could see the tracks of the dozer from the bluff down a very steep bank to the lower area close to the river.” –Ann Brummitt,10/25/07.{/shadowboxwtw} While Milwaukee and Shorewood have river ordinances in place or under study, Glendale does not. Milwaukee’s new zoning is being spurred by the organizing efforts of the Milwuakee River Work Group (MRWG), which is attempting specifically to preserve the natural viewshed from the river to the vegetation on its banks. It would appear that Heartland is attempting to achieve the opposite: a view of the river, not from it. Initially, office buildings were going to be built on the site, but now Heartland is considering condominiums. Potential buyers of those residential units would now have the promise of a riverview unobstructed by vegetation. According to Ann Brummit, Coordinator for the MRWG, the previous owners of the land, the city of Glendale, assured the MRWG that they would retain access along the river in the form of an easement. This easement would allow for a continuous natural path along the river. But when Glendale sold the property to Heartland, they also gave away the easement rights. “The interesting and unsurprising bit of information is the former mayor of Glendale [Jay Hintze]is the vice president of Heartland,” said Brummit. Hintze is quoted in the Journal Sentinel saying that “We will do whatever is required to come into compliance,” but he could not be reached for comment for this article.

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