RACINE COUNTY — The County Board is scheduled tonight, March 12, to discuss a resolution on the controversial widening of a 2.8-mile stretch of Highway KR a move that could result in eminent domain being used to take substantial portions of land from residents of Racine and Kenosha counties.
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the county's Ives Groves Office Complex, 14200 Washington Ave. (Highway 20), Yorkville.
The resolution would authorize the acquisition of land from landowners on the Racine County side of Highway KR, including provisions for eminent domain if deemed necessary.
The board is discussing the resolution less than two weeks after a Wisconsin Department of Transportation public hearing and open house, attended by dozens of residents who live along the highway, revealed strong negative sentiment about the project among affected landowners.
As planned, the widening would require the acquisition of 68.9 acres of residential and agricultural land from 400 feet east of Highway H to just east of Taylor Avenue (Old Green Bay Road/Highway M in Kenosha County), with most of it coming from the Racine County side of the highway. The $59 million project would reconstruct the two-lane rural road into a four-lane urban road that would accommodate increases in traffic between the Interstate and Highway 31, anticipated as the Wisconn Valley project is developed.
The cost would be shared by Racine and Kenosha counties and the state Department of Transportation. The counties are responsible for land acquisition, which would affect more than two dozen property owners and necessitate tearing down four homes and one business in Mount Pleasant.
Set aside on the County Board agenda is 45 minutes for public comment. The agenda also notes that it is anticipated the Highway KR resolution will be referred to the County Board's Executive Committee for further study and discussion.
Residents speak out
The resolution had moved along fairly quickly until recently, said County Supervisor Nick Demske of Racine, who put out a Facebook video encouraging people to attend tonight’s meeting. Even if the response ends up being largely negative, Demske, who represents the lakefront 1st District, told The Journal Times he would be happy to hear from affected residents.
“I want as many community members — whether they’re very for it or very against it — to be involved and come to the meeting and be present and have their voice heard on it, because we can’t represent the people if we don’t know what they think,” Demske said.
Demske said to this point, he has been supportive of the project because it could provide a quicker and more viable route for motorists to get from Interstate 94 to both Downtown Racine and Kenosha.
“In some ways, it’s overdue,” he said.