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Village of Wind Point

Woodland conservation fight leads three to run as write-in candidates in Wind Point

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Deepwood Drive

Deepwood Drive in Wind Point is shown in this June 20, 2018 photo. Some residents are concerned about potential development of a 5-acre site along the wooded road near the 4400 block of Main Street.

WIND POINT — Some Wind Point residents are so upset by the Village Board’s decisions on the potential development of 4403 Main St. that they have taken it upon themselves to run as write-in candidates in the April 7 election for village trustee.

Milt Habeck, Tom Braunreiter and Emily Duchac are write-in candidates for the upcoming April 7 election.

In order to run as an official write-in candidate — so that any votes written in will be tallied by the candidate’s name — the person must file a campaign finance registration statement with the Village of Wind Point. Village Administrator Casey Griffiths confirmed that he received such statements from Habeck, Braunreiter and Duchac.

“Collectively, Emily, Tom and Milt have lived in Wind Point for 42 years; they have a heartfelt commitment to preserve Wind Point’s natural assets with special attention to the beautiful woods at 4403 Main Street,” stated a press release issued earlier this month by the Deepwood Preservation Committee, a group working to preserve the wooded Wind Point land.

There are three Wind Point trustee positions on the spring ballot. The seats are two-year terms. The incumbents are Emily Lawrence, of 7 Maplewood Court, and Casey Jones of 5221 Wind Point Road. Brian Biernat, 5002 Wind Point Road, who is not currently a trustee, also is on the ballot.

Habeck said it hurts emotionally to see what is going on with his local government, and that inspired him to run for office.

Habeck said that if elected, he would try to preserve the existing green space and stay true to democracy.

“You can’t stop listening once the election is over,” he said. “You have to keep your ear to the ground, you have to talk to other people and when people present you with some reasonable point of view, it’s your obligation to listen and act on it.

A petition full of signatures

On March 12, the Deepwood Preservation Committee went before the Village Board to present a petition with 426 signatures. Those signatures were from people who do not want the 5-acre portion of land at 4403 Main St., which also runs along Deepwood Drive, to be developed. The population of Wind Point is 1,723, according to the 2010 Census.

The petition asked for the termination of the pending village request for proposals to develop the property, that the property transition to a conservation easement into perpetuity and that the subject should be placed on the November election ballot as an advisory referendum.

Per the village’s request for proposals, the property may be converted from an undeveloped lot to a multiple-family residence district, which would allow construction of a higher density of duplexes or single-family homes in clusters or groups.

Following the presentation of the petition, Wind Point Village President Susan Sanabria sent out an email to residents on March 23 stating: “Our village attorney is reviewing the legal aspects of the petition and will provide guidance to the board. Staff is completing additional research on the condition of the property and the costs to place the property in conservancy.”

The email also contained information about the property, which some members of the Deepwood Preservation Committee are concerned is not entirely accurate, particularly with regard to the value and condition of the trees on the property.

Sanabria said in her email that placing the parcel in a conservancy easement would require a considerable investment of taxpayer funds.

“There would be additional future costs to remove all dead/infested trees and invasive species, to replant with recommended species, and to provide continual maintenance and security,” Sanabria said.

Sanabria said in the email that the board is considering what was said by representatives from the Seno Kenosha/Racine Land Trust Conservancy at a Feb. 27 special community meeting, specifically “that the wooded area of the parcel is in very poor condition and if left unattended, it would look like a wasteland in a few years.”

But Wind Point resident Kate Maurer, founder of the Deepwood Preservation Committee, said someone who works for the state Department of Agriculture and volunteers for a land conservancy identified the trees on the property and said they are healthy and that the land has significant ecological value. She declined to give the person’s name because they were evaluating the property as a favor, not in an official job capacity.

Sanabria also said in the email that an existing village ordinance would require that, at a minimum, 20% of this acreage would be set aside as green space if a developer claimed the land. Maurer questions what that 20% will look like and if it will just be small amounts of grass and shrubs.

What’s next?

In Sanabria’s email to area residents, she wrote: “You should know that the Plan Commission and the Village Board will evaluate the merits of all proposals concerning the future use of this property at meetings that are open to the public.”

But it’s unclear when the board will next discuss the topic, because of the need for social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sanabria said. She also said it’s possible that economic downturn may slow development projects everywhere.

“The highest priorities of the Village Board are to protect the health and safety of our residents and staff and to provide continuity of operations,” Sanabria said. “We will be closely watching the effects of the expected economic downturn.”

Maurer is trying to look at part of the situation in a positive light.

“Whatever the end result may be, I just hope that what the Deepwood Preservation Committee is doing as a group effort will, at the very least, inspire residents in other communities to take action, and hold their local governments accountable, and to remember their power.”

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