Simmons Field gets approved for conditional use permit

Simmons Field 1_optAt last night’s City Plan Commission meeting, two agenda items were acted upon.  The first had to do with a conditional use permit for a renovation to the stadium at Simmons Field at 7817 Sheridan Road, requested by The Northwoods League.  The field is located in the 12th district.

Vern Stenman of the Northwoods League, said that they’ve developed their plans further since the last time he appeared before the commission.  They’ve been fine-tuning the plan, and they are ready to bid the work.

Stenman said that Alderperson Steve Bostrom pointed out an inaccuracy in the plan to him.  The elevation of the front entry gate was inaccurate.  The back entry gate along the right field line should be an attractive entrance.  Stedman said that they will make the adjustment, and the rendering will then show accurately.

Bostrom also spoke during the public hearing.  The right field fence didn’t show a prominent entranceway.  A prominent entrance should make it look like where you should be going.  He spoke of other additional concerns he had regarding parking in the neighborhood, but he said that “he’s been assured that, if there is a problem, that the league representatives will work with us.”  Other concerns he’s spoken of at previous meeting included the fireworks, the times and days during the week, and alcohol sales, after the 7th inning until the close of the game.  “They will run a good, tight ship.  They are committed with working with the neighborhood.  I wholly support the project,” said Bostrom.

Rick Schroeder, community development specialist, showed a short video of the site.  The project includes renovation of the stadium, new bleachers, and new parking in the right field area between the fence and the railroad tracks.  Parking spots are short of what’s required in the ordinance, but the league is pursuing additional leases for parking spots.  This will require exceptions be approved by the Common Council.  Schroeder said that they recommend approval of the project, subject to the conditions noted.

Mayor Keith Bosman talked about the east gate on the Sheridan Road side.  “We will be spending quite a bit of money on the walkways and the concession area,” he said.  “The ticket office has always been part of the plan down to that end of the property.  This will be a key entry point to the park.”

Alderperson Anthony Kennedy asked the staff what the major sticking points were in the negotiation of the conditional use permit.  Schroeder’s answer was that one issue was the drainage.  This has been worked out with the Public Works Department.  He stated that there was not a lot of other stuff left, the bleachers, and the utilities.

Kennedy asked Stedman if he had any issues with the conditional use permit in front of the commission, and Stedman said no.

Kathryn Comstock expressed her concern about the handicapped parking spots.  “There are only 14.  That’s a poor percentage for 2,000 seats,” she said.  She wanted to know why the parking spots were not closer to the gate.  Schroeder said that the number of handicapped parking spots is set by the state.  Comstock said that they are not meeting the minimum.  Schroeder assured her that they will have to have the required number.  The location will be by the front door as close as possible.  If there are obstructions, a ramp will be placed.  Schroeder said that they will meet the state requirements as far as location and number.

Stedman said that the city staff put together the parking plan, and he was happy with the partnership that has developed with the city.  He also stated that he was willing to work within the city’s codes.

Comstock also commented on Bostrom’s note about fireworks and drinking.  No fireworks will be shot off after 11 pm.  Drinking will be curtailed after the 7th inning.  Stedman said that there will be no fireworks later than 10 pm or 10:30 pm.  This was addressed in the lease agreement with the city which was signed last week.  Stedman said that they were cognizant of the alcohol licensing that needs to be requested.  They plan to sell beer at the stadium.  They will address it at that time.

Bosman also mentioned the starting times of the games.  Stedman said that fireworks will be planned for only Friday and Saturday nights, with a 6 pm game start time.  Games during the week will start at 7 pm. The time constraints are also built into the lease.

Alderperson Jan Michalski asked about the donut burgers.  Stedman said that they went through 200 at last week’s event.  “We have never not sold out of them.  We usually offer them as a special during the week, and we’ll sell maybe three dozen in a night.  We get great reviews on them, he said, “although I have never eaten one myself.”  Michalski made the comment that they were “a cardiac arrest staring you in the face.”

The conditional use permit was approved unanimously, with Robert Hayden abstaining from the vote due to a possible conflict of interest.

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The second agenda item was a petition to vacate a portion of an alley located between 21st and 22nd Avenues, from 65th to 67th Streets.  This alley is located in the 8th district.

Bosman said that this is the first alley vacation that they’ve dealt with.  He stated that they like to see alley vacations because they eliminate tires, graffiti, dust, and dirt problems.

Michalski stated that, the reason alleys are problems are that people passing through dump their garbage, or walk through and paint graffiti.  “If the majority of the alley was vacated and sealed off, it wouldn’t be an alley; it would be a long driveway.  There wouldn’t be the same problem with dumping.  The problem would be ameliorated.  I’m sympathetic with the problem,” he said.  “Leaving a 100-foot stretch to 65th Street open wouldn’t impact the alley,” said Michalski.

Kennedy said that there was no second on his motion for an amendment.  Therefore, he said that they should vacate the whole alley.  There are 28 parcels of land involved.  Seventeen of the twenty-eight want it vacated; that’s 60 percent.  Only one says no; that’s three percent.  Keeping the north end partially open will still contribute to problems.  There would be no access to the gravel lot near the garage.

He then asked the staff who the owner of the lot was.  Schroeder replied that it was Pamela Lechtner, but she was not present.  Two other residents were in attendance, and they stated that the three of them owned the property.

Kennedy said that he was not supporting the amendment.  He said that they should close the whole alley.

Ron Stevens said that he would vote for that as well, but he wanted to know if there were any other options the city attorney could come back with.  Jeff LaBahn, community development and inspections director, said that the requirement that the city has to accommodate the gravel parking pad.  This is the first step in the process.  It will now go before the Public Works Committee, and then the Common Council.  The final vote will be 45 days down the road.

Schroeder made the comment that it is possible that there is more than one owner.  It would have to be verified with the register of deeds.

Bosman stated that a goal of the City Plan Commission should be to get rid of all alleys in the city of Kenosha.  “They are more problems than they’re worth,” he said.  Kennedy said that he’d like to know how much is spent by the city for maintaining the alleys, for grading and plowing.  “We should be returning value to the constituents.”

Michalski stated that he would reluctantly agree to support vacating the alley since there was no second for his amendment.  “Alleys do serve a legitimate function in the older parts of town.  Sometimes the alleys are the homeowners’ only access to off-street parking and their own garages,” he said.  He also said that it was evident that the amendment wasn’t going to happen.  He then made a motion to approve the vacation, and it was approved unanimously by the commission.

The next meeting for this issue will be before the Public Works Committee on February 4th, and then final action will be taken by the Common Council on March 4th.

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