Brookfield residents remain divided over the future of an abandoned quarry near Burleigh and Lilly Roads.
Developers want to fill the enormous pit with dirt from the Zoo Interchange project and then build high-end housing units on part.The city would buy and reshape the rest into a park.
Brookfield leaders are weighing competing factors in deciding how to proceed.
They include a petition and a state law.
Jim Siepman is leading me along a crumbled asphalt road – it was the main route in and out of the old quarry.
“Nobody really knows that there is a quarry back here unless you lived in this area, it’s kind of a hidden gem,” Siepman says.
Its days as a sand and gravel pit ended in the late 1970s. Dense foliage now conceals the property, while ground water seepage and rainfall have created a lake.
“Multiple developers have tried to develop this site over the years and the city has basically said, ‘If you are going to develop this site, you are going to have to develop a safe place with the quarry area and do the restoration that’s needed there for you to go forward,” Siepman says.
His firm, Siepman Realty and earthmover Super Excavators agree to the city’s terms and hope to buy the quarry from its current owner. Super Excavators would truck-in fill from the Zoo Interchange rebuild – a process that would take years. When crews finish filling the quarry and stabilizing the bluffs, Siepman would build more than 100 multi-family residential units on the north end. The city would buy the rest and create public green spaces.
Thousands of Brookfield residents have signed a petition against the plan.
Organizers of “BRAD” – Brookfield Residents against the Dump, met recently at a restaurant for an update regarding their petition drive. Last week, the group submitted 3,700 signatures to the Brookfield clerk’s office.
“BRAD” spokesperson Mark Regal says the group’s plan would bar the city from developing a park, on land created with fill. His family owns apartments adjacent to the quarry and like other neighbors does not want to endure five years of trucks hauling in dirt.
“We figure about 200 trucks a day, a truck coming in and a truck going out would be a truck about every two minutes on Burleigh Road. That’s the safety number one and just all the noise and the pollution that comes with the trucking,” Regal says.
Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto says he is mindful of petitioners’ concerns. Yet he says what complicates the issue is a law the Legislature tucked into the last state budget.
It stipulates, that if a landowner wants to accept clean fill from state transportation projects, local government cannot regulate the hauling or dumping.
So, according to Ponto, if Brookfield scraps the existing plan for the quarry, someone else could buy it and not cooperate with the city.
“Then there would be no control over the amount of fill, no control over the time period, a lot of the safeguards that we’ve been able to negotiate would go by the boards, and it may never become a park if that happened.” Ponto says.
One person the state law caught by surprise is Brookfield Assemblyman Dale Kooyenga. He says he was unaware of the statute – and even the quarry, when he voted in favor of the state budget.
Kooyenga recently introduced a bill to modify the law, so Brookfield could regulate activity at the quarry.
“The statute should be revised saying that if you have a project like this with more than 500 people within a one mile radius of that pit, then that statute doesn’t apply and it completely reverts to local control,” Kooyenga says.
Kooyenga admits though, it will be hard to garner legislative support for a bill affecting only one district.
Jim Siepman says it’s unlikely his firm would go forward with residential development without municipal support.
Mayor Ponto says he will urge the city council to kill the proposed development in its current form. Then he hopes to facilitate a meeting of all interested parties.