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Whitefish Bay Woman's Club members say alley work could end club

Club president says $37,000 cost 'will wipe us out'

May 7, 2013

Whitefish Bay - The Whitefish Bay Village Board on Monday was unexpectedly beset by concerned members of the woman's club who said that the high cost of widening their alley this summer could shut down the club.

While small alley expansion projects at the cost of adjacent property owners have become routine around the village, the method of assessing the cost of this project means that the Woman's Club, 600 E. Henry Clay St., will have to pay $37,000 over the next seven years.

Whitefish Bay Woman's Club President Teresa Grzechowiak told the board that if it does not find another way to assess the fee, the club will have to close.

"We are a nonprofit," she said. "We get our profit from bake sales, rummage sales and the occasional rental for a wedding or bar mitzvah. So our income is very limited."

Grzechowiak suggested that the village charge the club based on the number of city lots taken up by their building rather than the number of parking spaces on it, which would come to an amount that the club could afford.

"Otherwise what you're charging us will wipe us out, and the Whitefish Bay Woman's Club has been there for almost a hundred years," she added.

The board unanimously passed the resolution to go through with the project with the expectation that Village Manager Patrick DeGrave and Village Attorney Christopher Jaekels will come up with a solution.

This particular project would widen the alley that runs parallel to Henry Clay Street between Hollywood and Idlewood avenues.

The cost of widening the alley falls on property owners, and the fee for each property is assessed based on the number of parking spaces it has and how many properties are connected to the alley. This particular alley is connected to two houses and the woman's club.

Assistant Village Engineer Aaron Jahncke explained that method of assessing each property's share is by parking spaces. Single-family homes with a driveway to the alley are assessed as having one parking space, duplexes as having two and then nonresidential properties are assessed by the literal number of parking spaces on the property.

"The ordinance was set up to specifically target nonresidential spaces that come off the alley that have parking, it was specifically written for that," Jahncke said as he explained the intent of the 1996 ordinance. "The alley assessment is one of the fairest policies that we have in the village. … It's fairly equitable the way that it's broken up."

Members of the board and members of the audience offered up various solutions, but Jahncke was quick to point out the consequences of each option.

He explained that coming up with a new assessment method will not change the overall cost of the project and could shoulder the other two homeowners on the alley with an additional cost of $10,000 each. If the village were to help pay for the Woman's Club's share, that would set a precedent with potentially unexpected consequences.

Ultimately DeGrave asked the board to pass the resolution so as to lock down the price and date of the job, and he would work with Jaekels to find a way to help the woman's club.

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