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Germantown moves forward with MMSD land exchange

If owners agree, Blackstone would close after this season

March 6, 2012

This story is corrected from a previous version and the print edition.

Germantown - The village of Germantown took an intergovernmental land agreement a step further Monday night.

The Village Board voted unanimously to move forward with a cooperation agreement with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District that will be used by MMSD for the purposes of park and flood management in the floodplain of the Menomonee River.

MMSD is looking to purchase 131 acres from Frank Romano and Troy Schmidt, owners of Blackstone Creek Golf Club, for a set price per acre. To do so, the village first has to purchase 24 acres of the golf course, Village President Dean Wolter said after the meeting. The board voted unanimously to create a contract to buy the 24 acres from Romano & Schmidt LLC.

Schmidt and Romano are currently going through the purchase contract with both the village and MMSD. Schmidt said they are just beginning to look through the agreements and have not signed anything.

"Nothing is agreed upon yet," he said. "Any agreements would be signed in the next 30 days."

Should Romano and Schmidt sign the agreement, the MMSD commission then has to vote to officially purchase the roughly 131 acres from the golf course. Wolter said the village will also transfer the 204-acre property known as Wilderness Park over to MMSD.

The village will retain the 24 acres from the golf course. Should the MMSD purchase go through, the combined park would have 153 acres.

The outcome of the transfer and future of the golf course currently hangs in the balance. However, Schmidt said nothing will change for the 2012 golf season.

"There will be a golf course for sure in the 2012 season and we are honoring all the leagues, group events and memberships," Schmidt said.

If agreements go through, however, the golf course would be converted into a park and the 2012 season will be its last.

Flood management at its heart

MMSD's Greenseam's flood management program would use the village's land to protect 554 acres at the Menomonee River's headwater under its flood control program. Greenseams currently owns 350 acres surrounding the park. Wolter said MMSD would put a "conservation overlay" on the 204-acre land deed preventing any future development or forestry work in the area.

Wolter said should MMSD put the conservation protection over the predominantly swamp area and continue flood management work, the Wilderness Park area will go back to the village to either be used on a conditional easement basis or as a public recreation area with hiking and biking trails.

"I would not describe this as a land swap," Steve McCarthy of MMSD said during the board meeting Monday. "The agreement is written that the village has a choice in terms of whether they want to transfer or do an easement of the property."

Once the land is the hands of Greanseems it will have to remain in its current state to prevent not only development on the land, but invasive species from affecting the natural habitat.

"And then we would have the ability to either take it back as it is today as a park or look at it as an easement where we could use it under certain guidelines," Wolter said after the meeting. "It's not really a transfer, it's more of a transition and the transition is the village currently owns it and it doesn't have a conservation overlay and they (MMSD) would place that on there, so no development can go on there."

As far as he is concerned, it is a win-win for the Germantown. Wolter said in years past, the village planned to remove trees in the area, open the canopy and give a boost to the park. Due to a large outcry from conservation groups wanting to protect the swamp area and headwaters of the Menomonee River, the village did not pursue any changes to Wilderness Park.

"There's a lot of plant life there that is very unique to this area, some animal life there that's unique to this area and if you open up the canopy by doing some forestry you have the ability to bring in invasive species," Wolter said.

Since Greenseams owns the majority of the land surrounding Wilderness Park, the village had approached MMSD for additional park land "because we said we need something for future growth," Wolter said.

Should MMSD decide to move forward with the acquisition of 131 acres, the village will be able to create a 153-acre park that would essentially sit in the center of Germantown. With a conservation overlay on the land, the village would have restrictions on what they can and can't do. Wolter said, for example, they can't construct a paved parking lot, but would be able to add recreational amenities such as bike trails or fishing ponds.

"It sounds great because it's a win-win in the sense that everyone that's using Wilderness Park today can still use it (for) like snowmobiling, ATV riding, horseback riding," Wolter said. "And they can still do that with the conservation overlay on it and all the residents have the ability to use the 153-acre park dead center of the village."

MMSD's policy and finance committee meets at the end of this month to decide if they want to designate funds and move forward with this agreement.

Land transfer steps

1. Germantown purchases 24 acres from Blackstone Creek Golf Course.

2. Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District purchases 131 acres from the golf course.

3. Germantown transfers 204 acres of Wilderness Park.

4. MMSD land and village land would combine to create a 153-acre recreational park.

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