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Germantown's Riversbend development approved despite opposition

Residents concerned over traffic, noise, flooding

Jan. 30, 2013

Germantown - Permits and rezones for the Riversbend development in Germantown were approved by the Village Board on Monday following three public hearings laden with heavy criticism from adjacent property owners and residents of the Rivercrest subdivision.

The redevelopment of the 40-acre Riversbend Country Club property on County Line Road in Germantown includes two franchise restaurants. Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings are set to go up on 3.5 acres in the parking lot of the current Riversbend Golf Club, W18034 County Line Road, as well as a new golf club house that will be built on the north end of the remaining 37.5 acres. The golf course will remain a 9-hole course.

Project moves forward

There was not an empty seat in the board room as Germantown residents lined up to express concerns mainly about an increase in traffic on County Line Road, as well as potential noise from Buffalo Wild Wings.

"You're putting this young bar-restaurant in an older residential neighborhood," Pat Walzak from the Rivercrest subdivision said. "I ask you to really, really look at this stuff. I think you really need to consider how this affects life (in the subdivision).

The project developer, Menomonee Falls-based Continental 246 Fund, also applied for an amendment to the village's land use plan that included removing a 0.22-acre portion from the floodplain overlay district, as well as a zone change for the 3.5 acres from institutional to neighborhood business and park and recreation to commercial, all of which were approved.

The development required a conditional use permit for encroachment of a 25-foot setback on wetlands, which the Village Board approved with 17 conditions.

The project also calls for the addition of a traffic light on County Line Road alongside the development.

Traffic issues raised

Sara Johnson, a representative from Continental 246 Fund, said a neighborhood meeting in July laid bare traffic concerns which included an increase in drivers who cut through the subdivision to access the existing light on Rivercrest Drive.

"Folks are coming in by the Panda Express and the gas station and rather than trying to get back out to County Line, they are shortcutting through the subdivision to get out at the light at McDonald's," Johnson said.

A second resident concern, she said is taking a left turn out of the subdivision onto County Line Road, which could become more difficult with a boost in traffic from the development. The developer hired Traffic Analysis and Design to conduct an extensive traffic study to determine if a light at the development would help alleviate some concerns.

"The proposed traffic signal will alleviate some shortcuts through the subdivision because folks at the gas station would most likely come over at the proposed light than cut through the subdivision," Johnson said.

She said they will also synchronize all of the lights on County Line Road to help traffic flow.

Residents were not appeased, saying the restaurants will still add a heavy amount of traffic to the area regardless of a new light.

"With 267 parking spaces, that's 267 extra people coming down County Line Road," said subdivision resident Cheryl Tucker. "I'm not convinced the traffic signal will take care of all of our issues. It'll help, but won't solve it."

Concern about floodplain

The 41-acre property is on a 100-year floodplain. Continental 246 had to receive approval from the Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as the Village Board to remove 0.22 acres from the floodplain overlay. They also had to prove to these entities that development would not increase the floodplain, which they did through a design and flood analysis.

"The other concern is the area planned to be removed from floodplain delineation because that area has been totally under water for weeks at a time," Germantown resident Charlie Hardin said. "Just changing a certain area and keeping it even won't be enough. I think they need to increase the amount of retention area."

The floodplain essentially remains unchanged from how it is now. The developer is adding a dry pond to alleviate potential flooding. Eric Drazkowski of Excel Engineering said they also modeled after standards, which include 20,000 cubic feet of storage, "so we did that and added 40,000 feet of storage."

"We've been able to prevent any flooding increases due to development and raising of grades," he said.

Once the development is complete, they have to once again prove to FEMA that the floodplain is not affected.

There is also outdoor seating planned for the Buffalo Wild Wings, which is creating a noise concern for residents. Limiting the hours of operation on the outdoor patio can be addressed when the restaurant applies for a liquor license, Village President Dean Wolter said.

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