Ok, so I am on one of my old man keep off my grass rants again….sort of! [for those keeping score: millennials: I am out of active politics {for now} except for Blogging Blue and I am retired so if you think you got hot programming chops have at it]

This actual story won’t mean much to most of our readers…and it didn’t appear in any of the major media outlets around Milwaukee. I found it in the South NOW community insert in the July 4th 2018 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

But now ageism of a sort rears its head in Franklin Wisconsin…kinda an odd spot considering this is coming from the mayor of Franklin. I have been following the development of Ballpark Commons in Franklin because my baseball team plays on the current facilities there and through my league connections I know the developer a bit.

Here is the short take on the back story. After adding little league and adult league baseball facilities plus bar and concessions areas to the former Crystal Ridge ski area, the developer wants to expand onto surrounding properties. The improvements include a 4,000 seat minor league type ball park. And to make that economically viable adding retail space, apartments, practice golf facilities, beer garden, possibly hotel rooms, etc. The Franklin mayor and common council love the idea and ground was broken recently.

But the developer, Mike Zimmerman, now sees other development opportunities on the properties to enhance his investment and enlarge the development. An expanded golf entertainment area, athlete housing, sports bars, a taco joint, a pizza joint, more retail, etc. Well you get the general idea. And all of this has been moving through approvals in Franklin pretty much unopposed.

Until! The mayor noticed the addition of

a three-story 179,203 square-foot building south of Rawson Avenue with 20,000 square feet of underground parking. It will include 103 senior apartments and 36 memory care units.

This shouldn’t be included because supporting and protecting it will break the city budget. Why?

[Franklin Mayor Steve] Olson did not mince words with his displeasure for New Perspective Senior Living, saying this was the “wrong facility in the wrong part of town for the wrong reason in the wrong development.”

But it was the senior housing that set the mayor off. Olson said it would strain the emergency services department, for which the city might have to go to taxpayers through a referendum in order to properly fund it.

From other articles it looks like any development in Franklin is going to strain their public services and emergency services departments regardless. The city is going to have to handle that issue whether this senior development is approved and built or not. I am not going to say that Mayor Olson is picking on seniors directly. I don’t know the man and haven’t followed city business in Franklin. And yes, granted I imagine the fire department EMTs may have a few more calls to a senior center than to a general apartment building of similar size. But other than that I don’t see it being a bigger burden. But what it seems like is he’d prefer more ‘limited use’ facilities. Like the ballpark which is only open a few days for a few hours during the season. Same for restaurants which are limited hours. Or ditto retail. Essentially businesses that contribute to the property tax base but don’t have permanent residents.

And that appears to be correct: the planning commission approved the senior center by a vote of 4 -1.

Both Olson and Commissioner Adam Burckhardt (who was the sole vote against), cited a concern about lack of adequate fire/EMS service, which is already being strained in the area.

So the optics on this are lousy. Being against a senior center stinks. But politicians don’t care anymore. And this senior center shouldn’t be blamed for bad prior city planning. Obviously city resources are already strained. This is just a canary in the Franklin coal mine.

But for the moment I am going to call this one as I see it. Let the developer build a senior center with memory care facilities. If you don’t now, you will have plenty of potential residents in your own community who will want or need this type of housing. Don’t deny them the right or ability to remain in their home town of Franklin.

And step up to the plate (pun intended) and initiate planning for additional city services of all kinds. You are going to need them in another year or three whether this facility is built at Ballpark Commons or not.

Now it does look like Franklin is thinking about its future: Franklin residents set to be surveyed about interest in spending more, via fall referendum, for emergency services. But it isn’t one senior housing facility that is the tipping point. It is Franklin’s overall success…it needs to be a city now instead of a pastoral suburb.

According to information to be included in the survey, Franklin has seen a 15 percent population growth from 2003 to 2017. Additionally, staffing has increased by 5 percent while calls for service have increased by 63 percent.

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