Residents Split on Proposed Changes to JCC

With proposed increases to hours and traffic, some residents voiced opposition at a public hearing Monday, while others supported the JCC.

Residents were divided Monday night as they delivered passionate cases to village officials at a packed public hearing about proposed modifications to the .

Representatives with the JCC called the changes “minor,” but some neighbors were concerned about potential increases in traffic and noise, and one group hired a lawyer to represent them at the joint Village Board-Plan Commision public hearing.

Resident Scott Wirig said he worried the changes could be a harbinger of expanding use of the JCC as a regional center, bringing more traffic to the neighborhood. When Seth Meyers  Jan. 21, Wirig said one car parked on his lawn when street parking filled up.

“That’s not a common occurrence, but as you start expanding this out, and you let more and more of these events occur, the possibility of all these things happening, becomes greater and greater,” Wirig said.

The include expanding operating hours, building two fences, and increasing the number of “special events” they are allowed annually.  

However, James Madlom, who represented the JCC Monday, said the center did not have plans to schedule any more events than usual; rather, the greater allowance of 20 will give them flexibility in scheduling events that could require street parking (a "special event"). With their current cap of 12 per year, Madlom said it is difficult to plan an event several months in advance without knowing whether they will have reached their maximum number of special events by that point.

The expanded hours would be as follows:

  • Open Monday through Friday at 5 a.m. rather than the current 6 a.m. opening.
  • Open Saturday at 8 a.m., the same time the center opens Saturday.
  • Permit up to 30 events annually to run until 1 a.m., rather than the current closing time of 11 p.m.
  • Allow snow-plowing before 5 a.m.

The JCC is also requesting an allowance of 150 people for overnight "lock-in" events, such as teen events with BBYO. Currently the maximum is 40.

Many residents who supported the changes said the JCC was part of the reason they moved to Whitefish Bay and continue to value the community.

“It’s a community center in every sense of the word: open space, open heart," Michelle Lafferty, a resident and JCC member, said. "And I believe this place is and should continue to be a central part of this community."

However, others worried the JCC would become more of a regional hub that primarily serves members from outside the community.

"It's not a Whitefish Bay asset; it's a regional asset," Wirig said. “Eventually something of value becomes a liability.”

Currently, more than 1,600 Whitefish Bay residents are members, comprising about 20 to 25 percent of the total membership, Madlom said.

While the JCC does serve members outside of Whitefish Bay, supporters pointed out that it also serves many residents of Whitefish Bay who do not belong to the Jewish community. About 11 percent of residents are members, Madlom said.

"It’s technically called the Jewish Community Center but it serves a much broader community; it serves the entire community of Whitefish Bay and beyond," resident Joe Olson said. "And it would be foolish to stand in its way as it attempts to provide services to us.

"Instead of debating whether they should be allowed to do their service work in our community, we should ask ourselves whether we can afford to prevent them."

Also part of the proposal is two fences, for the back field around the retention pond, and for the front of the south building. The Plan Commission reviewed these plans Monday and referred them to the Architectural Review Committee.

Kathy Gutenkunst, a lawyer hired to represent a group of residents opposed to the changes, said the changes violated the spirit of a moratorium condition that was part of the development agreement agreed upon in 2003, after months of litigation, which stated the JCC would not make any "substantial" new development for 25 years.

"That moratorium makes it very clear that it’s a condition of the approval of the development agreement, that they wouldn’t be back for 25 years," Gutenkunst said.

However, others argued that the changes do not meet the definition of "substantial," and pointed out that the current board is not bound by this agreement.

The Plan Commission will take action on the JCC's proposal after the Architectural Review Commission considers the fencing plan. Once the Plan Commission has made a recommendation, it will go before the Village Board for final consideration.

Cate Olson March 20, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I wonder what is better for property values of homes surrounding JCC: the JCC who maintains the grounds beautifully or a new, unknown tenant who moves in after the JCC gets tired of groveling before the Village Board every time it wants to make absurdly minor changes and moves its entire operation somewhere else on the North Shore?
Bob McBride March 20, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I don't know that, for instance, I'd consider the ability to run snow plows around before 5AM to be a minor change if I lived in the vicinity. The same goes for traffic and other concerns. The JCC isn't being singled out as regards "groveling" before the Village Board. Changes of this nature, regardless of the institution, require approval. It's comes with being part of a community and I'd imagine those in charge at the JCC understand that.
Absolutelyfabulous March 20, 2012 at 03:44 PM
The JCC is a very prime piece of real estate (most likely the most valuable piece of real estate in WFB besides the parking lots behind Fox Bay Cinema) located in the BEST place to live in Wisconsin w/ a top notch school system and just a few blocks from the Lake/Bayshore/freeway access. I wouldn't worry about getting some slovenly tenant if the JCC ever chose to move. They wouldn't pay the price for that property that they would ultimately have to shell out along w/ the property taxes incurred, if any, and then let it fall into disarray. The neighbors who fought New Land Enterprises condo proposal behind the Fox Bay Cinemas just a hop, skip & a jump away to the south from the JCC also had concerns about increased traffic/noise/density/affect on their properties. They were listened to. That's a bit too simplified, but those concerns were brought up and addressed. Do certain property owners have more rights than others to impact the quality of life for the residents adjacent to their properties?
Kelly A March 20, 2012 at 04:13 PM
To quote Absolutelyfabulous - "Do certain property owners have more rights than others to impact the quality of life for the residents adjacent to their properties?" - this is a very good question. Richards School, Cumberland, the middle school, and the high school in the district are all surrounded by residences. As are the numerous parochial schools and parks in Whitefish Bay. How many of these parking lots are not allowed to be plowed before 5am? I believe none. It is not fair that the JCC is not allowed to plow their parking lots before 5am when every other school in the Village can. Plain and simple.
Cate Olson March 20, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I am not referring to a slovenly tenant. I am referring to the possibility of one that is more disruptive than the JCC intends to be after passage of these minor changes. (Yes, I would consider a handful of early morning snow plow beeps and scrapes a year a minor change.) I am also referring to the possibility of a new tenant that doesn't benefit the community the positive way the JCC currently does.
StaynConnected March 20, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Actually, I believe some of the parochial schools (Holy Family being an example) cannot plow before a certain hour.
Bob McBride March 20, 2012 at 04:43 PM
So do you believe they should be able to make changes like the ones they're requesting without having to seek approval?
Absolutelyfabulous March 20, 2012 at 04:45 PM
You have no idea what a potential new tenant would be or could contribute to the community. Does the JCC pay taxes? If not, how much in additional tax base could a "new" tenant contribute to the WFB tax rolls? Just an example. Also, any new tenant would be buying into a property that most likely has very tight and tailored zoning/uses specific to the current owner/JCC. Any new venture interested in acquiring this property would have to take that into consideration as well as most likely seek changes to the current zoning/allowances in place knowing what has been proposed/allowed before. Not so simple to say "if not this, then what about this." How many other minor changes will be sought in the future and what could they potentially add up to? Did people purchase their homes with the understanding of what was allowed and when @ the JCC? W/ regard to snowplowing, the streets are plowed 24/7 as needed and I believe these are closer to the homes than any of the parking lots. I think I'm going both ways on this one.
Bob McBride March 20, 2012 at 04:50 PM
There's a difference between a snow plow running down the street and back a few times and one or more machines clearing a lot a parking lot or two.
David Tatarowicz March 20, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Absolutelyfabulous March 20, 2012 at 05:53 PM
W/ regard to snowplowing and having lots that get snowplowed...A few more questions/observations. 1st-The streets are in use 24/7 which will never change and I believe for public safety what has to be done is done. Wheras the JCC has set hours which they are now seeking to change and thus change snowplowing. 2nd- It doesn't say what hours the JCC would want to snowplow, just before 5 am. Does this mean they can snowplow 24/7 if the request is granted? I hate to tell you, but snowplowers make their money by repeated trips out during a snowstorm & THEY HAVE TO PLOW or at least try to after the snow hits a certain depth ~3-4 inches because their plows can only move so much snow/there is damage to the equipment. Many times, if not always, a snowplow contractor will state in their contract that they come out after the snow reaches a certain depth ~ 2 inches and keep coming as the snow falls and is needed. Then again, some, if not many, snowplow operators do landscaping work in the summer months and may have in house or access to those heavier types of machinery ie CATS w/ attachments to move the really big snowfall amounts or just be able to push the stuff and pile higher if space is a concern ie adjacent buildings/house next the parking lot which I don't believe the JCC has that problem.
Aurelius March 20, 2012 at 05:56 PM
The JCC's proposal is not set in stone. They are willing to accept revisions to the proposal to help with their challenges they face. I believe the JCC has taken a neighborly approach seeking dialoge with wfb neighbors. Life is fluid not static.
Absolutelyfabulous March 20, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Life is fluid. If the JCC is looking to increase it's capacity and neighbors have already had issues w/ people parking on the streets/their lawns, wouldn't it be more prudent for the JCC to expand their parking lots that they currently have to better facilitate the increased demand for the center? I seem to remember there being quite a bit of green space to make use for more cars vs potentially filling up more streets as well as preventing snowplows to adequetely plow the streets the 1st/2nd/3rd time through when heavy snows come and the JCC is potentially overflowing w/ people celebrating one thing or another? One can always hide additional parking space w/ nice, tall shrubery. Then again, maybe that green space is much more valuable and better to push the cars onto the street and closer to other peoples homes. Am I off base. Just a thought. Also, that 1 hour earlier opening time in the morning is potentially huge. Not only for new memberships/retaining members/revenue, but also adding more classes, allowing more people to squeeze in an am workout. I belong to the WAC and it is fabulous. Even though they offer early am classes, the downtown WAC has a better variety of offering vs the spin/pilates that North Shore offers. Now, if the North Shore offered the same variety as Downtown, I'd be there much earlier as would potentially others. What is the JCC currently drawing member wise w/ a 6 am opening and what do they project w/ a 5 am opening if possible?
aaaaaa March 20, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Actually, I would consider early morning beeps a big change. I thought I read that private contaractors can't plow homeowners before a certain time? Also, I know that contractor work at your home cannot begin prior to 7 am due to noise issues.
Absolutelyfabulous March 20, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Here is a previous article on changes being sought @ WFB JCC. mequonnow Feb. 06, 2012 10:48 p.m. | Whitefish Bay residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on several proposed changes at the Karl Jewish Community Campus at a public hearing next month. The Village Board on Monday voted to move the plans forward to the public hearing level, with members of that board and the Plan Commission jointly overseeing the event. JCC officials are requesting eight operational and structural changes at the campus, 6423 N. Santa Monica Blvd. The list includes proposed fencing on the back field of the property, increasing the number of permissible annual special events on the campus from 12 to 20 and requesting up to 30 events, including wedding receptions, be allowed to function until 1 a.m., as opposed to the current 11 p.m. cut-off time. The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. March 19 at a venue to be announced. _______________________________________________________________ What about those potential 30 wedding receptions and then going until 1 am? Are there only certain days/times of the year that a Jewish wedding/reception happens? Will neighbors be possibly subjected to outdoor tented receptions until 1 am every friday/saturday evening + traffic for the entire Spring/Summer/Fall? What happens if all 30 events are TAKEN and someone goes to have a special chat w/ whoever is in charge to see what can be done about squeezing in just 1 more reception/event?
dadgum March 21, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I'm fairly shocked at the intense opposition to the JCC's proposed changes. What is the big deal? I live right across the street from the JCC on Santa Monica, which, as a thoroughfare, probably gets plowed earlier and more often than other, quieter village streets. The few nights that the JCC will have to plow the parking lots before 5 AM is not going to be any more disruptive than the village plows. With the fence issue: I'd much rather have the JCC put some safety fences up than have a child potentially run out into the street and get hit by a car. Regarding the extra events: This is the JCC we're talking about, not a strip club. How crazy do you think it's going to get? And finally, about the moratorium: How can a village/town expect a business to not make any significant changes for 25 years? The JCC is part of the package that drew me to WFB. It saddens me to see people in this community so up in arms against the organization.
Angela March 21, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Dadgum, I applaud you and completely agree with your comments. I appreciate and benefit from all that the JCC offers and think the JCC is a tremendous asset to our community at large.
Absolutelyfabulous March 21, 2012 at 02:18 AM
dadgum- You stated "And finally, about the moratorium: How can a village/town expect a business to not make any significant changes for 25 years?" Is the JCC a business that pays taxes? I don't know. Though, wedding receptions/memberships/special events/renting out of rooms can be big business, if you know what I mean $$$. Also, an agreement was mutually signed to last ~25 yrs and now ~7 years in "changes want to be made". Where was the foresight on that one to sign an agreement and then come back and say we want some changes? Or was the language ambiguous just enough that there would always be wiggle room to squeeze in more concessions as time went on. Just semantics. Changes which could open the door for more changes and so forth and so on. This isn't some neighborhood grocery or restaurant that wants to open 1 hour earlier or have a hard liquor license vs just beer. This, JCC, is a BIG ENTERPRISE that seems to be looking to offer more and more to the community at large while potentially directly affecting the adjacent neighborhood and not everyone shares your thoughts/uses the JCC. From what was previously mentioned, last time things didn't go the JCC's way, they sued. It'll be interesting to see what happens this time around. DIVINE CONSIGN- They initially held 1 event annually @ the JCC RENTING out some rooms and business is so good they held the same event 2x last year. http://whitefishbay.patch.com/events/divine-consign-at-the-jcc
Absolutelyfabulous March 21, 2012 at 02:29 AM
BTW, that Divine Consign event was a glorified Goodwill Thrift Store sale. Though, it didn't keep people from initially flooding in and grabbing tons of stuff. Marketing (see their brochure in the previous link) and the thought that "Rich People" are unloading designer clothes at bargain basement prices draws a crowd. I never thought Kohl's Sonoma clothing/shoes, UW/Nike/Adidas sweatshirts/pants were considered "high end."
aaaaaa March 21, 2012 at 06:56 PM
It's a private club - how is that an asset to the village at large? Regarding plowing - there is a huge difference between plowing straight down a street and the B-E-E-P noise of a plow backing up and moving snow around a parking lot.
JayDub March 22, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Yes, Abfab, it is a prime piece of real estate. The alternative, if they should leave, would be 3-5 story condos, built close to the street, with retail space on the ground floor. That is the only new construction that has occurred in WFB (at both ends of Silver Spring), or Shorewood, for that matter. It is the wave of the future, and a great deal for the WFB taxpayer (unless, like you, you have to live next door to it). I am looking forward to voting for rezoning and turning your neighborhood into a commercial tax-revenue generating business district if you keep harassing the JCC over minor changes. Changes, that, by the way, no other business, school, social or non-profit organization in the Bay needs to get board or neighborhood permission to make. For heaven's sake, do you know of any church in WFB that has to get board permission for its kids to have a regional overnight? Our board has much more pressing matters to attend to, let's release them from the burden on authorizing and granting permission to the JCC, or put those same types if paternal big government restrictions on every church, every public and parochial school, and the WFB Women's Club as well. I suppose you want me to get permission from the board to park my car in front of your house too? Stop the whining people, your houses were not even built when the JCC campus started out as a school. It has been a busy and bustling place ever since 1918, and you moved next to it. No one forced you to.
JayDub March 22, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I agree with Kelly A - I grew up next to WFBHS, and was inconvenienced by the noise of football & soccer games announced on a PA system. The lights on the field and baseball diamond shone right into my bedroom window. Our driveway was often blocked by trucks trying to back into the stage door loading dock. Buses would take up all the street parking for all sorts of events. They hosted all night events like dance-a-thons for fundraisers. And snow plows plowed early in the morning to accommodate zero-hour math, or the swim team, which would arrive for practice before 6am. And not once did we ever complain about this. Why? Because the school was there first, and we CHOSE to move in next to it. When the lights were too bright, we pulled down the blinds. We closed our windows when the idling buses smelled up the place. It NEVER occurred to us to complain to the village board. Having a vibrant community is what brings people to the village and keeps our homes valuable. The high school was a much worse neighbor, and in closer proximity to my house, than the JCC is to ANYONE'S home. I lived in residential zoning, but had no right to any of the "quality of life issues" you claim to have. Neither do neighbors of the other public or private schools in the Bay. Why do you feel you are entitled to more property rights than me?
JayDub March 22, 2012 at 04:55 AM
WFB51 - how was the University School an asset to the village? It wasn't. And it was a regional center, drawing kids from the northern burbs, but very few WFB residents. Clearly, by comparison, the JCC is a huge asset to the village. I heard many residents offer up examples of this at the meeting. Ask Gilda's Club and the beneficiaries of the charitable events that go on at the J, or all the other groups that borrow the facilities. Also, the property also houses a school. Are you so selfish as to say that you care more about hearing beeping plows than you do for the safety of kids trying to go to school? You'd prefer the plows come in after you have had your coffee, so you can look out the window and watch the kids getting whacked by snowplows that could have been done plowing before the start of school drop-off time? Very neighborly of you.
dadgum March 22, 2012 at 11:40 AM
taloba March 23, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Absolutelyfabulous, You seem to have a lot of passion/energy to put forth on this issue. I suggest you channel it into some REAL problems. Here are some suggestions: 1. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity 2. Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter 3. Better yet, come to work with me. I teach refugees who have fled war torn countries and have had eyes blown out and limbs blown off from land mines, and all have lost family members. If you open your eyes to the bigger world, it makes it possible to distinguish between real problems and small stuff. You only have one life to live. Might as well put your energy into something worthwhile and meaningful.
Absolutelyfabulous March 24, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Throwing out some info./insights for people having to live next door to an enterprise that seems to keep pushing the boundries on what was originally agreed to seems to be a worthwile cause to me and really only a few minutes of my time. These are all possible scenarios that people did not bargain for when they purchased homes next to the JCC. Cars lining the streets in front of their homes so that their guests may have to walk a block or 2 to visit especially during inclement weather. Will all events that utilize street parking take place only during good weather conditions? People parking in front of their driveway to squeeze into that too small parking space available because they didn't want to walk the extra block or so because the lots are full/just too lazy. Possibly parking on someones lawn..Oh that's been done. Though, WFB could institute residential parking for homeowners to get a sticker to allow them to park on the street for unlimited time and then put a time limit on the street parking and strictly enforce it as they do around UWM because of the parking issues on some streets. Doubt it will happen. Being woken up in the summer when you have the windows open and @ 1-2 am as people are streaming out to their cars talking, slamming car doors shut just outside of your house. Being potentially subjected to weekend after weekend of summer festivities/wedding celebrations outside under tents. Nothing like having your neighbors partying til 1 am.
Absolutelyfabulous March 24, 2012 at 05:32 AM
At what point do you stop asking for "minor concessions" when an agreement was signed stating what was to be adhered to and by use of legal force as well. The residents who are not happy with what is currently being proposed and are directly affected do have a right to be represented and not intruded upon because the JCC wants to generate more revenue/expand offerings/attract more people. You don't have an infinite amount of space to work with and none available to purchase for expansion. When does the growth stop or better yet, managed in such a way as to not come to the Village asking for more concessions and potentially imposing on neighbors? This reminds me of UWM looking to expand and expand and they are also landlocked. Neighbors are upset and relations have been quite contentious for years. They are expanding, though at off site locations or by chance acquiring more property to facilitate their growth. Gotta go, because even though things aren't so rosey in WFB, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
JayDub March 24, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Thanks for placing this in the proper perspective for all of us, and thanks for being one of the shining lights in this world. We are so privileged in WFB, it is good to remember the difference between real problems and imaginary ones. Abfab, did Taloba's comments really roll off your back so quickly that you posted twice more with the smallest part of your humanity?
Absolutelyfabulous March 24, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Anytime JayDub. Though, I'm sure the residents who had the foresight to being legally represented at the public hearing didn't view their concerns as "small stuff" Then again, it will be interesting to see if the JCC brings in their own hired legal guns to gain the "small stuff" they are seeking since that is the route that was pursued last go around. Now some questions on these wedding receptions. Is this one of the reasons for the fence? 2 of the "small stuffs" that are being requested. Will these be only held indoors or will there potentially be tented grounds weekend after weekend hosting these events? How many people are going to potentially be coming and going at all hours til 1-2 am? 50-100-300+ w/ their autos potentially overflowing into the streets and car doors shutting/slamming in the wee hours of the morning. If these festivities are to be held outdoors just a hop, skip & a jump away from neighbors, will there be music/people talking & singing/alcoholic beverages served til the early hours of the am? If alcohol is to be served, does a license need to be granted for that? Are there different restrictions from serving alcohol inside a facility vs out in the open? Is it different having a full service bar vs a pay your way bar at a reception? If you give the stuff away vs making people pay present any more approvals/licenses if necessary? Obviously, one would want to avoid as much unecessary licensing/approval as possible once initial approval is gained
Absolutelyfabulous March 29, 2012 at 01:08 AM
How about another way to illustrate a point/s. Now I don't want to scare anyone w/ some mashugana, but better to be prepared as to what could be, over & over. Now, anyone traveling along Lake Dr. in the summer is very familiar w/ the mansion on the lake side just N. of Pandl's. I don't know what annual EVENT this is, but it's a big one, though not nearly as big as what could happen at the JCC and repeatedly. Trucks rolling in/out setting up the tents (the big truck from canopy or whatever that comes when tents are needed), tables, seats, caterers, possibly sculptures & flowers. Then follow all the cars that line the streets for blocks and blocks. Though, I don't know if they have a valet service running these cars out into the neighborhood and the guests just pull up and get out. Either way, the JCC has a pretty big chunk of land that could accomodate many hundreds of people for all sorts of outdoor events w/ trucks coming & going for days preceeding the one special day that is considered the "event" Wedding receptions are HUGE business..All that liquor to be sold/consumed, catered/in house prepared food (I believe the JCC has a chef), setting up a dance floor in a tent under the stars, stringing the lights, setting up the sound system etc, etc. Now this could all be for nothing, but better to be prepared for what could be vs in the dark for some "small stuff" that they are seeking to change from the original agreement. MAZEL TOV!!!!


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