should we allow more hunting in the city?

Posted by Scott Crevier • Saturday, March 29, 2014 1:48PM
City Happenings

We’ll be voting on a change to city ordinance on Wednesday, April 2 (regular Tuesday meeting moved to Wednesday due to the election on Tuesday) that would allow the discharge of firearms in certain outying areas of the city. I’d like to hear feedback from De Pere residents on this. If we allow it, we can also place whatever restrictions would seem reasonable. These are the restrictions under consideration:

  1. The property upon which the discharge is to occur is contiguous and adjacent to property in a neighboring community upon which the discharge of firearms is permitted.
  2. The property upon which discharge is to occur is not platted and located in a R-1, Single Family Residence District or Conservancy District.
  3. Written permission of the property owner must be obtained.
  4. Shotguns only are allowed to be discharged; slugs as ammunition are prohibited.
  5. Discharge less than 100 yards from any structure, public park or trail and less than 50 yards from the centerline of any roadway is prohibited.

About the restrictions, #1 basically says that if your property buts up against land in Rockland or Ledgeview (or other municipality) and they allow hunting, then it would be okay on your land. #4 basically rules out gun deer hunting. We don’t have to use all of the above restrictions, and of course we can add more if they are appropriate.

This request was brought forward by Bob Janssen, who owns a 120 acre farm at 3234 Old Janssen Trail. I visited him today to see his land and talk about the issue. He doesn’t hunt any more, but he’d like to allow his family to hunt turkeys.

If you’d like more details about this issue, the agenda packet for Wednesday’s meeting contains Mr. Janssen’s original letter, a memo from city staff, along with maps and diagrams that show the affected area.

De Pere municipal code 8-2(a)(2) already allows for the discharge of firearms “for use in the hunting of migratory birds and waterfowl in that portion of the Fox River contiguous to unincorporated areas which allow hunting, and in accordance with state regulations.” So we already have this small exception to our ordinance about the discharge of firearms. I’ve heard from two residents in the past two years who don’t like this though. They are just not comfortable with hearing gunshots in our city.

I don’t yet know how I’ll vote on Wednesday. If you’re a De Pere resident, I’d like to hear from you. Please comment here, or contact me directly and let me know how you feel. And if you’re available, please consider attending Wednesday’s meeting to share your thoughts with the entire council.

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homelessness is here, in De Pere

Posted by Scott Crevier • Wednesday, January 29, 2014 9:50PM
City Happenings

I attended a presentation tonight by Tony Pichler, a De Pere resident, employee of the Diocese of Green Bay, and chair of the St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter board of trustees. Tony spoke about homelessness and how it affects us right here in De Pere. We all have our views and ideas of what homelessness looks like, but I find it interesting to focus on the kids.

Did you know that for the current 2013-14 school year, there are 29 students in De Pere who are homeless? For our neighbors to the north, the Green Bay School District has 700!! Ashwaubenon has 80. Strangely, I think when you look at that staggering number for Green Bay, the 29 here in De Pere doesn’t seem too bad. But let’s not fool ourselves. As I write this, it’s 9:45pm, and there are 29 kids here in our community who do not have a home tonight. 29. These are classmates of our children. These are our children. Our families.

By telling you this, I don’t have any answers or profound message to offer. I just want to make sure that we’re all aware that homelessness is not just someone else’s problem. Each of these 29 kids has a story. Each has hopes and dreams. And those stories and hopes and dreams are not all that different than those of your kids.

Just think about all the challenges that we face as we work with our own children, to help them with their homework, their friendships, their after-school activities and other typical kid problems. Think about that process from the perspective of your child and how tough things can be at times. Okay, now imagine if your child had no home. For me, it’s not easy to think about, but it’s real.

So let’s just keep these children and their families in mind as we go about our daily business. What can we do to help? Think about how we, as a city, can help to take care of each other.

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improvements coming for Grant, Suburban, and Apollo

Posted by Scott Crevier • Monday, January 13, 2014 7:34PM
City Happenings

In the last year or so, several constituents have contacted me with concerns about pedestrian safety at the intersection of Grant St, Suburban Dr, and Apollo Way. It’s an unusual intersection where, depending on traffic, it can be difficult for a driver to see a pedestrian. The son of one of my neighbors was almost hit by a car (with a crossing guard right there). That same neighbor also saw a child on a bicycle hit a car who failed to stop. I also occasionally walk through that intersection on my way to and from work, and I’ve experienced vehicles who failed to yield.

The first problem is that drivers are simply not obeying the law. In Wisconsin, drivers must yield to pedestrians (Wis. Stat. § 346.23). Additionally, if a driver is stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the street, another car coming from behind is not allowed to pass. This intersection frequently has a “yield to pedestrians” sign in the middle of the road, and there is also a crossing guard there to assist people before and after school. But these efforts are not enough. The intersection needs more than that.

I’ve been talking to Eric Rakers, our city engineer, to see what more we can do about the issue. He’s been discussing it within our Public Works department and with our Parking and Traffic Team. Grant St is a county highway, so he’s also been working with the county to see what kinds of changes are possible to make the intersection safer.

intersection of Grant St, Suburban Dr, and Apollo Way

proposed intersection of Grant St, Suburban Dr, and Apollo Way

At the November 2013 meeting of the Board of Public Works, Eric presented a recommendation to reconfigure the intersection by adding bumpouts to limit the lanes of traffic. I think the new design is a good idea. The intersection is not only tricky to drive and walk through, but it’s also tricky to redesign, and I think the new idea will work well. If you’d like to hear Eric describe the changes, watch the meeting video; his description starts at 36 minutes into the meeting.

Unfortunately, the proposed improvements are not free. They will cost about $30,000, an amount that we do not have in our 2014 city budget. So, Eric is looking at some funding options. We should be able to split the cost with the county, and there may be traffic safety grants available. If we can’t get it done this year, then we’ll need to budget for it in 2015.

Regardless of when we’ll be able to do it, it’s still good to finally have a plan in place. I’ll keep you posted.

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old bridge approach land can be our Central Park

Posted by Scott Crevier • Saturday, January 11, 2014 3:41PM
City Happenings

George Street Landing mapA significant topic of discussion at recent city council meetings has been our desired reuse of the plot of land that our Downtown Master Plan calls George Street Landing (GSL). This small piece of land served as the approach to the old Claude Allouez Bridge for decades until the bridge was torn down in 2007. It’s located between Front St and N Broadway, at the end of George St.

As a result of discussions lasting over a year, the city is now purchasing the land from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for $79,000 (read more about how we obtained the land in my blog post from November 2012). A condition of the purchase is that we must designate the land for public use (as opposed to selling it for private development). Fortunately, all community members I’ve spoken to, all local business owners who have shared their opinions at public meetings, along with all 8 alderpersons on the city council (including me) agree that it should be set aside for public use.

So now at some point soon, we’ll have the task of figuring out exactly what that public use will be. Today, the site is comprised of a small plot of grass and a parking lot for 35 cars. But there are many future possibilities. We could make it a simple city park with benches, sidewalks, and trees. We could add more elaborate seating, fountains, an amphitheater, statues, etc. We could keep some of it for parking.

One of the key features of this land is that as you’re looking west over the land from N Broadway, you have a great view of the Fox River and our new De Pere Riverwalk. This is the very spot where Fr. Claude Allouez established a mission in 1671, an event that gave us our name “Les Rapides de Peres”, the rapids of the fathers. Whatever we do with the land and whatever we build on it, we need to preserve this unique view.

Our Downtown Master Plan (2010) spells out a number of ideas for the land (beginning on page 78), including much talk of a marketplace and other development. Given all the discussions that have taken place thus far, I don’t see any of that private use happening. I was impressed by some ideas presented to the city by architect Marc Brummel, whose company Brummel Architectural Group has its office in the building adjacent to the land. I like his ideas of combining open space with features like a fountain and functional areas like an amphitheater. He also includes a certain amount of parking. His ideas firmly establish this land as a very functional and central focal point of our downtown.

Brummel Architectural Group design idea for George Street Landing Brummel Architectural Group design idea for George Street Landing

Whether we implement a plan like Brummel’s or not, I think our use needs to be along the lines of what he proposes. I also like an analogy that Jerry Turba, another owner of adjacent business property, used at a city council meeting a year ago, when he said that this piece of land can be for De Pere what Central Park is to New York. Of course it’s on a much smaller scale, but he’s right, this land can indeed be our Central Park.

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