Association active in every corner of life in the Marquette Neighborhood
It was a pretty busy night at the Marquette Neighborhood Association Board Meeting Thursday April 18. While decidedly the big news was the MNA letter to the Alcohol Licensing Review Committee regarding Plan B nightclub; quite a bit of ground was covered on many neighborhood initiatives including the naming of a new director of the Orton Park Festival.
When Scott Thornton resigned last fall Vice-President Todd Jensen stepped-in as interim President. Earlier this month in an email to the Board, Jensen resigned and the new Vice-President Michael Jacob was elevated to President. With all the moving around this created a vacancy at the at-large board member level and Jacob appointed Bill Scanlon, who had run for the board at the October Membership meeting but didn’t garner enough votes.
Discussion ensued about the timing of the Jensen email and whether the April Board meeting was the appropriate meeting to appoint Scanlon according to the MNA bylaws. The Board approved the nomination of Scanlon unopposed with two abstentions. Board Member Chris Lukas was nominated by Jacob to fill the now vacant Vice-President position. The nomination was approved unanimously.
The Orton Park Festival has been led by Bob Queen for several decades but he retired after the 2012 edition and up until now no official replacement had been named. Board Member Ralph Kuehn was nominated to head the festival and it was approved by the Board.
Two new restaurants and a housing development were proposed to the Preservation and Development Committee last week. Committee Chairman Lyndsey Lee reported that a restaurant at 1113 Williamson Street is still moving forward but any recommendation by the Board could wait til next month. A trial balloon regarding redevelopment of a sizable portion of the 700 block of Jenifer and Willy Street was floated to the committee and while nothing concrete was proposed by the developer, it sparked a discussion about what structures in the neighborhood rise to the level of preservation.
Grampa’s Pizzeria Owner Gilbert Altschul also made a presentation before the P & D Committee about the nature of his restaurant operation. The Committee voted to recommend to the Board that they issue a letter of support to the ALRC for Grampa’s Beer and Wine license with the caveat that they would revisit any noise issues that might arise.
Between the P & D Committee meeting on April 17 and the Board meeting the next day some concerns arose about the late operating hours which go as late as 3 a.m. with some in the room and on the Board wanting to limit alcohol sales to 12 a.m. At least one resident attendee voice support for the business and VP Chris Lukas thought Altshcul had done a reasonable job in addressing the concerns.
Corey Gresen, Co-Owner of Plan B also supports Grampa’s proposed hours saying that other establishments on Willy serve food and alcohol until bar time. Alder Marsha Rummel added only three citizens showed at the neighborhood meeting called on Monday April 15 to discuss the Wine/Beer License and that no grave concerns were voiced.
At that point the Board coalesced around approving a recommendation in the following manner:
The letter of support that will be sent by MNA Board President Michael Jaocb will include language outlining expectations shared by the Board, MNA residents and Mr. Altschul about the importance of the establishment to truly operate as a restaurant – as opposed to a bar – given the late night hours through which it will be open (2am on weeknights and 3am on weekends) and that it will have a beer and wine license.
If issues arise that they could issue new guidance when Grampa’s license is up for renewal. The recommendation was approved with two “No” votes and one abstension. While Grampa’s operation is pretty straight forward, the exercise shows how residents of the neighborhood can be involved in shaping the look and feel of the neighborhood.
Note: The ALRC voted to approve Grampa’s application on April 24.
The low attendance at both the Alder-led meeting about the Beer/Wine license and the P & D Committee meeting were missed chances for residents to chime in on the process. There is much lament about the problems that have developed with Plan B over the years and thus resident input at these meetings give crucial guidance to neighborhood leaders.
On the neighborhood beauty front a total of $1500 was approved for landscaping at two neighborhood entry points following a recommendation by the MNA Parks and Gardens Committee. The Blair Street Gateway Garden project will use $750 to embark on some somewhat ambitious projects including converting some flower beds into garden demonstration plots, vermin proofing the compost gin, building an tool shed, plus more vegetable plantings, prairie and ornamental grasses.
Board Member Anne Walker will use $750 for more shrubbery at the Yahara River entry point along the bike path. Both projects are funded with monies from the Waterfront and Orton Park festivals.
In a similar beautification effort, the MNA Arts Committee recommended the Williamson Gateway Tree Sculpture be limited to 32 feet, with 2 foot of slop built in. Also, MNA will limit its contribution to $55,000 which means fundraising needs to be restarted in earnest. Because the sculpture will be located on a median there has to be a real estate agreement with the city and two minor issues are being worked out such as what happens if a City snow ploy damages the sculpture.
Scholarships honoring fallen East High Students going strong
In the fall of 1991 Becky Peat and Margaret “Burkie” Piper were killed crossing East Washington Avenue while on their way to East High School. I had graduated the previous June but I knew both of those girls. They were inseparable, as I observed in my typing class, and we shared many laughs. I also got to know Burkie even better through our aviation classes together. So it was heartwarming to see that Peat-Piper Memorial Scholarship was still being distributed to local students; funded by proceeds from the MNA Chili Dinner proceeds.
The Board usually hopes to award two scholarships each year but voted to award four $500 scholarships this time including one from Shabazz High School along with students from East. The winners are: Jele Magdalina, Huck Sachse-Hofheimer, Clara Katz-Andrade and Rudy Hernandez.
One final note, the two and a half hour meeting was quite the marathon but rarely got bogged down in pointless discussion. The meeting was also very well attended with 35 people in the room including the Board.
Update [April 28, 2013]: Corrects the allocation of $750 for Blair Street Gateway project. The committee merely approved “no objection” to the city removing ash trees from the site due to the Emerald Ash borer.