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River Hills to consider University School added uses

Jan. 22, 2013

River Hills - University School of Milwaukee wants to expand its allowed uses to accommodate local schools' athletics at times, host public and private events, and as a result increase its visibility in the Milwaukee area.

Assistant Head of USM Gregg Bach and USM Board President Michael Roth came before the River Hills Village Board last week with a draft amendment to the school's special use permit which would allow for school "licensees" to use USM facilities. The school's original permit, approved by the village in 1959, for the most part prohibits USM from renting or leasing its facilities.

The amendment will need to go through a Plan Commission meeting, likely in February, as well as a public hearing, before coming back before the board at a later date.

Bach said the school has gone to Village Hall over the years with a number of requests to allow local sports teams onto USM facilities - as a result of Nicolet flooding, a Brown Deer floor buckling, and limited space for Whitefish Bay baseball - with mixed results.

"We would like to have a reciprocal relationship with some of the local schools," said Bach, some of whom, he added, partner with USM already to field cooperative teams.

USM is also considering public events with guest speakers, athletic programs, educational conferences, or groups like the Milwaukee Symphony.

"Many of these programs are currently at other lake schools," Bach said, "and we want to be part of the greater community."

Bach said the uses would also help USM increase its visibility in the Milwaukee area, an issue evidenced by a number of touring parents who, in his observation, didn't know about the school before the tour.

While trustees were willing to give the school license in terms of using its facilities, there was some hesitation stemming from what could be a change in the nature of the school and its impact on the surrounding residential area.

"There are short term situations where we want to give you as much flexibility as possible," Village President Robert Brunner said, "but there is the potential for long-term relationships with these schools that would alter the past requirements."

"All of a sudden, you're not just a school anymore," trustee Wendy Walcott said. "I think it's great, but we should be aware that it would be cars and comings and goings in the dark, and that sort of thing."

At trustee William Walker's suggestion, a sunset clause may become a condition of the permit amendment when it comes before the Plan Commission.

"I can't envision (the added uses) being a problem, but you never know," Walker said.

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