Greendale — As the Greendale Village Board election approaches, generating new, appropriate development seems to be one of the top concerns weighing on the minds of both voters and candidates.
During a Tuesday night candidate forum, the Greendale Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County gave village trustee candidates the opportunity to address that and other issues raised by residents.
Incumbent Ronald Barbian and challengers Carl Genz and Noelle Joers-Yanisch are competing for two village trustee positions.
All three seemed to be in agreement that economic development needs to be a priority, especially for Southridge Mall and the 76th Street corridor.
"Although we are a landlocked community, there is a lot of potential for developing Southridge, the U.S. Bowling Congress and the industrial park," Joers-Yanisch said. "Economic development is going to help us expand our tax base, which will help the residents of Greendale in terms of not bearing the burden."
The recent creation of a tax-incremental financing district for a 24-acre parcel at Southridge Mall will also help promote development and relieve the tax burden for residents, Barbian said.
"If we don't do this, eventually, as the property values at Southridge begin to go down, we're going to end up having to increase taxes," he noted.
At least one resident, though, questioned the appropriateness of the senior housing complex planned for development within that TIF district.
Genz, along with his fellow candidates, voiced support for the proposal, suggesting that it will bring a sense of unity between the village and mall, and also open the door for future non-retail development at the mall. He did not favor offering developer incentives, however.
"I would like to get the infrastructure complete, more or less set the table … and let's see if there might be some other developers out there who would like to do a similar project with their own money," Genz said.
Controlling the budget
Beyond development, another major focus of voter questions was how candidates plan to keep expenditures in check.
That concern was most consistent with Genz's top priority. When reviewing the village's most recent budget, he said he found several line items worth examining more closely. Making small cuts throughout the budget could add up to big savings, without impacting village services, he said.
Rather than focus on set areas for cuts, Joers-Yanisch said she plans to look at collaborating with other village groups or neighboring municipalities in order to arrange more shared services.
She and Barbian agreed it is important to ensure that budgetary cuts do not impact the quality of village services.
So far during his three years of service, Barbian said he and the rest of the board have been successful in doing that, while remaining fiscally conservative and keeping taxes down.
Voters will decide on Tuesday, April 6, which candidates they want to lead Greendale forward. Village trustees serve three-year terms.
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