Firestorm over proposed adult day care center on Lincoln overblown?
August 3, 2011
By Michael Timm
An adult day care facility is proposed for this vacant building at 206 E. Lincoln Ave., but the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals must first approve the change in use from industrial office to special use. The building is owned by Klement Company across the street and is leased by Latasha Hines, who owns and operates Adult Day Services of Wisconsin LLC.
A day care center for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia proposed for Lincoln Avenue has ignited a firestorm of opposition from nearby neighbors and business owners who fear it will mean loitering by the mentally ill and lead to decreased property values.
But based on the facts available about the proposal, these fears may be overblown.
Some of the community reaction seems based on misinformation that circulated following the June 27 notice of public hearing sent to all property owners within 200 feet of 206 E. Lincoln Ave. That’s where Latasha Hines of Wauwatosa wants to open a new location of her business, Adult Day Services of Wisconsin LLC.
Fearful of the prospect of an adult day care opening across the alley from their front yard, the owner-occupants immediately behind the property, Kyle and Melain Talbott at 249 E. Ward St., circulated a petition of protest. They quickly obtained 23 signatures from other Bay View residents, including three from owners of local businesses: Baby Boomers Bar & Grill, Lulu Café & Bar, and Tonic Tavern.
So, what kind of adult day care is proposed? The kind that looks after seniors with special needs while younger family caregivers are away at work, according to Hines.
“A lot of times older seniors can’t be left alone and the older children need to go to work or do other things,” said Hines, who already operates Adult Day Services of Wisconsin LLC out of 6507 W. Fairview Ave. in Milwaukee and lists a Wauwatosa Post Office Box as her address.
“We feel this type of business adds nothing positive to our community and, in fact, has the potential to create more of the problems we already face.”
—Cameryne Roberts, Lulu Café and Bar
Her day care on Lincoln Avenue would serve adults in five state-identified categories: “advanced aged, developmentally disabled, emotionally disturbed/illness, physically disabled, and irreversible dementia/Alzheimer’s,” according to Hines’ plan of operation submitted to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which must approve a zoning change to allow the business.
According to state Department of Health Services documentation, Hines is already registered to serve all those categories except “physically disabled.” Documentation indicates her current location has a capacity of six.
Hines said she’d been looking for months for a place to expand her business. She found the Bay View space, a 4,950-square-foot vacant building most recently occupied by exacTemp Heating and Air. It’s owned by Klement Company, the sausage maker headquartered across the street, and Hines said she’s already leasing the space. Before exacTemp, it was home to Salvage Heaven and before that, E.D. Wesley Co., a plumbing and heating contractor.
Hines said she liked the available street and off-street parking, the building’s size, and that it has an outdoor yard with a gate.
The Lincoln Avenue location would employ six caretakers full-time and four part-time, according to her proposal, with four employees per shift. It would operate seven days a week from 6am to 9pm. She said the number of clients would be determined by the state.
Her plan includes the following services: “promote senior health, daily supervision, personal and supportive care assistance, breakfast, lunch and dinner meal preparation, social interaction, social stimulation, exercise regimen, library, arts/crafts, help with cognitive function, provide medication reminders, transportation if needed, and scheduled outings.”
Her plan estimates traffic of four to six vans per day.
Hines said her father has Alzheimer’s and she’s been caring for him for eight years. She said she’s always been helping people. Of her proposed center, Hines said, “It’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s actually a good thing.”
Misinformation & Fear
But there has been fear.
The Compass obtained several emails in early July with misleading information about the proposal. One email alleged that the center would cater to sex offenders and drug addicts.
This is simply false, Hines said.
An email also alleged that Hines’ center would be financed with federal stimulus money.
The Compass has found no evidence to suggest this.
After her item was pulled from the July 7 Board of Zoning Appeals agenda (see sidebar), Hines told the Compass she would no longer comment when asked questions.
But her proposal has touched a deep nerve in the neighborhood about who belongs and who doesn’t.
On Lulu’s letterhead, business co-owner Cameryne Roberts outlined her opposition in a July 1 letter to BOZA. “We feel this type of business adds nothing positive to our community and, in fact, has the potential to create more of the problems we already face,” Roberts wrote. “We already have more than our share of mentally ill and drug abusing residents a half block away from our building, not to mention as close as next door to Lulu. While many of these residents are stable members of our community, there are many who still are not. We have regular issues with public drunkenness and urination in our parking lot, malt liquor litter in front and behind the building, and the panhandling of our customers.”
“It’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s actually a good thing.”
—Latasha Hines, Adult Day Services of Wisconsin LLC
Roberts then referred to a recent incident involving an “unstable individual” from a rooming house next door to Lulu. “Police closed the street in front of our business and donned full protective gear to subdue and arrest this man who attacked another elderly neighbor and his adult son and then went on to threaten city workers along Lincoln Avenue.”
Lulu’s co-owner then summed up her appeal to BOZA. “We have enough problems to deal with in an area that is trying hard to overcome years of neglect, absentee landlords, and apathy from some commercial building owners. Please do not push us backward by allowing such a business to open two blocks away from what is striving to become a vibrant and safe business and residential district.”
Resident Kyle Talbott was not shy about his reasons for opposing Hines’ proposal. Like Roberts, he said the neighborhood has taken steps forward, but felt this would be a step backward.
“These kinds of facilities are often placed in neighborhoods that are considered marginal neighborhoods and I don’t think the KK-and-Lincoln neighborhood deserves to be a marginal neighborhood,” he said. “I think we’ve worked really hard on that.”
The Talbotts argued the new center would unfairly concentrate too many establishments in the area serving a certain population—in this case, the mentally ill.
“It is generally difficult to take a walk around the neighborhood or patronize a business here without encountering evidence of the existing high concentration of persons with mental illness living in this neighborhood,” the Talbotts wrote to BOZA.
In an interview, Kyle Talbott pointed to Lincoln Court alone as evidence that “our neighborhood is already skewed.”
“Lincoln Court, a public assistance housing tower located at 2325 S. Howell Ave., only 0.19 miles from [the proposed center], already houses an ample number of residents with related illnesses…” the Talbotts wrote to BOZA. “Considering this high-density establishment alone, the KK-Lincoln neighborhood is located in a geographic concentration of related establishments. Adding further such establishments only serves to place this neighborhood under an unfair burden of accommodating individuals with special needs.”
Paul Williams, communications coordinator for Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, said many of Lincoln Court’s residents are dealing with income and health challenges. “I think Lincoln Court gets a bad rap sometimes, unfairly,” Williams said.
The Housing Authority’s Lincoln Court contains 110 units for the elderly and disabled. According to Williams, there are 105 people living in Lincoln Court; 64 are age 50 or older; 30 are between ages 40 and 50. Ninety residents have some kind of disability.
Alcohol or drug abuse is not considered a disability according to the Housing Authority, Williams said. He could not provide information about the number of residents with mental versus physical disabilities.
The Talbotts also expressed concern about loitering outside Hines’ proposed center by those who could be “a little bit unstable.” “It’s important to understand these are adults on their own recognizance,” Kyle Talbott said. He expects they’d also loiter around KK and Lincoln because there’s more to do and see.
Hines, however, said clients will be supervised at all times and won’t wander off.
The Quality of Life
For the Talbotts and those who signed their petition, opposing the center is a matter of protecting the quality of life and maintaining property values.
The signatories to the Talbotts’ petition undersigned the statement, “I respectfully urge the board to deny this appeal on the grounds that an adult day care center at this location will adversely affect the use, value, and enjoyment of my property as well as my use and enjoyment of this Bay View neighborhood generally.”
Of the 23 residential property owners within 200 feet of the proposed center whom BOZA notified by law, five signed the petition of protest. The rest of the signatories live beyond the 200-foot radius.
Proximity is a big issue to the couple next door.
“With the constant potential of strangers congregating 20 feet away, some of whom might be reasonably expected to occasionally exhibit unstable social behavior, [Melain Talbott] has expressed regret that if [Hines’] appeal is granted, her work in the yard will be tinged by wariness,” the Talbotts wrote to BOZA.
Kyle Talbott has owned his home for seven years, and said he’s concerned about his ability to sell it if the center opens.
“The whole reason we were attracted to Bay View to live in—it seemed like a neighborhood that was coming back,” Talbott said. “It’s not a marginal neighborhood anymore.”
Talbott also doesn’t trust that Hines wouldn’t eventually serve adults with substance abuse issues. “The only thing we have is her word,” he said.
But BOZA’s Lindsey St. Arnold said the board will review Hines’ proposed plan of operation and allow or reject only what the petitioner has proposed in her plan. “There’s no backdoor way of allowing what isn’t in there,” St. Arnold said.
At press time, Talbott was working to convince other business owners, including Alterra Coffee Roasters, to join in opposition.
“We haven’t found anybody actually supportive of this change in use,” Talbott said. “Everybody doesn’t think it’s a good idea. The concern, I think, is pretty obvious.”
Community Meeting Before Zoning Change Is Considered
The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals had been scheduled to consider Hines’ request for a special-use permit, which would allow her business there, on July 7. The special-use zoning is needed because the property is currently zoned “industrial office.”
The Talbotts sent their objection to 14th District Alderman Tony Zielinski by email July 1. Zielinski emailed BOZA July 2. “Please record my objection,” Zielinski wrote. “Will this be held over for a contested hearing?” (Contested items are scheduled separately to provide time for opposition testimony.)
The Talbotts’ letter of protest, along with their petition and a letter of protest from Lulu Café and Bar, was stamped as received by BOZA on July 5.
BOZA did not consider Hines’ petition for a special-use permit at its July 7 meeting. At press time the item has not yet been rescheduled, but the earliest it could come before BOZA is Sept. 22.
Before then, Alderman Zielinski has arranged for Hines to make a public presentation Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 6pm on site at 206 E. Lincoln Ave.
“I’m holding a meeting with the neighborhood on the proposal and reserving final judgment until we have that meeting,” Zielinski said. He said the voices of constituents in close proximity to the site will carry more weight with him than those farther away.
Zielinski said that while so far the majority of neighbors are opposed, he asked BOZA to hold the item because there hadn’t been opportunity for community input and people were reacting to secondhand information.
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