Proponents of KK BID Termination Narrowly Prevail

July 30, 2018

By Katherine Keller

The Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District will be terminated. 

Those who led the effort to dissolve the KK BID succeeded by a margin of less than one percent. 

Owners of 117 of the 194 commercial properties in the district signed the petition to dissolve, although the number of petition signers is irrelevant in the termination process.

To terminate a BID, the value of the petition signers’ commercial property must be greater than 50 percent of the total value of all the commercial properties in the district.

The final tally was $22,434,112 out of the total property value of $44,392,414, or 50.54 percent. 

The lettering that once spelled “Bay View” on the south-facing wall of the Art Stop Bus Stop on Lincoln Avenue between Howell and Kinnickinnic avenues, was removed after vandals swiped three of the letters. The Kinnickinnic Avenue BID is waiting for contractor Kotze Construction to replace the lettering. Kotze built the Art Stop structure. The BID was responsible for landscape maintenance and for snow removal at Art Stop. It is not yet clear who will assume the maintenance role but Ald. Tony Zielinski said that he is considering numerous possibilities. One idea is finding an advertising company to maintain the site. —Photo Katherine Keller

Alderman Tony Zielinski, who persuaded property owners to establish the KK BID in 2009, failed in a last ditch effort to overturn the petition majority, even though earlier this year, when he learned of the effort to terminate the BID, he told the Compass he would support the will of the majority, whatever the outcome.

State statutes govern business improvement districts in Wisconsin. The statutes decree that after petition signatures are submitted to city officials, there must be a 30 day period to allow additional property owners to sign the petition or to withdraw their signatures.

Duffey and Brazeau redoubled their effort to gather more signatures to regain their majority. They succeeded, but waited to turn them in to city officials until an hour before the 30-day waiting period expired, not wishing to tip their hand to Zielinski.

After Zielinski discovered that Duffey and Brazeau had gathered sufficient petition signatures to terminate, he began talking with some of the signers, including Waqar Hussain, who owns the BP station, 2023 S. Kinnickinnic, and Amarjit Virk, who owns Siegel’s Liquor, 2632 S. Kinnickinnic. Their annual license applications are approved or denied by the Common Council’s Licenses Committee, which at the time, was chaired by Zielinski.

Both men are dependent on city licenses that permit them to operate their businesses. Both withdrew their signatures. When Tim Olson, who owns numerous commercial properties on Kinnickinnic Avenue, also withdrew, Duffey and Brazeau’s petition no longer represented a majority.

They redoubled their effort to gather more signatures to regain their majority. They succeeded, but waited to turn them in to city officials until an hour before the 30-day waiting period expired, not wishing to tip their hand to Zielinski.

Ken Little is the manager of the Commercial Corridor section of the City of Milwaukee Department of City Development. His team oversees the city’s business improvement district.

This year Kinnickinnic Avenue was not bedecked with hanging flower baskets, a project of the KK BID. When the viability of the BID came into question because of the petition drive to terminate it, BID president Lee Barczak canceled its order for the baskets. Bay View Neighborhood Association may take over the the project in the future. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

“We turned in seven more signatures to get more than 50 percent,” Brazeau said. “I turned the signatures in at around 3:50pm. Ken Little then advised Lee Barczak that he had until 5pm to turn in any retractions. I waited around until 5pm just to make sure no one came in, like Tony or Lee.” No one appeared.

Like Barczak, Zielinski was also informed that Brazeau and Duffey had a majority. He responded by phoning KK BID property owners, including Joyce Parker, who owns Alana Women’s Apparel and four buildings in the BID, and Ron Romero, who owns Ron and Russ’s Flooring & Design and four buildings in the district.

Duffey, Brazeau, and others who signed the petition were motivated by their opposition to a potential hike proposed by Barczak that would increase the special assessment property owners pay to fund the BID. Since its establishment, BID members had paid a one percent property tax surcharge, which was limited to not less than $100 and to no more than $1,000 per property

KK BID president Lee Barczak sided with Zielinski and hoped to salvage the organization. Apart from their effort, there was no apparent countermovement by the district’s property owners to preserve the BID.

Zielinski was optimistic that Barczak’s drive to recruit new board members would succeed and that they would bring to fruition aspects of Barczak’s vision for the district. 

In a letter Barczak wrote to the Compass and KK BID members in spring to defend the BID, Barczak said he wanted the BID to stage music performances in commercial spaces in the business district, akin to house concerts where musicians play to small audiences in private homes.

He wanted the new board members to consider sponsoring a parade to fill the gap created after the beloved South Shore Frolics Parade was discontinued several years ago. He also hoped the BID would sponsor events like the ToaD bicycle race that brings people to the district. 

In his letter, Barczak also spoke of the BID’s achievements such as new waste bins and flower baskets on Kinnickinnic, the BID’s website, and the murals painted on five buildings in the district.

Duffey, Brazeau, and others who opposed the KK BID fumed that there was virtually no participation by property and business owners and that in the past two years, its meetings were canceled more often than conducted because there were too few board members to form a voting quorum. They disputed a need for a BID.

“Bay View is already quite successful and the BID did not help in a significant way,” Duffey said. “We expected more—completing audits in a timely fashion, spending our money wisely, updating the operating plan (many things in the current plan reference 2010), and having board members that attend the meetings. There is a significant number of organizations that do a lot of work with volunteers, but this was not one of them.”

Barczak wanted the new board members to consider sponsoring a parade to fill the gap created after the beloved South Shore Frolics Parade was discontinued several years ago. He also hoped the BID would sponsor events like the ToaD bicycle race that brings people to the district.

Referencing the assessments collected and funneled to the BID since its establishment, Duffey said, “We did not get $450,000 worth of results from the BID. Of the few positive things that the BID accomplished, in particular the hanging flower baskets, those can still be accomplished by us working with the Bay View Neighborhood Association. I have already donated money to them and plan to in the future. I highly encourage other property owners to do that as well. Their list of accomplishments is quite impressive.”

“We are willing to take over the flower basket project,” said Patty Pritchard Thompson, Bay View Neighborhood Association president. “We helped to initiate the program, and would happily pick it up again.”

Winding down

The KK BID’s funds will be determined by an audit that the BID is required to provide to the city. After settling outstanding obligations, the remainder will be returned to property owners.

Kotze Construction is owed $15,124 for work performed to construct the Art Stop bus stop on Lincoln Avenue between Kinnickinnic and Howell. Rupert Kotze, company vice president, said that his company has not completed some of the contracted work, including installing skateboard stops to deter skaters from riding up Art Stop’s walls and replacing the lettering that spelled “Bay View” on the south-facing wall.

Kotze was circumspect in response to a Compass inquiry about the money it was owed stating he didn’t want get into an argument with the BID in the paper. “It is my hope that after we complete the list of items, installing the skateboard stops and lettering, that at that time (BID) money would be released.”

Months passed after the letter “e” was stolen from the south wall of the Art Stop bus stop in Bay View. Eventually two more letters were taken. —Photo Katherine Keller

Lee Barczak concurred. “There have been several meetings with the Kotze Construction firm and they have promised repeatedly to finish all the work of the Art Stop,” he said. “The lettering is one of several items that has not been completed. I asked as recently as two weeks ago what sort of timeline we could expect for this promised completion. I have no response. The monies that were withheld were done so in order to have some form of leverage for completion. The owner of the company is aware of and has agreed to us withholding these monies.”

“The people have spoken and the BID will be terminated,” Zielinski said.

The BID was officially terminated by vote of the full Common Council July 31.

The purpose of business improvement districts is to enhance commercial property values and to promote its businesses.

This report was updated to reflect the vote of the Common Council, July 31, to terminate the KK BID.

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