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Five (unrelated) sisters can't occupy home

Request by religious order falls flat

June 15, 2011

Fox Point - A request to examine the prospect of rezoning a parcel of land to accommodate housing for a religious order was narrowly defeated by the Fox Point Village Board on Tuesday.

Members of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul came before the board this week, requesting a home in the 7800 block of N. Mohawk Road be rezoned so five sisters within the order could live within the home. Village Code only permits three nonrelated people to live within a single-family home.

Robb Marcus, an attorney representing the Daughters, said all five sisters would have been a valued asset to the community.

"They want to be like any other member of the community in the village of Fox Point," Marcus said. "They all hold important roles (throughout the Milwaukee area)."

Nearby residents and several board members, however, were concerned about setting a precedent that could lead to more requests for group homes and similar establishments in the future.

Paul Schwartz, a resident living near the single-family home in question, said he feared a rezoning change could lead to further changes throughout the community.

"My concern is certainly not with these fine people," Schwartz said. "But this is a significant change for this village. I don't want there to be any changes in the character of this neighborhood."

At least four of the seven village trustees agreed with Schwartz's assertion.

"I think this gets down to the basis of how this community defines itself," Trustee Eric Fonstad said. "Any way you cut it, this is a group home. I think we would be bound to consider other group homes in the future. It could erode the residential character of the village, and I'm very uncomfortable with that."

Village President Mike West unsuccessfully attempted to have Village Attorney Eric Larson review various options that could limit rezoning, yet be amenable to the Daughters' request. West's motion was defeated in a 4-3 vote.

Larson said one of his recommendations would have included a special exception process, entailing a rezoning request on a case-by-case basis. Applicants would have to seek a conditional-use permit in much the same way businesses already do throughout the village.

The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul has been ministering to the Milwaukee area since 1842.

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