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Strong Showing as Waukesha Aldermen Discuss Street Closures for Events

Some fear that a proposed ordinance that is being circulated could put an end to popular weekly summer music events.

A spirited debate about potential changes to the city’s street closures ordinance – changes that some fear will spell the end for a popular weekly music event in downtown Waukesha – broke out Monday night but no action was taken by the Ordinance & License Committee as Mayor Jeff Scrima has a work group to address some of the issues that are related to street closures.

Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings had asked the committee review the street closure ordinance to “define the duties and responsibilities of organizers of Special Events that requests a street closure,” a City Hall document states.

 “All this is is a vetting process,” Cummings said.

However, an example ordinance has been presented among community members that could restrict street closures. The document, which Scrima said was given to him by downtown resident and property owner Vicky Hekkers, calls for special events with more than 2,000 attendees to include “written details  regarding transportation management, parking, crowd control, resident access. Additional, if there will be an extraordinary security measures including searches of persons or vehicles, the applicant shall submit that plan as a separate attachment to the application. If the crowd control or security plan calls for the hiring of private security services, the applicant shall provide the name of the security firm.”

Events that are for more than four days, would require Common Council approval. That would apply to Freeman Friday Night Live, according to the document that was given as a possible ordinance to the Waukesha aldermen.

Other conditions in the ordinance given to the aldermen – the ordinance proposal was not drafted by city staff – includes:

  • A petition of 75 percent of adults that occupy properties on the street for the street closure.
  • A 20-foot free and unobstructed fire lane
  • One portable toilet for every 275 women and one portable toilet for every 300 men attending the event. One out of every five toilets being handicap accessible.
  • Prohibit animals in events where there are food vendors
  • Minimum $2 million insurance

“We have no ordinance that is before the committee that we are going to act on,” said Alderman Steve Johnson, who chairs the Ordinance & License Committee.

Freeman Friday Night Live

While discussion was supposed to be centered on street closures, the majority of the discussion was specifically about Freeman Friday Night Live, a weekly music event that brings an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people downtown each weekend. The Waukesha Police Department has shut down some downtown streets because of safety reasons.

Anthony Colletti, general manager at The Clark Hotel, brought forward concerns about parking near the hotel, especially for handicapped clients. The hotel works with wedding parties who rent out The Rotunda for receptions.

“I just hope there is some accountability established for whoever desires to close the streets,” Colletti said.

Christine VanderBloemen, who lives in Brookfield but owns property in downtown Waukesha, brought forward concerns about potential insurance liabilities in the case of injury during the event.

“Streets are for traffic, not for people,” she said.

Two men came forward and shared that they found it difficult to find handicapped parking when the streets are closed.

The Fight to Keep Event, Street Closures

However, despite concerns among some community members, a strong showing of support for Freeman Friday Night Live and the street closures that come with it was present during the meeting.

“I don’t understand why we are trying to fix something that isn’t broke,” one man told the Waukesha aldermen. Patch was unable to get his name before he left City Hall. “Leave it alone, we are doing fine. We are getting to the point where it will be easy to close down I-43 than it is Main Street.”

Laura Wied, a Waukesha resident, told the committee she’d hate to see Waukesha move backward by restricting the street closures.

“They are vital. They are really important,” she said. “I feel a lot of pride coming downtown and driving by and seeing Friday Night Live.”

Kathy Garcia, owner of and music stage sponsor, said the children and families have had fun during the events. She begged the aldermen to not take that away from the community.

“To even think about opening these streets now, people are going to get confused,” Garcia said.  “People are going to think Waukesha is a drama city that can’t get their act together.”

At one point in the meeting, Sandy Cianciolo, owner of in downtown Waukesha and a stage sponsor, threatened to remove his business from Waukesha if an ordinance would keep events like Freeman Friday Night Live from continuing.

“This is an attempt to shut down a good thing,” he said.

When Cianciolo sat down after his comment about taking his business from Waukesha, Jody Payne, wife of Waukesha Alderman Eric Payne waved at him and told him “Good bye.” Earlier, while Cianciolo was speaking, Cummings had asked for him to be called out of order for making a personal attack but he was allowed to continue speaking.

Eric Payne spoke about concerns about insurance and liabilities. Payne noted that not all businesses downtown are not involved in Freeman Friday Night Live.

“If something was to happen in front of a vacant building or a business that doesn’t participated because of the street closure, why should they be held responsible?” Payne said.

Tim Nekich March 12, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Close Main from Barstow to Clinton only. Designate a Public Parking lot or lots adjacent to Main Street as handicapped only(make sure there is access to it, in and out and have attendant(s) on hand to keep it reserved. Businesses with Private lots need to be provided some access during these events. The event shouldn't be allowed to start any earlier than 5pm and be done by 11pm. These are just some solutions. There are more out there. That would allow for a balance between Safety, Access, Increased exposure for Downtown and some Fun as well. How about some proactive positive interaction instead of all the negatives.
Concerned Citizen April 16, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Why would Alderman Payne and his wife want to encourage businesses to leave Waukesha? Wouldn't they want to encourage more businesses to come into the city? Maybe we should wave goodbye to them instead!
Kate Lynch July 25, 2012 at 02:09 AM
That personal attack was not called for. What is the matter with you. Grow up.
Kate Lynch July 25, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I read that comment also and after reading yours I think you had better go back and read it again. The wife was the one who commented, not Eric! Watch who you are blaming. Just because they are married, doesn't mean they agree!
Kate Lynch July 25, 2012 at 02:18 AM
megan needs to get a grip! I didn't see one comment that says get rid of it. really! slow down and take a breath. you sound like a very bitter person.

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