BROWN DEER - Rite-Hite Holding Corp. and its owner, Michael H. White, have filed a legal challenge to the Brown Deer Village Board's use of eminent domain to acquire 6.5 acres of land on the north side of the company's headquarters.
After several failed bids to acquire the land, the village board in December decided to acquire the land through eminent domain, which is a legal procedure that government entities can use to take private property for public use purposes in the event a private land owner is unwilling to sell their property. Financial compensation is given to the private owner.
Rite-Hite, in a statement, said the loss of the 6-acre parcel would severely limit the company’s options for expanding its corporate headquarters at 8900 Arbon Drive
Brown Deer officials are interested in building a new public works facility on the vacant lot, which is located between the Brown Deer Police Department and the Rite-Hite building.
The village's existing public works building at 8717 N. 43rd St. was built in 1966 as a fire station, and was converted into a public works facility in the early 1990s. An analysis by Bray Architects determined the facility needs $1 million in renovations, not including the additional 2,302 square feet of space needed for truck storage.
Instead of making those repairs, village officials would prefer to build a new DPW complex on the Rite-Hite lot and open up 3.9 acres for redevelopment in the Original Village neighborhood. Village officials say the public works facility is out of place in the Original Village, and that the neighborhood of shops and restaurants would be better served by a mixed-use development with apartments.
By bringing new development to the Original Village, village officials hope to generate value in the village's fourth tax incremental finance district, which is running at a $1.4 million deficit. In August, Village Manager Michael Hall said the redevelopment of the DPW site into a mixed-use development could generate between $3 million and $4 million in additional value.
Additionally, by bringing the DPW building next to the village hall and police department, Brown Deer could create a civic campus that is more efficient for village employees, as well as residents who want to pay a bill at village hall while visiting the DPW's recycling center.
The vacant Rite-Hite lot is assessed at $1.1 million. The cost of constructing a new building is estimated to be $5.4 million, which village officials say is a high estimate that includes inflation. The projected $6.5 million price tag for construction and land acquisition would increase taxes on a $135,000 home by $2.25 per month, or $27 per year.
Rite-Hite was originally founded in 1965 and has maintained its headquarters on Arbon Drive since 1989. The company has been a major financial contributor to the YMCA in Brown Deer, as well as other events and fundraisers in the area.
“Rite-Hite has been a proud Brown Deer resident and community partner for more than three decades,” said Sara Everts, Rite-Hite's corporate marketing and communications manager. “As the company continues to grow, the loss of this land through eminent domain would hamper Rite-Hite’s ability to potentially expand in its current location and force it to evaluate other growth avenues outside of Brown Deer. We’re asking the village board to abandon this action and support its local businesses and residents.”