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Franklin Mayor Wants to Reopen Rock’s Development Agreement, ‘Can’t Recall’ Insults at Meeting

Franklin Mayor John Nelson

Franklin Mayor John Nelson said he wants the development agreement between the embattled Rock complex and the City of Franklin to be reopened and pledged an “aggressive” timeline to solve neighbors’ sound concerns in a fiery interview in which he said he could not recall, and then denied, that neighbors and county supervisors were insulted at an emergency meeting he convened.

Wisconsin Right Now has confirmed through multiple sources that neighbors and Milwaukee County supervisors were bashed repeatedly at the meeting, with insults flying around like “idiots,” “f*ckers,” “crazy” and “terrorists.”

“I will get this done,” Nelson pledged of the neighbors’ noise concerns. He believes if the Rock turns its speakers in and angles them down, it will “Quell 90 percent of what’s going on.” Nelson said he wants to “open” the development agreement between the city and Rock and “make adjustments.”

“The paradigm has shifted,” Nelson said to WRN. “I will come up with an aggressive timeline. I want to get this whole sound monitor stuff done right away.” He’s referring to a County sound study’s revelation that some of the Rock’s sound monitors don’t work. Nelson wants the city to take over running them and to put the data online.

“It is too loud,” he acknowledged of the noise emanating from the sports and entertainment complex into nearby residential neighborhoods. “We don’t like it from the city’s standpoint.”

During the first portion of the Monday interview, an angry Nelson interrogated the Wisconsin Right Now reporter, attempting to learn WRN’s sources and repeatedly demanding to know whether the meeting was recorded or “bugged.”

WRN does not reveal its sources one way or the other. We had reported that the five-person emergency meeting Nelson convened last week about the Rock ended up in a bash fest against neighbors and county supervisors who have said noise concerns are so persistent they are wrecking their lives.

Asked whether he condemns Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor calling county supervisors “terrorists” and neighbors “idiots” at the meeting, Nelson stated, “I don’t recall him saying anything like that number one.” Nelson also insisted at one point, “Nobody attacked anybody in this meeting.” He noted, “I don’t recall anyone calling Patti Logsdon any names.”

However, that is flatly not true. During the meeting, Taylor called supervisors “terrorists” and neighbors “idiots,” and he also referred to neighbors as “f*ckers.” Developer Mike Zimmerman called Milwaukee County Supervisor Patti Logsdon “crazy.” A Franklin critic was labeled a “grinch” and “super creep,” and Logsdon was called a “desperate woman.”

Nelson then stated, “I can’t speak to what Steve Taylor did or didn’t say.” At another point, though, Nelson disputed that Taylor or anyone was “saying the F-bomb on these people. I don’t believe it was said.” However, WRN has confirmed that Taylor did in fact call the neighbors “f*ckers” during the meeting.

We also wrote Taylor and asked him whether he regretted making the remarks and whether he planned to apologize, but he did not respond.

We asked Nelson about comments HE made at the meeting, referring to a female neighbor as emotional and commenting on her eyes and hair, and he admitted making those comments. He said those comments were a reference to when he went to the neighborhood near the Rock while the recent Taco and Tequila event was going on at the establishment, and the neighbor “had an angry, fiery look in her eyes. She always has.” He stated that she is “very, very emotional about the sound, and that’s it.”

According to Nelson, “We’re having that meeting to come up with solutions with an aggressive timeline” to get the neighbors’ and city’s concerns addressed. “We all agreed to come to the table with short and long-term goals.”

We asked why Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor was included in the meeting but Logsdon, who represents the area, was not. Taylor now works for the Rock’s foundation, and he spoke on behalf of the Rock at the five-person meeting. In addition to Nelson and Taylor, the other invitees were developer Mike Zimmerman, Franklin Alderman Jason Craig, and Franklin Administrator Kelly Hersh. The neighbors and other county supervisors were not included.

Nelson acknowledged that his campaign was supported by Zimmerman. He said he received the maximum donation, which is $735 a person. He claimed others from the Rock development supported his opponent. He also said he held a campaign event at the Rock’s golf facility. He said concerns about those things are unfair.

Nelson said that Logsdon “was not invited because she already has been leading the charge to sue The Rock. She already has her mind made up.”

Asked how that differed from Taylor and Zimmerman, who are fervently pro-Rock, and who were at the emergency meeting, he stated,  “This is the first meeting of many.” He said that Logsdon would be involved in future meetings. Logsdon is one of at least three supervisors who have raised the possibility of taking legal action against The Rock or trying to reopen its development agreement; the others are Kathleen Vincent and Deanna Alexander.

Asked for his reaction to Logsdon being called “crazy” at the meeting, Nelson said, “not by me,” adding that he was “not going into others.”

WRN asked why he didn’t defend the neighbors and supervisors or push back when they were insulted by others at the meeting. He stressed that he has “defended the neighbors many times” and has “gone there numerous times when citizens have called.”

Nelson claimed The Rock is operating under the 79-decibel level set in the city development agreement and thus doesn’t ever hit the violation level. The neighbors dispute this contention, which we will be exploring in depth in an upcoming article.

He said the Rock should turn the speakers in and the music down. He acknowledged there have been “issues with the sound monitors.”

According to Nelson, the issues have stemmed from what he sees as a flawed development agreement between the city and The Rock’s developers. “We’ve been beat up on it for many years,” he said. “We’ve gotten Mr. Zimmerman and The Rock group to come with solutions. It’s to that point.”

He stressed that at the first meeting, they all agreed to “bring a wish list of all we want to do.”

At one point, Nelson said of the WRN reporter, “See how much crap you can stir.”

However, he also said that, generally, he condemns any negative comments made by anyone towards the neighbors.

At another point, he said that Logsdon was not included because she “is suing The Rock,” although Logsdon has said she wants to explore whether to bring a resolution to have the county take legal action against The Rock.

“If she wants to be part of the solution, I welcome her to the table,” he said.

According to Nelson, possible solutions include “soundboards.” He also wants to see the Rock’s sound meters “taken over by the City of Franklin and put on the website.”

He said the city continues to only count a violation if one exists for 30 minutes straight, without an interruption, and admitted that would make it almost impossible for The Rock to get a violation.

He described the Taco and Tequila event as “extremely heavily attended” with no arrests and no citations. He admitted some problems with the event but said, “They want more concerts.”

Nelson recalled when the site of The Rock was a “dark black hill” where he would sled as a child. He said no one thought the area would be what it is today and noted it is good for Franklin’s economic base.

He acknowledged the “announcer’s voice is very loud” at Milkmen games. He said The Rock could be a “concert venue” at some point.

According to Nelson, The Rock has “done things as well that have addressed some of these issues, but is it enough?”

He said the development agreement trumps city ordinances.

Nelson wants to make the monitors operable and bring in a neighborhood representative. “There is no one in cahoots here,” said Nelson.

“What we’re doing is trying to stop the contentious relationship,” and “heal” and “move forward,” said Nelson.

Asked how the name-calling at the emergency meeting helped with that quest, as well as some of the comments on social media over the years by Taylor and Zimmerman, Nelson said, “I condemn anyone being disrespectful to our residents and neighborhoods.”

“They were there first,” he said of the neighbors.

He disputed that their property values are down.

Asked about Hersh’s comments at the meeting that she wanted to get data to support people calling the neighbors “Karens,” which is a derogatory term, Nelson said, “I am not sure what that is and what that would mean. Any data discussion would be trying to prove the decibel amount. We are trying to define a baseline for these decibels.”

Hersh did not return a request for comment.

He said he would like to see different decibel levels, perhaps in the 50s or 60s for a ball game, and maybe in the low 70s for a concert night three or four times a year. He also wants the events to end at certain times. He wants a designated sound system for the Umbrella Bar.

Nelson claimed the “former mayor had a terrible relationship with The Rock,” adding that the “city is heavily invested in this project.”

“It’s taking longer than we thought,” said Nelson, referring to resolution to noise concerns. He said part of the delay was because “Rock management and ownership were waiting” for the county’s $200,000 sound study to come out.

He did not specify the exact timeline but noted that the Milkmen games are done for the year.

He did say he liked Greendale’s sound ordinance which breaks down different decibel levels by sound type, time, and zoning.

Nelson said he stood by his own comments at the meeting and would “not comment on anything they may or may not have said,” referring to Zimmerman and Taylor.

Asked why he and others at the meeting were trying to designate a neighborhood leader and why he did not want the neighbor he called “too emotional” to lead the neighbors, he said, “The concern with Dana is she would go back with boxes of data and go back into the past.” He said he wants to move forward to the future.

“I want people to know this is going to be a very transparent and inclusive way of coming to solutions,” Nelson insisted. “We are going to move forward with a very direct timeline. It’s going to have accountability.”

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