This is part 3 in a series of Wisconsin Right Now investigative stories exploring The Rock Sports Complex development in Franklin.
Multiple Milwaukee County supervisors are demanding that the county take action, including possible legal action or rescinding the development agreement, against the developers of The Rock sports and entertainment complex in Franklin because they say persistent disruptive noise from the facility is harming the quality of life for residential neighborhoods.
Two supervisors, Patti Logsdon and Deanna Alexander, said they wanted a resolution requesting legal action.
The comments come after years of concern from residents, a new sound study that found a list of issues, and a series of Wisconsin Right Now reports into the problem. Multiple Franklin and Greendale residents also appeared at the meeting Wednesday, pleading with county supervisors to do something.
“It’s offensive. It keeps my children awake. You need to take legal action,” Franklin resident Dana Gindt told the supervisors.
“Please help us in this,” Greendale resident Joy Draginis-Zingales pleaded with the committee, asking for legal action. “Why are we here 10-plus years later?” she said. “The sound study proves we haven’t lied. There is no reason we should waste 10 years of our lives begging and pleading for help…I don’t have any other choice but the county. I need your help. I have a son who has sensory integration disorder. When this noise continues and continues, he can’t sleep. You should see his grades. The noise was ridiculous… We all have a God-given right to peace and tranquility, by law I have that, in my home. So should my children.”
The Rock’s developer, Mike Zimmerman, has not returned repeated requests for comment and was not at the committee meeting.
The Rock, which hosts a summer concert series, the Milwaukee Milkmen baseball games, fireworks, a Halloween event, and more, also did not allow the county-commissioned sound study team on the property to review required sound monitors designed to measure impact on nearby residential neighborhoods.
Supervisor Kathleen Vincent said in a written statement to the committee that the county should demand that the Rock’s developer uphold the original development agreement with the county, and, if they won’t, “rescind” the agreement.
Supervisor Deanna Alexander asked for clarity on how the committee could pass a resolution directing the county’s office of corporation counsel to develop and implement a legal plan regarding the county’s 2017 development agreements with the Rock.
She asked the corporation counsel whether the committee could pass a resolution “to direct that legal action be taken on behalf of Milwaukee County and its citizens” against the Rock, saying, “I am up to here with this issue. I am prepared and ready to write it, to push it.”
A representative of the corporation counsel’s office said he would need time to review the issue, and the committee subsequently decided to lay over the issue for that to occur, with a possible special session in the near future.
County Supervisor Anthony Staskunas urged supervisors to gather more information, calling it a “really bad idea to try to do a motion on the fly on a complex topic that is talking about commencing litigation.” He said he is open to the idea of a special meeting and noted that Supervisor Patti Logsdon, who has been leading efforts to help affected residents, is working on a resolution.
“It was my intention to put forth a resolution today,” Logsdon confirmed, but she said she wanted to speak with the corporation counsel. She noted that the $200,000 sound study recommended a more comprehensive sound study, saying, “My question is, we paid for a sound study, and at the end of the sound study, they’re suggesting we do another sound study and have somebody pay for it.”
Gindt also raised the latter point and asked the county not to pay the sound study team.
Staskunas said that the sound study noted that placement of a permanent sound system at the Rock’s Umbrella Bar was in the county development agreement and “was never done.”
“My question to corporation counsel is how do we proceed on that violation?” he asked, adding, “The county executive needs to get involved in this.”
The corporation counsel’s representative said he could analyze the legal issues, including whether the sound study is invalid.
The speakers appeared at the Milwaukee County Committee on Audit meeting on September 13, 2023. That committee came after the release of the new sound study that found a series of problems with the Rock’s sound monitors and noise abatement techniques, as well as the City of Franklin’s ordinance enforcement.
However, some residential speakers also criticized elements of the sound study, saying that it downplayed how bad the sound really is and contained incomplete information about Franklin’s ordinances. The sound study also found that the noise is having an effect on the quality of life of some neighborhoods, that sound monitors at the Rock are inoperable or not fully working, that the developer wouldn’t let the team on the property, and that a speaker is focused in the direction of a neighborhood, among other issues. Read more about the sound study here.
Logsdon said she hopes the “developer will meet with us and will turn it (the sound) down and we won’t have this problem.”
Supervisor Vincent said in a written statement to the committee that, for years, the Rock “has caused issues with light and noise” for residents. “The management of the Rock does not seem interested in working with the neighbors and in some instances made light of the incidents on social media.” Event attendance has sometimes exceeded parking space, according to Vincent.
Residents begged county supervisors to take action.
Resident Dana Gindt told supervisors she has serious concerns about the sound study, even though it outlined a series of problems with the Rock, backing up a number of the residents’ claims.
She said that the sound study team erroneously focused on a Franklin ordinance that uses a limit of 70 to 79 decibels for sound emanating from the Rock, but said that another ordinance puts the noise limit at 50 decibels in the day and 45 at night.
According to Gindt, multiple live band events were not part of the study as well as other special events that “created a massive amount of noise.”
She added: “The County knows that 65 decibels is incompatible with residential use,” saying that a sound study relating to the airport confirmed that and issues relating to noise there were addressed.
“So what are you doing for our neighborhood?” she asked.
She also said that part of the Rock is located in a county park and pointed out there is a Milwaukee County Parks ordinance. According to Gindt, “79 decibels is literally the level fireworks are.”
Although the sound study found levels exceeding a Greendale ordinance and World Health Organization guidelines, few events reached 79 decibels. However, Gindt and others said the day the sound study team measured the sound was “extraordinarily quiet” to the degree that the neighbors noted it seemed different.
“They picked that one day to do the entire calculations for my neighborhood,” she said.
John McAdams, who is another affected Franklin neighbor, told the committee, “It’s been a long struggle for us in this neighborhood to try to bring peace back to this neighborhood.”
He stressed, “We have been battling this noise issue for five-plus years. I am tired of wasting my time. I am hoping and begging that hopefully, the county can help us.”
McAdams said, “All we are asking is turn down the volume.” He said neighbors want speakers turned away from their neighborhood.
“We really want to bring back a peaceful neighborhood. I am begging the county. Please have some teeth on this developer Zimmerman,” he said.
Supervisor Felesia Martin told the residents that she had been out to the neighborhood. “I’ve listened to it, and I do feel your pain,” she said. “I can’t imagine having children and animals in that vicinity and having to listen to that.”
Martin added: “We do hear you and I know you want us to do more than just hear you. You want to see some action. Hopefully, we can get to some resolutions for you.”
Logsdon also noted the 79-decibel angle, saying, “I have done so much research to find out where did that 79 come from, someone picked it out of their pocket. They (Franklin) are not even abiding by their own ordinance.” She said that officials who have tried to intervene have been ignored.
“The county may entertain a contract-based lawsuit,” she said.