Pesticide Committee Would Bring Stakeholders to the Table
The Village Board hopes a potential committee will develop a pesticide policy that addresses each group's concerns.
The Whitefish Bay Village Board hopes to reach a consensus on the hotly contested issue of pesticides in public parks by bringing together stakeholders to develop a plan that addresses concerns from both sides.
After holding a listening session in July, the Village Board met Monday night to discuss, among other issues, how it should proceed with the input gathered from the public hearing.
Trustee Jay Miller proposed a committee of stakeholders be formed to reach a consensus and recommend a policy to the Village Board. Miller said the committee could be led by staff members from the village and the school district and could also include representation from Whitefish Bay Soccer Club, Friends of Bay Baseball, Duke Pride, Whitefish Bay Little League, Healthy Communities Project and the Whitefish Bay Garden Club.
Miller said he hopes bringing stakeholders to the table will lead to a compromise on the pesticide issue, which has been a subject of debate for several years in Whitefish Bay. He said he hopes the school district and village board, which currently have different pesticide standards, will be able to abide by the policy recommended by the committee.
All of the trustees supported the formation of a committee except Village President Julie Siegel. She said she supports the existing policy, and she has concerns about who will pay for more expensive natural turf care practices.
Siegel also said she doesn't think the school district will be interested in having representation on the committee.
"My reluctance is not that I don’t want to achieve a middle ground; my reluctance is I’m not sure there’s a middle ground to be found," she said.
Other board members, such as Trustee Brenda Szumski, said they think it is a productive way to make sure all groups have their concerns addressed.
"Nobody's going to get everything they want, but that’s the nature of wrestling with it as a group," Szumski said. "To me, it's worth going back to that conversation and getting everybody at the table, which I think is something different than previous organized efforts."
Village Manager Patrick DeGrave said the pesticide applications scheduled for Cahill, Klode and Schoolhouse parks will be canceled, but other sprayings will continue as scheduled.
Lexington Boulevard resident Alicia Alstetter said she and her neighbors have collected 64 signatures from residents on Lexington and Cumberland boulevards opposing the upcoming pesticide applications in the grassy medians of those two streets.
DeGrave said those applications will move forward as planned, and that the Village Board is responsible for adopting a consistent policy as to whether or not those medians will be treated in the future.
"Green medians, well-tended flower beds, shrubbery, etcetera are a community investment which should not necessarily be controlled by abutting residents," DeGrave said. "If you choose to do that (cancel pesticide applications in medians), I think you will find a sufficient number of residents abutting every piece of public property dictating that it should not be done."
DeGrave said he will develop a plan for a possible pesticide committee and bring it before the Village Board for a formal decision at a future meeting.
Get great local stories like this on Facebook. Click to join us!
The current turf management plan, approved by the board on April 16, calls for natural turf management practices, such as aeration and over-seeding, in Buckley Park. All other parks and green space receive an annual liquid application of weed and feed — with an exception for the playground areas at Klode and Cahill Park, which receive a single granular application of milorganite fertilizer with no herbicide application.
About 100 residents came to a Village Board meeting in early May to protest the policy after Cahill Park was sprayed with pesticides.
The use of pesticides in public parks has been discussed in Whitefish Bay for more than 11 years. At that time, Melanie Ariens and Amy Joyce formed Healthy Communities Project to call attention to the public health issues linked with pesticides.
The village also formed an Environmental Advisory Commission, which developed a three-year pilot program for natural turf care, and in 2011, lobbied the Village Board to eliminate pesticides in parks for a full year.
After Monday night's meeting, Joyce said she was happy to see a committee formed that brings all parties together for compromise.
"Not everyone is going to agree, but this is the only way to hash through everybody's opinions, then look at the facts, then look at the budget and find a way to make something work," she said. "You can't get from point A to point B if you don't have a mechanism to get there."