In my previous blog, I raised questions. Those questions have been
resolved to my satisfaction, and I will no longer be addressing this
matter. I make no insinuations of wrongdoing vs. John Duke, Elizabeth
Duke, Alderman Mary Anne Gibson or anyone else.
John Duke is a long-time (43 years), respected developer. The Wilder project is his twelfth development in Germantown. Duke, who resides in Germantown, has, through his developments and civic work, contributed much to our city. His good reputation is, I am sure, well deserved.
In my previous blog post, I stated that Duke’s wife owned The Firm. In fact, she is simply one of four owners. John Duke has no ownership interest in, and is in no way involved in the management of, The Firm’s business.
Neither Alderman Mary Ann Gibson, her mother, nor Kathleen Huisman owns any interest in The Firm. While I did not say otherwise in the previous blog post, I do now think it is important to make clear their lack of any ownership in The Firm. These three individuals are merely affiliate brokers — not employees, but independent contractors. John Duke does not now have, and never has had, any business dealings or financial connection with either Alderman Gibson, Alderman Gibson’s mother, or Ms. Huisman.
It was only because of a changed circumstance — a school was being
added to the south — that the land comprising the Wilder development
could be rezoned. The land had previously laid idle for a long time
because no changed circumstance had taken place. Duke recognized the
justification for the change in zoning, saw its potential and has
turned it into a nice walk-to-school neighborhood. From all appearances,
it’s a win-win outcome for all concerned.
When Duke initially sought to rezone the property, there were a relative handful of objectors. One particular individual, as I understand it, was quite vocal in his objection. The City asked Duke to work the matter out, and, at considerable time and expense, he did. Duke and the neighbors ultimately worked out a compromise that, as I understand it, all the neighbors liked.
There was also a private covenant, to which the City of Germantown was not a party, that operated as a cloud on Duke’s title. Through considerable time and effort, Duke ultimately was able to secure enough waivers sufficient to remove this cloud.
The City has long sought redundancy in its water system — provided by a gravity-fed water tower — due to the fact the water system nearly collapsed following a power outage caused by a storm. The City initially determined that the new water tower should be placed behind the new elementary school. This, however, would have put the tower in the rear yards of many neighbors who had supported the Wilder development. Duke revised his plan and proposed to the City that the tower be moved to its current location next to the railroad track and a commercial area. The City agreed. In order to make this work, a three-way land swap among Duke, the City, and GMSD was effected. The City ended up not only with the water tower being placed in a more neighborhood-friendly location, but also with a tree-laden 3.5-acre parcel, conveyed to the City by Duke, that now serves as a park. Again, the result was another win-win situation.
Duke advises that the Wilder Development, in addition to moving the water tower, also donated the 3.5 acres for the parkland that was not part of the swap. This donated land will be used for a city park full of majestic hardwoods to be enjoyed by the City’s citizens in perpetuity. This satisfied the tree mitigation requirements per the Design Review Commission.