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Shattuck Middle School Update: Proposed ordinance change reversed by Neenah mayor

Shattuck yard sign
Posted at 6:07 PM, Mar 06, 2023

NEENAH (NBC 26) — On March 3rd, the city of Neenah proposed changes to a rezonings and amendments ordinance that would eliminate the right to petition. However, today, the city has amended to remove that proposed change.

Alexander Collins is a Neenah resident, who was against this proposed change.

“They’re taking away the one piece of leverage constituents have in the entire rezoning process,” said Collins.

The proposed sale of Shattuck Middle School made waves in a close-knit Neenah neighborhood.

Neighbors formed Facebook groups and planted yard signs to voice their opinions against the sale. This resulted in some residents receiving notices of violation from the city.

One Neenah couple, Tim and Megan Florek, obtained counsel from the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty, or W.I.L.L., who filed a lawsuit against the city of Neenah.

“The Floreks believe they were just exercising their first amendment right to freedom of speech,” said Dan Lennington, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty Deputy Counsel.

On Friday, the city introduced a provision that would eliminate the ability for landowners to petition against rezoning without a supermajority of the common council - or three-quarters of the vote.

“The agenda, originally, to our surprise, had this provision to eliminate that supermajority option,” said Collins.

He thinks this proposal would have erased the voice of the constituents.

“I don’t think the city of Neenah should be using taxpayer dollars to fight the first amendment,” said Collins.

In a statement to NBC 26, Mayor Jane Lang said, “I’ve decided that although a strong case can be made for making this modification to the zoning code, the recent concerns surrounding such rezoning requests is such that I have directed staff to remove this proposed modification from the Plan Commission agenda at this time.”

From the beginning, residents have said they want to be included in the process.

“There’s been no effort whatsoever by the city of Neenah to engage the voters and this is a city that prides itself on letting the voters have a say,” said Scott Becher, a Neenah resident.

I asked Collins what he wants to see from the city, for the residents.

“Really seek their input, have a discussion,” said Collins.

Mayor Lang told us this proposed change will not be discussed in the near future.