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Neighbors: Businesses, Berms, and Blue Mound Golf & Country Club's Barricade

May 1, 2014



I belong to Wauwatosa Presbyterian Church which “strives to be a place of welcome, inclusivity and outreach.” (tosapres.com) These are not traits limited to Christians. I believe that neighborliness, and offering service to others, is simply a way of being the best human being I can. Businesses are neighbors too — and some are better than others at being neighborly.


My neighborhood, “Country Club Highlands,” is bordered by Mayfair Mall and the Blue Mound Golf & Country Club (BMGCC). While the mall has grown huge, I appreciate what it offers Wauwatosa. Jobs. Stores. Restaurants. It pays a lot of taxes, not just property taxes to Wauwatosa, but presumably the tenants all must pay corporate income taxes. Mayfair opens its doors for walkers and provides community rooms for groups to use. They may well do more. Do they benefit from being a good neighbor? Of course. Good will brings back customers. No denying that.


With BMGCC, it’s necessary to look at tradition, because it’s extremely difficult to find anything about the club, unless you are a member. Where do their values spring from? I respect the game of golf and its Scottish traditions. The infamously secretive Freemason Society played a role in the founding of the first golf club. Many American clubs still cling to that tradition of secrecy. But Freemasons are also known as a giving service-oriented society, in many areas. In fact, in scottishgolfhistory.org, we learn that “The Freemasons' core traditions of self-improvement … and .. self-determination for…professionals, as well as quality of service and service to others, were adopted by our modern educational institutions, trade associations and professional bodies. Equally important is the major role that the masons played in organizing golf into the game we know today.”

Self-improvement, self-determination, quality of service and service to others. Admirable traditions. Nowhere does it say, isolate yourself, be of no service to others and unkind to your neighbors.

At BMGCC, the cloak of privacy matters most. They pay property taxes, yes. But, it appears that as an exempt non-profit status entity, they don’t pay the other taxes the rest of us do. They do employ a few people. The latest figure I could find seems to be around 175. They exist to serve their members, but who knows how many members even reside in Wauwatosa and therefore care at all about the community, besides the acres they own?

Before the traumatic appearance of the berm (hereafter, barricade) at the end of our block, our issues with BMGCC had been few. There was the summer of the 5:15 a.m. lawn mowing close to neighbors’ back yards and windows. Occasionally they host special events, with inadequate signage, so our block becomes an autobahn for speeding lost cars. Years ago, BMGCC lit fireworks every Fourth of July which neighbors enjoyed from the street. One year, the fireworks stopped, and never started again — except for last May. Unannounced booms, near a mall in the United States, led to needless worries of another mall massacre. They don’t have to invite neighbors over for tea, or to wander the grounds in the winter, but wouldn’t it be kind to do so? Wouldn’t it be neighborly? Why, they could even make money offering their grounds to cross country skiing in the winter.

Service to others? I can’t find evidence of much.They are listed with gratitude in a Marquette Law School donor listing. Marquette Law School is in Milwaukee, not Wauwatosa. They will host the JDRF Golf Classic on June 2nd and may do more in terms of helping other non-profits with fundraising, but again, tough to find online, and not necessarily helpful to the city they occupy. They participate in the Evans Scholar’s program and they belong to the Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce. I’d be embarrassed if I had their level of income (some of which can be found online) and that was my level of giving in my community.

For as long as I can remember, the only thing BMGCC offered the community was a view of the Country Club’s driving range, of trees, of the club building itself, but all far enough away that no one’s personal privacy was affected. We couldn’t see faces, nor could they.

On Maundy Thursday, construction equipment began delivering dirt from the mall parking lot onto the southern end of the Country Club’s property, beginning to build the barricade. In six hours, our neighborhood lost the view it had known forever.

When I asked why this barricade, I was told “privacy and aesthetics” were BMGCC’s concern, according to Jeff Bryden, the BMGCC President. And their neighbors’ aesthetics? No concern. When I asked if the membership had voted on this berm, I was told that was “none of your business.” They had their own governance and they had followed their rules and the city’s rules, etc. Could I contact the Board of Directors? He would not give out their names. Privacy.

If any Wauwatosa residents belong to the BMGCC, were you given the option of voting on this berm? If any Brookfield or Elm Grove residents are members, same question. And, to all members, do your personal values line up with BMGCC’s corporate values?

When someone constructs a berm that is a barricade, having the same effect that a concrete, windowless wall would, in the City of Wauwatosa, that’s okay. It may not be neighborly, considerate or of any service to others, but it is legal. For all I know, my neighbor to the north may well be sexist and racist. Clearly what matters more to them than the good neighbor policy is the B.E.R.M. maxim — being exclusive really matters. And, our city officials are unable to do anything to help us.

A barricade does not lend itself to being a good neighbor. Instead of “love your neighbor as yourself,” the exclusivity mantra is “love yourself.”

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