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Janesville Plan Commission OKs permit for River Flats apartment complex


The Janesville Plan Commission on Monday endorsed a third major apartment project that officials believe will help alleviate the city’s housing crunch.

The commission unanimously approved a conditional-use permit for River Flats, a proposed 92-unit, six-story apartment complex near downtown that will offer affordable housing for low- or moderate-income residents.

Commissioner Steve Knox was absent.

Commissioner Rich Gruber said he is excited to see three new apartment complexes—River Flats, Diamond Ridge apartments on Woodman Road and a 260-unit project on Racine Street near Interstate 90/39—come to fruition.

All three projects have been approved within the last six months.

Gruber said he thinks the three projects, totaling 467 new units, will prompt more development.

The River Flats project, on Laurel Avenue and Jackson Street, still must go before the city council for approval of a tax increment financing development agreement before it is set in stone. The council will vote on the agreement Jan. 27.

The commission granted three conditions that work around local ordinances and make the project possible:

  • Reduce the minimum separation from the south driveway opening on Franklin Street to the nearest block corner from 40 feet to 28 feet.
  • Reduce the minimum number of parking spaces from 150 to 128.
  • Allow the building to include a 48-square-foot projecting sign above its entrance at Jackson Street and Laurel Avenue.

City officials believe reducing the separation between the driveway and the block corner will not hamper traffic flow and is consistent with some downtown properties that are allowed a 20-foot separation, senior planner Brian Schweigl said.

City staff figured fewer parking spaces would be OK because the U.S. Census Bureau estimates Janesville’s average rental unit has about 1.3 vehicles per tenant.

Reducing the minimum number of spaces allows for 1.4 parking spaces per unit, slightly more than the census bureau’s estimated average, according to a city memo.

The city will add six street parking stalls on Franklin Street adjacent to the complex. Residents and visitors also can use the municipal parking lot across the street, Schweigl said.

On-site parking will include 59 reserved underground stalls and 69 first-come, first-served stalls on the ground floor.

Ty Bollerud was the only resident to speak about the project during public comment. He said the site will have nice views of the city and mentioned some criticisms that were difficult to follow.

Schweigl said the city has not received public feedback since a community meeting held in October.

Since that meeting, the developer decided to include a parcel of land that currently contains a 15-unit apartment complex. That complex will be torn down along with the former Aaron’s Lock and Safe building.

The developer included the extra lot to add more parking and green space for River Flats, Schweigl said.

Schweigl said he believes the 15-unit complex at 221 N. Franklin St. has occupants, but he is unsure how many or if there is a plan to relocate them.

Daniel Kroetz, vice president of development for Commonwealth Companies, said in October that renters, depending on their income, could expect to pay $385 to $975 a month for an 850-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment at River Flats.

The complex will feature 83 two-bedroom units and nine three-bedroom units. A fitness facility, laundry room and management offices will be located on the first floor, Schweigl said.

Commonwealth Companies will operate River Flats with help from a federal tax credit through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. The program requires that residents earn no more than 30% to 80% of the local median salary in Rock County.

The tax credit rules require that the apartments operate as affordable housing for at least 30 years and that the average single renter has an income no greater than $32,000 a year—about 60% of the median income in Rock County, according to a previous story in The Gazette.

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Janesville homicide victim, suspect knew each other, police say


The two Illinois men involved in a fatal shooting on Janesville’s west side Sunday were at an all-night party where revelers drank alcohol, Janesville police said Monday.

The man who was shot and killed—James C. Chestnut III, 40—and the man suspected of shooting him—Corvasie S. Weaver, 24—knew each other because Chestnut was dating a member of Weaver’s family, said Lt. Charles Aagaard of the Janesville Police Department Investigations Division, speaking at a press conference.

Family members of Weaver live at the house where the party happened, Aagaard said.

Aagaard did not know if Weaver or Chestnut had been drinking or exactly how the shooting occurred. He said witnesses told police the men had argued inside the house and then went outside, where the argument escalated.

Police believe Weaver fired several shots with a handgun, hitting Chestnut in the back with one of the rounds before fleeing on foot, Aagaard said.

No gun has been recovered.

Anthony Wahl 

Janesville police Lt. Charles Aagaard speaks to reporters Monday about a Sunday morning homicide during a press conference at the Janesville Police Department. Police are searching for Corvasie Weaver, 24, who’s believed to be involved in the shooting of James C. Chestnut III.

Residents in the area told The Gazette that about eight shots were fired but not all at the same time.

Chestnut was found in the street in the same block as the house, and officers rendered medical aid when they arrived shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday, Aagaard said.

Chestnut was pronounced dead at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville.

The Rock County Medical Examiner’s Department identified Chestnut on Monday morning and reported in a news release that the death “was the result of homicidal, firearm-related trauma.”

Weaver is from Joliet, Illinois, although he had lived at the residence where the party took place, Aagaard said. Chestnut is from Romeoville, just north of Joliet.

Weaver was listed as living at the house as recently as April, when he was charged in a misdemeanor domestic abuse case.

He was living at another Janesville residence in 2018 when he was charged with cocaine possession and armed disorderly conduct as an act of domestic abuse, court records indicate. He was wanted on warrants in both cases.

In the 2018 case, Weaver is accused of pointing a gun at a woman he knows and grabbing her by the chin and neck during an argument at a Janesville residence. Police later found cocaine, but not a gun, at the residence.

Aagaard urged anyone with information about Weaver’s whereabouts to contact police but not to approach Weaver.

The house where the party took place has been the scene of numerous police contacts, including drug investigations, although police knew of no drugs being consumed at the party, Aagaard said.

Deputy Police Chief Terry Sheridan said the residence is not on the department’s nuisance-property list, which is part of a program that tries to get landlords to clean up code violations and in some cases evict tenants.

Sunday’s shooting has prompted police to look into the house’s history, however, Sheridan said.

Trump tests Congress' war powers with strike against Iran


President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Iran is posing a gut check for Congress, brazenly testing whether the House and Senate will exert their own authority over U.S. military strategy or cede more war powers to the White House.

As tensions rise at home and abroad, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold House votes this week to limit Trump’s ability to engage Iran militarily after the surprise U.S. airstrike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani. A Senate vote is expected to soon follow.

Yet Congress has shown time and again it is unable to exert its ability to authorize—or halt—military actions. With their inaction, lawmakers have begrudgingly allowed the commander in chief to all but disregard Congress, and there are doubts that this time will be any different.

“I think this president has pushed this to the limit with action that has a huge escalating effect,” said Scott Anderson, a former attorney in the State Department’s legal office and former legal adviser for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. “Maybe this will push Congress to make it a priority. ... Anything short of legislative action doesn’t mean anything.”

The showdown between the White House and Capitol Hill provides the latest example of how Trump’s willingness to break the norms in Washington is setting new standards in governance.

Ahead of the attack that killed the Iranian general, the president did not consult with congressional leaders. In the aftermath, he refused to make public his justification for the airstrikes.

Facing an outcry, Trump scoffed that his tweets should provide adequate updates to Congress, regardless of what is required by law.

Republicans have largely supported Trump’s actions, saying the president was well within his power to take out Iran’s architect of proxy operations against Americans in the Middle East. The U.S. considered Soleimani a terrorist.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday there’s plenty of time for lawmakers to learn more about the president’s reasoning for the attack. He complained that Democrats “rushed to blame our own government before even knowing the facts and rushed to downplay Soleimani’s evil while presenting our own president as the villain.’’

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday, “It is essential for Congress to put a check on this president.”’

Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, said both parties in Congress have for years gone along with an expansion of presidential war powers, especially with regard to the conflicts in the Middle East.

“In short, our country has—through presidential aggrandizement accompanied by congressional authorization, delegation, and acquiescence—given one person, the president, a sprawling military and enormous discretion to use it in ways that can easily lead to a massive war,” Goldsmith said in an essay in Lawfare, an online newsletter he co-founded. “That is our system: One person decides.”

Past presidents at least signaled a nod to the legislative branch, which has the sole power under the Constitution to declare war, knowing they would need to ask Congress to pay for military operations. It’s one way the founders sought to keep the executive in check.

But Congress has allowed its role to erode since the passage of Authorization for Use of Military Force in 2001 to fight terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks and passage of another AUMF for the invasion of Iraq in 2002.

The fallout from those votes has deeply divided Congress and the nation, with many lawmakers, particularly Democrats, now saying they were mistakes. Yet lawmakers have been paralyzed on the question of whether to repeal or change those authorities.

Only after U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed last summer in a gruesome murder at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey did Congress muster the resolve to slap restrictions on U.S. involvement with the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

It was a rare exertion of authority from Congress, the first since the passage of the War Powers Act of 1973. And Trump promptly vetoed it.

“There’s no question the president has gotten stronger over time, the Congress less strong,” said Wendy Sherman, a former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration and chief negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal.

“This is a president who we know makes decisions by impulse and without any deliberative process,” said Sherman, who now directs the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “Ceding all this power to an impulsive president ... puts our national security at risk.”

Pelosi announced the House will vote this week on a resolution from Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., a former CIA and Defense Department official, that would require an end to the action against Iran unless Congress votes to authorize it.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but failed in the Senate. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, is pushing it again this year and plans to force a vote that could come as soon as next week.

“I think this president doesn’t care about Congress,’’ Kaine told The Associated Press. “But the president is deeply concerned and to the point of insecurity about his own personal popularity. And I think a vote by Congress on a matter like this is ultimately a demonstration—well, what does the American public think? Should we be in another war in the Middle East?’’

On Monday, Schumer and Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on Trump to declassify “in full’’ his notification to Congress over the weekend justifying the strikes.

Under the War Powers Act, the White House has 48 hours to notify Congress of such actions. Pelosi said it was “highly unusual” for the information to be entirely classified and is demanding a full briefing for Congress.

Debates have raged on and off Capitol Hill over whether the White House can continue to rely on nearly 20-year old authorizations for its actions abroad.

At the time of their passage, Congress resisted then-President George W. Bush’s effort to secure an even broader authorization, clipping language that would have allowed for actions to deter future acts of terrorism against the U.S., according to a 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Because Congress did not accept this broader authorization language, it can be argued that Congress deliberately chose to limit presidential authority,” the report said, adding that the debate about the authorities since then “calls for legislative clarification of such scope.”

Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn on Monday defended Trump, comparing the killing of the Iranian general to Obama’s decision to target Osama bin Laden, even though that raid was more directly tied to the post-2001 war authorizations.

Obituaries and death notices for Jan. 7, 2020

Charles “Cork” Boelkow

Bertha J. Cochrane

Dorothy Lavern Daniel

Richard “Dick” Kapke

Audrey Kuter

Margaret A. “Peggy” Lawrence

Cynthia S. Mangold

Eunice L. Nesseth

Donald Lee Verch

Greta Westerberg