Waukesha Common Council approves rezoning for Meijer development to take next step

Published on: 9/17/2013

Local neighbors have fought it – and did once again Tuesday night – but the Meijer store continues to take the steps needed to enter the City of Waukesha. 

The Common Council approved rezoning the land the 192,000-square-foot supercenter would be on to a B-5 Community Business Planned Unit Development from T-1 zoning after a 12-3 vote.

The land had been previously annexed from the Town of Waukesha.

A three-quarters vote – or 12 of the 15 Common Council members – was needed because a protest petition against the rezoning was sent to the city. Those living within 100 feet of the site were eligible to sign the petition.

The three who voted against the rezoning was Aldermen Steve Johnson and Eric Payne and Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings.

“Many of us just didn’t listen to (the neighbors),” Cummings said. “The fight was sucked out of them, but they’re still trying. They’re in the last round. Somebody’s got to represent their view and I’m going to be that person.”

Alderman Andy Reiland said the Council approving the rezoning “proves we are open for business.”

The rezoning approval came a month after the Common Council amended the land use plan at E. Sunset Drive and Tenny Avenue from residential to commercial, a hurdle that was needed for the project to move forward. That vote was 10-4.

Alderman Cory Payne joined his father, Johnson and Cummings in voting against changing that land to commercial at the Aug. 20 Common Council meeting. While those three voted together against the rezone, Cory Payne voted for the rezoning.

The Common Council also approved preliminary plans for a PUD Review on development plans of the retail store and 2,500-square-foot gas station that would accompany the store. Council members can bring referrals to the Plan Commission before final approval.

Residents who spoke during the two-hour public hearing Tuesday who live in the area have said they feel their voices are being dismissed.

“To say we’re not listening, that’s not a true statement,” Council President Terry Thieme said. “I’ve heard every word. We have to represent our district first. There’s been very positive feedback within my district.”

The neighbors’ concerns have ranged from safety, environmental, noise, pollution, decreased home values, that the city is already oversaturated with similar-type stores and that it shouldn’t be a 24/7 operation.

Moreover, they say the store is invading an area surrounded by residential properties and other locations in the city are best suited for a big-box store.

Those against it also said the process has been rushed by the city. The Meijer development was first proposed in the spring and preliminary approvals have taken place by the Waukesha Plan Commission over the last number of the months and updates have been made.

While less vocal, those in favor of the project said the jobs (200 at the store and additional contractors) should not be overlooked.

City Planner Jennifer Andrews says of all the properties in Waukesha, the 31-acre site works best for Meijer and the city because it’s the largest area of vacant land left within City of Waukesha borders.

The Meijer store and the gas station will make up 53 percent of the site, Andrews said.

Meijer representatives have stated that many of their stores are near residential areas and that they have and will continue to address the concerns of neighbors.

This has been done so far by adding more landscaping and altering an access way.

Meijer, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., with about 200 stores in the Midwest, is looking to expand into southeastern Wisconsin.

Stores are planned for Grafton, Wauwatosa, Sussex and Kenosha. Plans are also in the process for Oak Creek.