Meijer supercenter in Waukesha gains final approval from Plan Commission

A Meijer supercenter was given final approval by the Waukesha Plan Commission Wednesday night. The Common Council just needs to give the project its final approval.
Published on: 8/13/2014

There are less and less obstacles standing in the way for a Meijer supercenter to come into the city of Waukesha.

The Meijer development, proposed for the corner of Tenny Avenue and E. Sunset Drive in Waukesha, took a major step forward Wednesday night when the Plan Commission unanimously approved the final site plan and architectural review.

Meijer officials are planning a 192,000-square-foot supercenter on the south end of the property and a 2,500-square-foot gas station on the north end near Sunset Drive.

The Common Council will now vote on final approval at an upcoming meeting.

City Planner Jennifer Andrews didn't know if the council will take up the matter at its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 19, as the developers work with staff on the changes that were proposed at Wednesday's meeting.

One of the changes was to alter the layout of the gas station as a way to reduce the lighting for the neighbors.

It was the first time in 11 months that Meijer, a food, clothing and home merchandising store, was before a city panel as changes of the site as well as details for a related road construction project were being finalized.

While many neighbors packed City Hall for meetings last year during the preliminary process to speak out against the supercenter, only one resident voiced her concerns Wednesday night.

Kay Heine, who lives on Larchmont Drive, which is across the street from the proposed development, was frustrated by the fact that green space at the site is being taken away from neighbors.

Steve Johnson, the alderman in the district where Meijer would be built, had made a referral last year to reduce the hours of operation for Meijer and to have the gas station eliminated from the site plan.

“I think that would go a long way to being a good neighbor like they’ve said they wanted to be,” Johnson said at Wednesday’s meeting regarding the gas station.

Johnson also backed up Heine, who said having seven gas stations within a mile and a half of each other is too many.

Brian Randall, the attorney for Meijer, said there is ample space for the gas station and when space is available at sites “it is a required part of Meijer’s presentation.”

The area is zoned to allow for gas stations.

Meijer officials are proposing a 24-hour operation for the supercenter. Randall has said that is also part of the company’s offering.

"But we have an eye for being sensitive to our neighbors," said Randall, who added the store will only keep the lights on over half of the parking lot during the overnight hours. 

The Plan Commission did not further address Johnson’s concerns about eliminating the gas station and shortening the hours for the store.

Last year, residents expressed concerns that the supercenter will result in increased traffic, noise, light pollution and oversaturation of big box stores in the area. They also said a supercenter should not impede their residential area. 

Many even signed a protest petition with the city. 

However, the Plan Commission and Common Council changed the 31-acre parcel from residential to commercial use and rezoned the site to a Community Business Planned Unit Development last year, paving the way for the business to enter the city of Waukesha.

City officials have praised the development, citing the economic benefits that it will bring to this side of Sunset Drive, and have recommended approvals at each step of the process.

Randall said it would take about a year to build the Meijer supercenter. Andrews said because of the magnitude of the project, grading of the site could begin in the fall. But she expects most of the construction to start in spring 2015.

And because of the extensive site work that has to be done, she wouldn't expect the project to be finished until mid-2016.

Andrews said it took almost a year for the project to return before the Plan Commission because of the upcoming Sunset Drive road construction project that is tied to the Meijer project. The Waukesha Common Council just approved funds for the road project last month.

Sunset Drive is being widened to four lanes.

Andrews said it is a two-year road project and extends east on Tenny Avenue and Sunset Drive to the bypass.

The plan for Meijer also includes a 10-foot retaining wall for the south end of the site and additional landscaping and landscaping islands have been added throughout the site, Andrews said at the Plan Commission meeting.

While the Common Council still needs to give the project its final approval, representatives for the vacant Kmart site on Sunset Drive have to be pleased about Meijer being passed at the Plan Commission level.

That’s because representatives for that site have said tenants that they have lined up would not develop there unless Meijer came into the city.

Meijer has more than 200 supercenters in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois and has been looking to expand in southeastern Wisconsin in the last couple of years.

The Meijer store has broken ground in Sussex, but construction recently stopped there until next year.

Meijer, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is also planning stores in Grafton, Greenfield, Oak Creek, Wauwatosa, Kenosha and Janesville.