Waukesha Common Council approves land use change for Meijer development to move forward

Published on: 8/20/2013

The Meijer project in the City of Waukesha is alive.

Despite hearing from many neighbors against the development Tuesday night, the Common Council, by a 10-4 vote, approved a land-use amendment plan that changes the 31-acre parcel on the southeast corner of Tenny Avenue and E. Sunset Drive from residential to commercial.

A change was needed for the Meijer development, which includes a 192,000-square-foot supercenter and a 2,500-square-foot gas station, to continue.

The Common Council must still take action on rezoning the land to Community Business Planned Unit Development and improvements through the Plan Commission can still occur.

The Council’s approval comes less than two weeks after not enough votes (six) were cast for a land use change on this parcel.

Changing land use requires eight votes – a majority of the 15-member Common Council. Four aldermen were missing from the Aug. 8 meeting.

However, the land use amendment came before the council once again on Tuesday because Alderman Andy Reiland requested that the council reconsider the vote. After an 11-3 vote, the request to vote on the land use change was approved.

Three of the four aldermen who missed the previous meeting voted in favor of the land use change and two aldermen switched their vote (Peter Bartels and Reiland) in support of the change.

Reiland's change wasn't a surprise given that he is in favor of the development, but voted against the land use change Aug. 8 so he could guarantee that it would be brought back before the Common Council. 

The Plan Commission has previously recommended in favor of the land use amendment change and has given the development its full support after making updates to improve the development and to address some of the initial concerns. 

But many residents in the audience at the Common Council meeting and throughout the process have not changed their stance about not wanting this development.

Among the concerns from nearby neighbors is noise and light pollution, safety concerns from the increased traffic and that adding a new supercenter will hurt other nearby businesses. Moreover, neighbors say a big-box store should simply not impede on land zoned residential.

Others, however, including a majority on the Common Council, said the development would help the tax base in this area and rejuvenate the area on the east side of Sunset.

Representatives for the old nearby vacant Kmart site have said prospective tenants would not come to that site unless the Meijer development is approved.

“I see this development as an opportunity,” said Alderman Aaron Perry, who added the more than 250 jobs that would result from the Meijer development is a major benefit that shouldn't be overlooked.

Alderman Eric Payne, one of the four who voted against the land use change, said the neighbors’ concerns should be the No. 1 focus.

“I don’t know when we stopped listening (to the neighbors),” said Payne, who was joined by Aldermen Cory Payne and Steve Johnson (who represents constituents where Meijer would be built) and Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings in voting against the land use change. “We’re supposed to be a body that represents the people in that area.

"They’re telling us that they don’t want this. I support the people who live in that area.”

Cummings said she supported the neighbors in that area who "did their homework” at this site.

Reiland, however, added these neighbors' concerns will still be addressed.

“I’m not turning my back on those concerns,” Reiland said. “I truly believe Meijer would be a good neighbor.”

Meijer, a food, clothing and home merchandising store, has more than 200 supercenters in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, and is looking to expand in Wisconsin.