Waukesha Plan Commission approves new temporary busing location

Published on: 9/17/2013

There were concerns from residents and commissioners, but a temporary location for First Student, Waukesha School District's new busing company, was approved by the Waukesha Plan Commission at last week's meeting. The temporary location is in response to First Student not completing required conditions of its permit before beginning operations.

The Plan Commission approved a conditional use permit to allow a temporary bus storage and operation at 1901 S. Prairie Ave. on the city's southwest side after it gave the go-ahead on a temporary operating plan while its storage facility at 1409 Arcadian Ave. and its maintenance facility at 1505 Arcadian Ave. are under construction.

Construction is scheduled to be finished by Nov. 22.

Electrical work and repaving need to be completed at the site.

Since its last meeting on Aug. 28, Community Development Specialist Jeff Fortin said a site plan was approved for 1409 Arcadian Ave. and is under construction. Electrical grading and paving contracts have been signed.

The project will be broken into three phases.

Phase 1 is from mid-September to mid-October and includes 72 large buses being stored and operated out of the Prairie Avenue location. Forty-eight small buses will remain at 1409 Arcadian Ave. These buses, as well as six large buses, will remain there and be moved to the south lot, while the 72 will continue to operate at Prairie Avenue during Phase 2.

Phase 3 takes place from late October to mid-November. The facility at 1409 Arcadian will become fully operational and all buses and employees will use this facility.

Maintenance will be done during the day, but buses will be moved between the sites after 6 p.m.

The Plan Commission had approved a conditional use permit and site modifications at the First Student Administration Building, 1505 Arcadian Ave., for a bus maintenance and administration operation at its meeting Aug. 14.

But issues occurred when buses were using the Arcadian location when Fortin said they were not to have any buses at that time. But he added it was the staff's understanding that there were no place for First Student to store the new buses.

'The buses were not to be out there until all the improvements were done,' Fortin said at the Aug. 28 meeting. He added First Student did not know it had to do all the site improvements before starting to use the site.

Don Gallo, First Student's legal council, said it was working diligently to avoid traffic on Arcadian Avenue, which they heard 'loud and clear.' That's why, he said, it was working on securing a third site.

Ultimately, the Plan Commission allowed a two-week temporary operating plan until the Sept. 11 Plan Commission meeting.

Fortin said the applicant will provide bi-weekly updates of the progress and if there are delays an extension from the Plan Commission could be given.

A few people in the audience who live on Prairie Avenue and School Drive spoke out last week against the site change, citing increased traffic and noise. Weldall Manufacturing is right by the site and a resident said due to the amount of heavy traffic already caused by that business, safety is a concern with a park and elementary school nearby.

Regarding the noise, a First Student representative said the propane buses are 'significantly quieter' than diesel.

Mayor Jeff Scrima said while he 'wholeheartedly' supported the work at 1409 Arcadian Ave, he did not support the temporary storage site.

'There were delays and problems with what you submitted to the Plan Commission a number of times,' Scrima said. 'There were alternative places that we don't need to place an unneeded (burden on residents) just because the timing didn't work.'

Some of the commissioners were frustrated with the progress of First Student.

Commissioner Kevin Larson said he'll 'be watching' these developments closely and 'has the same concerns as residents on Prairie.' Commissioner Rick Congdon said, 'I don't want any more miscommunication and being on the same page would be welcomed.'

Meanwhile, Commissioner James Hoppe said 'what we need to do is step back and have some patience and other areas will fall into place.'