Town of Waukesha chairman, supervisor dispute Walgreens

Published on: 11/12/2013

Construction of a Walgreens/Aldi in the Town of Waukesha has begun at the southwest corner of Sunset Drive and Highway X.

But the question over Walgreens' hours of operation that the town has wrestled with since the summer is still lingering.

Town of Waukesha Chairman John Marek says that question has been answered and the store will be a 24-hour operation.

Supervisor Joe Banske, however, says Marek is not correct and says the store, at W260 S3139 Genesee Road, will operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, the two, who rarely see eye-to-eye on issues, continue to voice their clear displeasure for one another over the issue.

The issue it appears will come to a head tonight. The Town of Waukesha Board will once again discuss and possibly take action on a resolution to reaffirm a decision on the hours of operation it made at a July 11 meeting.

Hour limitation

In July, the Town Board approved Walgreens to be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a 24-hour drive-through pharmacy.

The approval was against the Plan Commission's recommendation of a 24-hour store and against Walgreens' request in its plan of operation application of 24 hours unless the manager adjusted.

The application, however, noted the minimum hours of operation would be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and weekends. According to Town Board minutes, Mark Lake of MRED-Cummings, who owns the parcel, agreed to those hours.

Banske said if MRED-Cummings didn't put in the limited hours he would have voted to deny the project.

The item returned before the Town Board at its Aug. 22 meeting for reconsideration. Lake said he would like to have the ability to have a 24-hour operation.

Given Lake's request, Marek looked to amend the board's previous decision. But with only Supervisor Brian Fischer voting with Marek, a 24-hour operation failed, 3-2.

Overturning decision

The controversy, however, remains because of events that have happened since then.

At the request of Marek, a Title 4 review was done by longtime Plan Commissioner Bob Flanagan. Town Attorney Hector de la Mora had said at the time a Title 4 review did not apply in this case.

"What concerns me the most is that John directed in contrast to what de la Mora told him prior to Flanagan doing the review," Banske said. "That's a huge problem. John's not in a position that affords him the luxury to do that. He doesn't have statutory authority."

According to the Town of Waukesha ordinance, Title 4 says "any person aggrieved by an administrative determination of the Town Board or a board, commission, committee, agency, officer or employee of the Town of Waukesha or agent acting on its behalf may have such determination reviewed."

Under Title 4, Flanagan overturned the decision and said the Town Board does not have the ability to alter or modify the petitioner's plan of operation.

Resolution for clarity

Banske then brought in attorney, William Dineen of Crivello Carlson, to an October Town Board meeting, who agreed that a Title 4 review was not applicable in this case and instead should have went through the board of zoning appeals.

But Marek said the 30 days that the town had to file a challenge to Flanagan's ruling has passed and he is under the impression the 24-hour operation is in place.

Knowing disagreements existed, Banske issued a resolution at the last Town Board meeting to reaffirm the town's July 11 vote. Marek called the resolution "three pages of nonsense."

But the vote took an interesting turn when Supervisor Mike Laska's Skype device lost connection. He and others utilize the device when they can't attend meetings.

And during the winter months, he spends his time in Texas and uses videoconferencing to tune into meetings.

Marek, who has looked at eliminating the use of videoconferencing at meetings, said "that's another great example on why that nonsense should not be allowed."

Laska has stated that connecting this way show's his commitment and that the town is adapting to technology.

Banske said he could have reconnected Laska and the vote most likely would have been in his favor. But he didn't feel it was appropriate given Laska was disconnected during the discussion.

Board members argue

Asked about voting on the matter again, Marek didn't hold back in criticizing Banske.

"His objective is obstructionalism," Marek said. "Mr. Banske is an obstructionist."

Banske wasn't surprised by Marek's comments.

"If you disagree with John and if you stand up for what you believe you are obstructing the process," Banske said. "He campaigned we're going to bring the town board together and end the bickering, but since he's been in office he has told incredible lies about me. He has created an environment 100 times worse than anything Everett (German, a former supervisor) complained about with Angie (Van Scyoc, the former chairwoman).

"It's dirty Washington D.C.-type politics. That's what I have experienced over and over with John's dirty politics. You can't disagree with him or else he brings out the dirty language. It's been an ugly six to eight months of working."

Banske said if Walgreens doesn't comply with the hours of operation restrictions the board will enforce fines. He said he voted on the hours restriction because of the opposition a 24-hour store received when he conducted a survey.

"It was the only win-win situation I could find that still benefits the tax base and mitigates the impact of the neighbors in that community," Banske said.

Long process

The hours of operation disagreement is the latest in what has been a lengthy process for this development, which borders a 50-home subdivision (it grew objections from these neighbors).

It started in 2009 when the Plan Commission and Town Board approved changing the town's comprehensive land use plan on that corner from low density residential to a mixed use. Two of the board members were later recalled.

With a new Town Board in place, it denied a zoning change in early 2012, which would have made way for the new stores. Homeowners, who were selling the property to MRED-Cummings, then petitioned for annexation into the city. But the request was denied by the city last year because it wasn't going to change the area from residential.

The development returned to the Town of Waukesha this summer where the Town Board approved the Plan Commission's recommendation of the stores.

"It's a great thing that this is moving forward," Marek said. "It's unfortunate that it was a four, five-year process. It doesn't speak too well of the Town of Waukesha."