Fewer and fewer obstacles now stand in the way of a prospective Meijer supercenter locally.
The Meijer development, proposed for the corner of Tenny Avenue and East Sunset Drive in Waukesha, took a major step forward last week when the Plan Commission unanimously approved the final site plan and architectural review. The Common Council will now vote on final approval at an upcoming meeting.
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.
Less public outcry
It was the first time in 11 months that Meijer, a food, clothing and home merchandising store, was before a city panel. In the interim, there has been some activity involving project details, as well as a related road project, but there has been little public discussion.
Similarly, the Aug. 13 meeting was also comparably a lower-key affair.
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 at the Aug. 13 Plan Commission.
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 will be lost.
Fueling the concern
Heine also wanted the gas station to be removed from the project, citing six already within a mile-and-a-half radius of the proposal.
Steve Johnson, the alderman in the district where Meijer would be built and who had made a referral last year to have the gas station eliminated from Meijer's site plan, still thinks Meijer should consider altering its plans in that regard.
"I think that would go a long way to being a good neighbor like they've said they wanted to be," Johnson said.
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.
City staff are expected to discuss the changes that were proposed with the developers at the Aug. 13 Plan Commission meeting. One of the changes involves altering the layout of the gas station as a way to reduce the lighting for the neighbors.
While other aspects of Meijer's proposal have also been addressed in public concerns, last week's meeting revealed no major changes in the plan.
Meijer officials are still proposing a 24-hour operation for the supercenter, something the neighbors and Johnson have requested be reduced. Randall, however, 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.
Last year, residents also expressed safety concerns regarding traffic that will result from the supercenter, 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 land use from residential to commercial 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. City Planner Jennifer 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 doesn'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.
Meijer, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has more than 200 supercenters in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois and has been looking to expand into southeastern Wisconsin the last couple of years.
Meijer broke ground in Sussex, but construction recently stopped there until next year. Meanwhile, Randall said construction is underway for Meijer stores in Wauwatosa, Grafton, Kenosha and Oak Creek. Meijer is also planning stores in Greenfield and Janesville.