MEQUON TOWN CENTER
Backwoods restaurant decision likely
Aldermen poised to decide Logemann fate in October

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

Sept. 19, 2017

MEQUON — After waiting for a study – and, some say, kicking the can down the road numerous times – the Mequon Common Council may finally decide if it will permit a restaurant to be built at the old Logemann Center.

During a meeting that inched toward midnight due to a long discussion over rezoning for a subdivision, aldermen had one major item left on their agenda Sept. 12 – acting on recommendations in a study of parking in the Town Center area.

The city received a 110-page-long report in August from the $58,238 study that it commissioned from Cedarburg-based Traffic Analysis and Design Inc. After an hour of discussion then, the council expected to bring the matter back up at its September meeting and consider specific recommendations.

City staff prepared a comprehensive memo that included a variety of scenarios and parking configurations. They opened their late-night presentation by suggesting decisions might be best made at a separate workshop.

Alderman John Wirth immediately suggested tabling any talk of a workshop and a related closed session about an offer to purchase the Logemann Center for a restaurant. He argued aldermen first needed to address “the elephant in the room” – whether to permit former Alderman John Leszcynski’s plans for the Backwoods Pub & Grill restaurant.

“It’s only fair,” Wirth said. He’s kind of been dragged along since February. I think this has been an awful process. Shame on us. There comes a time when you have to make your case – and make a decision.”

After some discussion, aldermen voted unanimously to table the parking discussion and forgo the planned closed session.

Wirth’s motion included a timeline with numerous deadlines to keep the process moving along:

Staff is to provide Leszcynski and the Common Council a draft offer by today that the city attorney believes meets all directions the Common Council has given to staff. At the same time, staff will provide a written summary of its position regarding the offer.

Within two weeks of the draft offer, Lesczynski is to provide a written counter-offer and an update of his initial presentation showing anticipated changes, including building size and amenities.

All responses by either party should be delivered to Common Council members prior to the next Common Council meeting Oct. 12.

The Common Council will “vote up or down with possible amendments” Oct. 12 to Lesczynski’s proposal, Wirth said.

Leszcynski spoke at the beginning of the Sept. 12 parking discussion. He said there was “incompetence and major bias” in TADI’s study. He claimed it did not conduct the parking counts as they were requested by the city and, as a result, the results were skewed.

“There is absolutely no excuse for altering this taxpayer-funded study,” he said. “What’s been done is a breach of contract. They didn’t do what they were hired to do.”

John Bieberitz, president and project manager for TADI, provided a lengthy response by email when asked to respond to Lesczynski’s concerns. Beiberitz argued that the traffic counts did what the city asked and provided an accurate representation of demand in the Town Center area under various scenarios.

“In general, to summarize, the recommendations/findings of the parking study for the Backwoods Pub & Grill is NOT based on one particular count day as John L. suggests, but rather on several days and several hours of parking counts and traffic counts and on over 20 studies of restaurants of similar size and use,” Bieberitz wrote.

In part, the TADI study concluded there is not enough parking to accommodate the Backwoods restaurant. It recommended razing the Logemann Center – a now-shuttered community center that is west of Mequon City Hall and the first phase of the Town Center – and reconfiguring that space and the existing City Hall parking lots to provide up to 59 more parking spaces.

In an email the day after the meeting, Leszcynski told the News Graphic he believes many aldermen have “a lack of confidence” in the traffic study.

“Our mayor and city staff think the study is gospel,” he said. “Most council members find it flawed and highly biased. That’s why there was very little interest in the traffic study presentation. Council members are embarrassed the way this has been dragged out by staff and they decided to exercise their authority and call for a vote.”

Alderman Mark Gierl said he believes the Backwoods restaurant will not need the 111 to 126 parking spaces TADI has estimated it will require.

“This has gone on way too long. … He only needs 60 parking stalls,” Gierl said. “The Logemann Center (parking lot) is empty most of the time; there were six cars parked there at 5:30 tonight. … These numbers are way off. This is a dysfunctional process to say the least. Quit wasting his time.”

Email: gachterberg@conleynet.com

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