Commission delays vote on proposed Casey’s
Convenience store operator eyeing parcel on East Wisconsin Avenue

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

Jan. 11, 2018

OCONOMOWOC — After fielding a litany of concerns from nearby residents, an Oconomowoc panel has tabled its review of a proposed gas station and convenience store near the city’s easterly gateway off Highway 16.

Casey’s General Store, an Iowa-based company, is making a push into Southeastern Wisconsin with plans of opening scores of stores across multiple counties. The Oconomowoc location is proposed for the northeast corner of East Wisconsin Avenue and Lapham Street.

The Plan Commission on Wednesday discussed, but took no action, on a proposed zoning amendment for the 1.26-acre parcel. Commissioners also held off on issuing a recommendation for a conditional-use permit, which would be needed since fuel pumps are part of the operations plan.

During a public hearing, commissioners heard a range of concerns from residents. Several questioned the need for an additional gas and convenience store in an area where a number of similar establishments dot the landscape.

Ryan Swanson, a Casey’s representative, spoke of the company’s plans and said he believed the retailer offered a service that is not in the immediate area.

“Casey’s is a little bit different,” Swanson said. “It’s a larger store (compared to other convenience stores), and we offer fresh, made-to-order food, including breakfasts and baked goods.”
 

Concerns raised about traffic, property values

Other residents had concerns of traffic impact, aesthetics and how the development could impact property values — particularly for homes in the immediate vicinity.

“I have grave concerns about entering and exiting my community,” resident Rita Beckman told commissioners.

None of the residents attending supported Casey’s plans, but officials within City Hall are backing the company’s proposal.

“It’s new construction,” Jason Gallo, city planner and zoning administrator, said. “It will add to the tax base of the community.”

Amid deliberations, Mayor Dave Nold, who chairs the Plan Commission, said he did not believe the appointed body should take up Casey’s request at this time because of a larger-scale issue up for review next week.

The Common Council at its Jan. 16 meeting is slated to hold a second, and final, reading of an ordinance aimed at strengthening building design guidelines for future developments along East Wisconsin Avenue, from the Highway 67 bypass, west to Concord Road.

The parcel Casey’s is planning to build on falls within the area of scrutiny.

“At this time, I think we’re a little ahead of the game,” Nold said.

During deliberations, Gallo and several commissioners frequently pointed out a gas station already is permissible on the parcel, based on the general business zoning classification for the area. Outright denying a gas station at the site could open the city up to a lawsuit.

“Unfortunately, this is not something we can legislate,” commissioner John Gross said. “It’s up to the free market to decide. We have no choice on that. We cannot just say, ‘No more gas stations.’” City officials can, however, place parameters on the company’s business plan, including architectural details, hours of operation, landscaping, lighting and environmental safeguards.

The Common Council is not scheduled to review Casey’s plans at this Tuesday’s meeting. However, officials will still hold a public hearing, as originally planned.

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