Germantown company’s expansion plans draw concerns
Gehl Foods seeks rezoning in prelude to possible new construction

By Dave Fidlin - For the Daily News

June 27, 2018

The exterior of Gehl Foods is seen June 29 in Germantown.
John Ehlke/Daily News

GERMANTOWN — A growing food services company has visions of eventually expanding operations in the heart of Germantown. Details, however, will likely undergo heavy scrutiny in the months ahead before any firm decisions are made.

Members of the village’s Plan Commission combed through several technical issues related to the proposed rezoning of parcels near Gehl Foods’ corporate campus. The land under the microscope is at N116 W16076 Main St. and N116 W16060 Main St.

Stacy Cooke, project engineer with Gehl Foods, discussed with commissioners the company’s preliminary plans at a meeting Monday.

The company’s overtures include a request to have the two Main Street parcels zoned with a planned development district designation in anticipation of expansion adjacent to the existing plant operations.

Cooke said Gehl also “will be requesting leniency” on expansion plans that might not conform with municipal code. The company could ask the village for special exceptions with parking details and building heights.

During a wide-ranging discussion with commissioners, Cooke also revealed Gehl intended to raze four unoccupied homes on land it owns as part of the redevelopment process. Two of the four homes reportedly are in good condition.

“Unfortunately, things change on a day-by-day basis,” Cooke said, referring to the fluid nature of the planning process.

Later in the discussion, Cooke said, “We’re trying to be a good neighbor.”

Although the company has no immediate plans of building in place of the homes, Cooke said the company desires to have them razed expeditiously so they are not subjected to vandalism and other adverse impacts.

One of the homes already has met its face at the hands of a bulldozer.

“We’re going to want to tear them done sooner rather than later,” Cooke said. “We’re not in the business of renting out homes.”

Village President Dean Wolter, who chairs the Plan Commission, expressed astonishment with the plans to remove a residential component from the adjacent area.

“It will bring out strong opposition,” Wolter said of the proposal. “This is new information to me. I’m still upset about the (razed) house. We wanted to maintain some kind of residential feel. It’s hard to get past that.”

Trustee David Baum, who also sits on the Plan Commission, offered up similar concerns.

“The whole fabric of Main Street is being eroded away,” Baum said.

Although no firm recommendations were handed out at Monday’s meeting, commissioners offered up a number of directives, including a request to have a parking plan throughout the campus and conceptual details of how a corner parcel will be used.

Several commissioners said they believed the corner land would be best suited as green space, possibly in the form of a small-scale park.

“I think that would be appreciated,” Wolter said, pointing out it would offer up a premiere space for taking in Independence Day festivities.

Company officials also are being asked to furnish a long-range plan for the entire campus property and a timeline of when next steps might be occur.

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