More than a dozen people holding yellow signs saying “No Meijer” protested the proposed development for Tenny Avenue and East Sunset Drive on Wednesday during the Waukesha Plan Commission.
“Ours is a residential neighborhood,” said Barbara Burton, who lives on Sweetbriar Avenue. “We live there because of the kind of community it offers us. We have a gazillion big box stores to choose from all over the community. We do not need another big box store.”
The majority of the people protesting the development live on Larchmont Drive, which is a block north of East Sunset Drive. The development is proposed for the southeast corner of the intersection, which is currently a vacant lot.
Despite the visible anger from the group – Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima had to remind them twice to allow speakers to talk – the proposal’s revisions were approved by the Plan Commission. Changes include lower light poles, additional landscaping and prohibiting trucks from traveling on Tenny Avenue past Waukesha South High School, on Larchmont Drive and Gramling Drive.
Meijer, a food, clothing and home goods store, is planning to locate in a vacant parcel of land on East Sunset Drive, pending all government approvals. Construction is planned to begin in 2014 with the store opening scheduled in 2015, if everything moves forward according to the preliminary timeline.
Tenny Avenue could eventually be expanded to the Highway 164/Highway 59 bypass.
Meijer officials said they’ve been talking with the neighbors and are willing to answer questions from Waukesha residents about their plan. The development is expected to bring 200-250 part- and full-time jobs to Waukesha.
A public hearing about the development is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at City Hall, 201 Delafield St. The developers are seeking approval to modify the land use on the 31-acre parcel from medium and medium-high residential to commercial and isolated natural resource area, as well as changing the zoning from temporary to community business planned unit development.
The public hearing is likely to last for a long time period as more than 200 people have signed a petition protesting Meijer, according to Waukesha resident Ken Heine.
“Do you think that a huge box store in the middle of an residential area is progress?” Heine asked.
Alderman Steve Johnson, who represents the neighborhood affected by the proposed Meijer development, plans to ask the store to remove a 24-hour operation component to the plans, as well as a gas station planned for the property.
However, Meijer is not willing to remove the 24-hour operation plan as it is a component of its business plan. The store wants to target shift workers, such as nurses, students working late and other people who grocery shop at non-peak hours.
“They certainly invest a lot in the store,” said the Meijer representative. “They have a presence in the store 24 hours.”
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