Attorney appeals county zoning decision
By Robert Cloud
A restaurant’s plan to create additional parking space drew a crowd of Chain O’ Lakes residents to Farmington Town Hall Friday, Oct. 2.
Many of the people who live in the area are opposed to the planned parking lot.
Jeff Maiman, the owner of the Wheelhouse Restaurant, spoke to those in attendance about why his business needs the additional parking.
Maiman purchased a wooded 4-acre parcel on the corner of Pleasant Park Lane and County Trunk Q, about one-quarter mile from the restaurant.
Last month, he cleared out some of the trees on the property to make parking for up to 40 vehicles.
“I don’t plan to cut another tree,” Maiman said.
He said the remaining trees will serve as a buffer zone around the parking lot, which will be used only by employees of the restaurant.
“I employ 60 people,” Maiman said, noting that during the restaurant’s peak hours his employees’ cars may take 30 to 35 parking spaces, leaving less space available for customers.
For the past three years, Maiman said he leased parking space for employees in a nearby open field.
“I’m taking a parking lot from across the street and moving it where it’s less visible,” Maiman said.
He said he has heard untrue rumors circulating about the proposed parking lot.
“I’m not building big pole sheds, I’m not storing boats and I’m not running a shuttle service for customers,” Maiman said.
It will be gravel rather than paved and it will be illuminated by LED lights.
“I’m not trying to create a problem, I’m trying to solve a problem,” Maiman said.
Maiman made a letter detailing his plans available to the public. A copy of that letter appears this week on the Waupaca County Post Opinion page.
Opposition to parking lot
Lorraine Koeper, who lives on Pleasant Park Lane, has been trying to halt development of the parking lot for four months.
At the Oct. 2 meeting she said the decision to put a commercial parking lot on a residential parcel without a public hearing for a permit violates the county’s zoning codes.
On June 17, Koeper sent an email to Waupaca County Planning and Zoning Director Ryan Brown, regarding the Wheelhouse’s plans to put a commercial parking lot on a residential parcel.
Koeper noted that the Waupaca County Zoning Department “has taken the position that (the parking lot) would be permitted under the current zoning regulations and that nothing further needs to be considered on the matter. I am a retired corporate attorney and, while I never practiced zoning law, my reading of the zoning ordinance is just the opposite.”
In her email, Koeper wrote, “The use of residential property as a parking lot for a separate commercial business property is not listed as a permitted use for residential property and, therefore, that use would require a conditional use permit.”
Koeper argues that neighbors would expect that before the Zoning Committee issued a permit, there would be a public hearing where their concerns would be addressed.
“Given the facts and circumstances,” Koeper wrote, “including the general compatibility with surroundings, traffic impact, environmental impact, and other concerns, it would seem that such a conditional use permit would never be permitted.”
On June 25, Brown responded to Koeper in a letter.
“The zoning ordinance states, ‘Land uses that are not specifically listed are not necessarily excluded from locating within a given district.’ “This gives our department necessary latitude to apply some subjectivity where specific regulations do not exist,” Brown said in his letter.
“The proposed parking lot, in our opinion, does not represent a departure from future residential use nor does it conflict with the surrounding residential uses,” Brown said.
Brown argued that while the proposed parking lot will be for commercial use, it could just as easily be for residential use, which would not require a conditional use permit.
In a July 24 email, Koeper responded to Brown.
“Assuming that you are correct and the Ordinance gives your department latitude, I would assume you do not believe that it gives your department so much latitude that it can ignore the Ordinance, widely accepted zoning practices, the intent of the Ordinance, or other guidance that could be found in the Ordinance,” Koeper wrote. “Similarly, if this latitude is granted in the Ordinance, it seems highly irregular that there is no identifiable process by which this latitude should be exercised.”
Koeper’s email indicates she contacted Dean Richards, a Waukesha attorney who specializes in zoning and land use issues.
“He confirmed my understanding of parking lots as accessory uses, and that allowing a parking lot for a commercial business located down the road as an accessory use for a residential property would be extreme and inconsistent with general zoning principles,” Koeper said in her email. “In addition, I have consulted with faculty from UW-Stevens Point and other land use experts from across the state, and they have also confirmed the view that allowing a residential property to be used for a parking lot for a commercial business located down the road would be an extreme and very odd position for a zoning department to take.”
On Aug. 7, attorneys representing families who live on Pleasant Park Lane sent a letter to Brown regarding the proposed parking lot.
They asked Brown to immediately notify Maiman that he could not move forward on the parking lot. They asked that the Wheelhouse’s proposal go through the normal approval process with supporting documentation and that there be public hearings.
On Sept. 18, Brown sent a letter to Maiman indicating that his “project requires no authorization via the Waupaca County Planning and Zoning Office or administrative Committee’s permitting or rezone process in order to proceed.”
In the letter, Brown says the ordinance “does not clearly and unambiguously prohibit your intended project to be completed on the parcel, nor does it clearly indicate a permit is necessary for the intended project.”
Brown also advises Maiman that “this administrative determination may be appealed to the Board of Adjustment.”
“In addition, there may be civil remedies available to anyone aggrieved by the determination,” Brown said in the letter. “Please seek the assistance of counsel regarding the information contained in this letter, and any possible additional considerations, prior to the commencement of the project.”
On Sept. 24, attorney Thomas Gartner, of Michael Best and Friedrich LLP of Milwaukee, filed an appeal with the county Board of Adjustment on behalf of James and Lisa Pekar, who own property on Pleasant Park Lane.
The appeal argues that a commercial employee parking lot is not a permitted or conditional use on a parcel that has been zoned single-family residential.
It describes Brown’s interpretation of the ordinance as “nothing more or less than an illegal use variance, granted administratively without notice, hearing or any factual findings.”
Brown attended the Oct. 2 meeting in Farmington, but he refused to speak.
“The only reason why we’re here right now is for Jeff to address the people,” Brown said.
This response elicited jeers from the crowd.
At the end of the meeting, when Maiman thanked people for coming to hear what his plans were, the crowd applauded.