Chain restaurant’s proposal now on hold
By Robert Cloud
A proposed amendment to the ordinance may change that.
In the summer of 2015, the county zoning office informed Jeff Maiman, owner of the Wheelhouse in Farmington, that he could build an employee parking lot about one-quarter mile from his restaurant.
A Sept. 18 letter to Maiman from County Zoning Director Ryan Brown indicated 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.”
The parking lot is located on the corner of County Trunk Q and Pleasant Park Lane. It is unpaved and provides space for about 40 cars.
Residents in the area opposed the parking lot, arguing that it violated the zoning ordinance because the parcel was zoned residential.
“I live in a quiet, residential neighborhood,” said James Pekar, who owns property on Pleasant Park Lane. “That’s why I bought a house here. I shouldn’t have to worry about a parking lot being constructed across the street. They’re unsightly, dangerous, disruptive and they kill your property value.”
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.
That appeal has since been dropped because the county now says the parking lot is not allowed under the zoning ordinance.
“We had a legal opinion and our interpretation of the ordinance allowed it to be a permitted use,” Brown said, regarding the parking lot. “The latest interpretation is that it’s a prohibited use.”
Maiman has since appealed the zoning denial of his parking lot with the Board of Adjustment.
The Board of Adjustment has not scheduled a hearing yet, and Maiman has not filed any application for a conditional use permit, Brown said.
The county is also in the process of amending its zoning ordinance.
Among the proposed changes, the ordinance would allow off-site parking.
“The Planning and Zoning Committee may issue a Conditional Use Permit to allow the parking spaces to be on a lot in an off-site location that is not contiguous to the lot containing the principal use, without regard to the off-site lot’s zoning classification under this Code, if they first determine that it is impractical or impossible for the owner to provide adequate parking on the same or adjoining lot,” according to the planned revision.
If the committee conditionally allows an off-site parking lot, the conditions it may consider include screening, lighting, dust control, hours of use or anything else that may be necessary for “the best interests of the health, safety and welfare of the residents.”
Opponents of the restaurant’s parking lot say the changes in the ordinance may impact the entire county and allow commercial parking lots in residential areas.
“All of Waupaca’s surrounding counties and counties across Wisconsin that allow off-site parking require those lots to be located on properties with the same zoning as the main property, or only on commercial property, and only within a closed distance to the main property, usually within 200 to 500 feet,” Lorraine Koeper told the Waupaca County Post. “Why should property owners in Waupaca County have less protection than owners in neighboring counties?”
Brown said the county reviews its zoning ordinance every year and makes amendments to resolve issues his office encountered during the previous building season.
“When we put together ordinances, we look at the entire county as a whole,” Brown said.
Nearly eight pages of amendments to the zoning ordinance are being proposed. Changes include the creation of conservancy districts, adjusting side setbacks from 20 to 15 feet, redefining the height of a structure and not requiring permits to build hunting blinds under 32 square feet.
The county Planning and Zoning Committee had scheduled a public hearing on the proposed ordinance revisions for March 4. The hearing was canceled after several towns asked that the hearing be delayed so they could have more time to discuss the changes.
No new date has been set on the public hearing. Brown said the goal is to have the hearing prior to the Waupaca County Board’s monthly meeting in April.