Parking lot costs keep rising
By Robert Cloud
Jeff Maiman wants to set the record straight.
The owner of the Wheelhouse Restaurant on the Chain O’ Lakes believes if his offsite parking lot is breaking the law, then so are other offsite lots throughout Waupaca County.
While Maiman did not want to discuss other businesses with offsite parking, a brief survey by the Waupaca County Post found several offsite commercial lots.
Parking for Camp Onoway is located across Rainbow Lake from the island, while parking for the Iola Car Show is spread throughout the area to accommodate the tens of thousands of visitors.
“You tell me how I’m breaking the law and they’re not,” Maiman said.
Maiman reiterated the arguments presented in his federal suit against Waupaca County.
Prior to purchasing the property in April 2015, county zoning told Maiman he could build the offsite parking lot without a permit.
The county did not inform Maiman that he could not use the property for parking until December 2015, after he began work on the project.
In May 2016, the county revised its zoning ordinance and the Wheelhouse parking lot became a prohibited land use.
“I should be grandfathered in like anybody else,” Maiman said.
The county cited Maiman for violating the revised zoning ordinance, then sued him.
“When they wrote me a citation, that was selective enforcement,” Maiman said, noting that the county was singling him out.
In a letter to the editor, which appears on this week’s Opinion page in the Waupaca County Post, Lorraine Koeper says neighbors who opposed the offsite parking lot “tried to resolve the situation amicably.”
“They offered to buy the residential property and make The Wheelhouse owner whole for the purchase price and any improvements,” Koeper says in her letter. “Commercial property located much closer to The Wheelhouse was for sale for $180,000. They hoped he would take the offer and buy the commercial parcel to solve his parking problem. The Wheelhouse owner paid about $285,000 for the residential property in the spring of 2015. Six months later he said he would not sell it for less than $450,000 firm – with no justification offered for that price. The neighbors wanted the problem solved, but they weren’t willing to fund a windfall.”
Maiman said $285,000 would not make him whole for the work he did to put in the parking lot and remodel the three-bedroom house that is on the four-acre parcel.
“I painted all the walls, took out the swimming pool, filled the pool’s hole, rebuilt the deck, tore out the jacuzzi and put on new roofs and gutters, replaced the paneling, carpeting, flooring and kitchen appliances,” Maiman said. “I spent $100,000-plus just on the house and I did most of the work myself.”
Maiman said he also had an investment in creating the parking lot.
“Based on what I put into it – the lawyers, excavation, cutting the trees, tearing out the stumps, the gravel fill, the house – $450,000 is what I had invested in the property,” Maiman said.
Maiman also said the other commercial property had not been for sale at the time he purchased the lot on the corner of County Trunk Q and Pleasant Park Lane.
Wheelhouse welcomes all customers
When asked about rumors that the Wheelhouse was refusing to serve people who opposed the parking lot, Maiman called several of his employees from the kitchen. He asked them to repeat what he told them during an employee meeting about customers who opposed the parking lot.
“Treat them like normal customers,” they said.
“We’re not going to turn away any customers, We need their business,” Maiman said.
On summer evenings, the Wheelhouse’s 75-car parking lot quickly fills up.
With about 30 employees during a busy shift, Maiman notes that without offsite parking, he would lose half his customers each night because employees’s vehicles would take nearly half the lot.
“That would run me out of business,” Maiman said.
Prior to building the lot on County Q and Pleasant Park Lane, Maiman leased a lot on County Q. The lease expired last year at about the same time as the property’s owner, Cal Lehman, passed away in April 2015. The lease was not renewed.
The old employee-parking site had been located across County Q from the parcel where Maiman wanted to put a new parking lot. He said there had been no complaints regarding the old lot.
“All I wanted is some parking for my employees,” Maiman said, noting that the lot is not open to customers and requires a sticker to use.
He said he never anticipated opposition to the parking lot or having to spend tens of thousands of dollars to fight the issue in court.
“I’m looking out for the future of the Wheelhouse and my employees,” Maiman said. “I’ll spend my last dime to do what I think is right.”