Leaders for Sussex and Lisbon agreed to disagree when it comes to the large-scale Meijer Foods development.
Lisbon and Sussex officials met Monday during a Joint Planning Committee meeting to discuss the Meijer development rezoning, conditional uses, and land use. In a vote that was purely symbolic, Lisbon leaders unanimously opposed the development while Sussex officials voted in favor.
By the end of the night, they had agreed to disagree.
Lisbon town officials cited concerns over the size of the development, storm water management on the site, and facets of Meijer’s conditional use. They were also concerned that the project didn’t fit into Sussex’s long-range comprehensive plan for the site at Highway 164 and Highway K.
Lisbon officials were brought into the fold since a portion of the town was annexed into Sussex as part of the land agreement.
“We aren’t opposed to Meijer as a business, but in respect to the larger scale I just think that site has historically been viewed as a place for a big-box store, but maybe not as big as this is,” said Lisbon Chairman Matt Gehrke.
Meijer is proposing to build a 191,000-square-foot, 24-hour, mixed grocery store and retail center at the site. The plans also include construction of a gas station, as well. Sussex amended its land use plan to accommodate the development.
One of the primary concerns brought forward by Lisbon officials was storm water management and drainage on the site. Engineers claim that all increased runoff due to new construction would be contained on site. Lisbon officials feared the current plan doesn’t adequately account for the significant rainfalls that are occurring more often in Wisconsin.
“I remember driving on Highway K and seeing a 100-foot river flowing across the street to the proposed site after a significant rainfall. It was a tremendous amount of water,” said Lisbon Supervisor Joe Osterman. “Do you want this to become a Lake Meijer?”
Lisbon officials were also critical of Sussex’s decision to amend its 2020 comprehensive plan to accommodate a development of the scale of Meijer. They said the development defies the small-town atmosphere officials were trying to maintain in the original document.
But Sussex officials viewed the 2020 plan as a working document subject to revisions as time progresses.
“It seems to me that when any document is prepared, it’s for the moment,” said Sussex Trustee Pat Tetzlaff. “When things change we need to lift that document off the paper, make it alive, and move forward. To keep it the same, it just seems to limit progress.”
A Contentious Meeting Ahead Thursday
Later in the evening, the Sussex Planning Commission reviewed a petition to urging commissioners to issue subpoenas and hold cross-examination of witnesses for the Meijer meeting set for Thursday.
Milwaukee attorney Joe Cincotta, who is representing two Lisbon families, urged the commissioners to here testimony about the merits of the project from consultants of the Meijer development. An ordinance allows the Plan Commission to subpoena anyone involved with a project to gain more information; if they believe they haven’t received enough to make an educated decision.
“I think it’s incumbent for those behind the project to provide evidence of the claims they are making about the project,” Cincotta said.
However, commissioners voted down the measure to issue subpoeanas. They argued they have plenty of information to make their decision on the Meijer project.
“I think we have gone over and above,” said Village President Greg Goetz. “I think we’ve got more than enough information to make our decision.”
The Plan Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. at Village Hall – or the community center if necessary - Thursday to reconvene the public hearing on the Meijer project. The public hearing is a continuation of the 4-hour hearing held Nov. 28. The commissioners could approve Meijer's conditional uses on the site that evening as well.