Delay in state decision on Casey's highway access irks local officials

Hwy. 33 gas station project was proposed a year ago
Ozaukee Press staff

A year after the project was first proposed, local officials last week said they are frustrated with the state’s inaction in granting access at the intersection of Highway 33 and Highway LL where a Casey’s General Store is planned.

“This must not be at the top of their priority list,” Ozaukee County Administrator Jason Dzwinel told the county Public Works Committee last week. “This is taking an incredibly long time.”

“I’m surprised they’re (Casey’s) is still interested,” Supr. David Larson, a committee member, said.

Casey’s has proposed building a 4,286-square-foot red brick gas station, store and car wash at the northwest corner of Grand Avenue, also known as Highway 33, and Highway LL.

Casey’s officials have said they would invest $4.3 million in the site. They also said the company plans to sell the northern three acres of the site for additional development, presumably commercial or residential development.

But access to Highway 33 and LL is key, officials say. They have petitioned the state Department of Transportation to find out if the agency will allow the existing median cut to remain with the addition of a left-turn lane on eastbound Grand Avenue for the store.

County Public Works Director Jon Edgren told county supervisors that a meeting was held recently with DOT officials where they expected their questions to be answered.

The DOT officials told county officials the cost of creating an access point on Highway 33 would be $55,000.

But Edgren said state officials seemed surprised when asked about Highway LL access.

“So we’re still waiting for access figures on LL,” Edgren said.

Edgren said the charges by the state are because the access points will be for private use, providing access to Eernisse Funeral Home and Casey’s.

If those become city streets, there would be no charge from the state, he said, but the City of Port Washington would be responsible for their maintenance.

“Ultimately, the decision to move forward lies with Casey’s and the City of Port Washington,” Dzwinel said. “Meanwhile, we’re waiting on the DOT, waiting on the DOT, and waiting, and waiting.” 

The city has also expressed concern with the time it’s taking the DOT to deal with the access issue.

“They’re taking their sweet time trying to decide what to do with this,” City Administrator Mark Grams told the Plan Commission last week, adding the agency is treating the issue like it’s one of access to I-94 instead of Highway 33.

“The DOT’s made it a complicated process, and we have to deal with it.”

The commission agreed last week to extend Casey’s conditional use permit for the site for another year due to the DOT’s inaction, but not without a heated debate.

“I think this is maybe not the right location,” commission member Eric Ryer said. 

Ald. Paul Neumyer, a member of the commission, agreed, saying, “I think that property could be better utilized.”

Neumyer noted that the last gas station on the city’s west side failed, and added that he doesn’t like the location next to a funeral home.

But Grams noted that the county has had the land for sale for years and Casey’s has been the only interested party.

“Maybe it’s not the ideal fit, but it’s not a bad fit,” Grams said. “We could sit here and wait for that dream business” but it could take years.

Lauren Downing, project manager with ARC Design Resources, which is designing the store for Casey’s, told the commission that the company is committed to the location.

“Casey’s thinks the site is worth it,” she said. “They wouldn’t still be putting money into it if they didn’t think it would be successful.”

Ryer suggested Casey’s flip its site plan, placing the gas pumps and canopy to the rear and the building up front, something Downing said would not work for the company.

Commission member Brenda Fritsch noted that would mean having the back of the building, a “large monolithic wall” on the street side of the structure.

“I’d rather see the front elevation of a building facing Highway 33 than the back of a building,” she said, adding that residential growth in the area may make Casey’s more successful than the last west-side gas station.

Ryer made a motion that the city not extend the conditional use permit, saying , “I think in due time something might come along that’s a better fit.”

While the motion garnered a second from commission member Tony Matera, they withdrew the motion after hearing that state law makes it virtually impossible to revoke the permit.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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