Decision to deny request is latest hurdle in developer’s effort to build drive-through restaurant in Grafton Commons
Plans to build a drive-through McDonald’s restaurant on Grafton’s east side struck another hurdle Tuesday when the village’s Plan Commission rejected the developer’s application for a conditional-use permit.
In voting 5-2 to deny Continental Grafton LLC’s request, the commission concurred with a recommendation by Director of Planning and Development Jessica Wolff, who said the project would not conform to an ordinance regulating construction in the Grafton Commons shopping center.
Continental wants to build a 60th-anniversary-styled McDonald’s on Highway 60 just west of I-43 at the south end of the Grafton Commons property. In March, the Plan Commission approved a permit for the restaurant with the condition that the Village Board adopt a zoning code language change allowing the business as an exception to an ordinance prohibiting restaurants with drive-through lanes in the C-4 freeway interchange district.
The Village Board denied the request in April, but Grafton officials agreed last month to reconsider the project after acknowledging that the parcel is part of planned unit development (PUD) for the Grafton Commons and not linked to the C-4 district.
However, in a report to the commission, Wolff said an ordinance requires all construction in the Grafton Commons to be completed within three years after the village approved zoning for the shopping center on April 18, 2006.
“Staff has determined that the PUD district plans are considered null and void,” Wolff said.
Wolff said Continental still has the option of submitting a rezoning application for the C-4 district or an updated PUD plan. Either process, she said, would require a public hearing, Plan Commission recommendation and Village Board approval.
Wolff’s recommendation and the commission’s decision to reconsider the project drew fire from Continental attorney Deborah Tomczyk, who during a public hearing Tuesday criticized the village for its handling of the permit request.
Tomczyk said Continental and McDonald’s officials spent a year working with village staff to prepare project plans and have complied with all requirements. She said the village’s planning department first recommended approving the project, which the Plan Commission initially did, but has since reversed course.
“Nothing has changed with the project,” Tomczyk told the commission.
“The village approved the design and site plans. We’re looking for you to stand behind the decision you made in March.”
In recent weeks, Continental filed a lawsuit in Ozaukee County circuit court challenging the denial of the permit, sought an injunction to prevent the commission from taking any further action on the project, asked the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals to direct the building
inspector to issue site plan and building permits for the restaurant, and filed a complaint alleging the village violated the state’s Open Meetings Law by discussing the project in closed session.
Earlier Tuesday, a judge declined to grant the injunction, a ruling Village Attorney Michael Herbrand said supports the village’s decision to reconsider the permit application.
“The Plan Commission’s approval (in March) was contingent on a zoning code text amendment, but that has since changed,” Herbrand said.
The only village resident who spoke during the public hearing was Bill Hass, who said he supports Continental’s effort to build a McDonald’s.
“As a citizen, I would like to have a fast-food restaurant in this location,” Hass told the commission.
“The village has tried for years to attract a restaurant to the site. Let them build.”
Tomczyk urged the commission to approve the permit Tuesday. Continental is prepared to continue its legal fight to have the restaurant built, a decision that could cost taxpayers in litigation fees, she said.
However, commission members voiced concern about making a decision without going through another full approval process.
“For us to make a quick decision tonight, I think that would be a big mistake,” commission member Randy Silasiri said.
“We’re not stopping the project, we’re just restarting the process.”
Village President Jim Brunnquell, the commission chairman, concurred. He said that bypassing the process would send the wrong message to other developers.
“We talk about having to treat developers fairly. If we are not consistent in that approach, as a developer, I wouldn’t come to the village,” Brunnquell said.
Commission member Kletti suggested a decision on the permit request be delayed until after the Board of Appeals considers Continental’s request in June, but no one else spoke in favor of that option.
Joining Brunnquell in voting to deny the permit were Silasiri, Mark Paschke, Carl Harms and Amy Plato. Kletti and David Liss cast the dissenting votes.
The village was given 20 days to respond to Continental’s lawsuit following the May 13 filing date, after which the court may issue a ruling.