Council delays Casey’s vote amid traffic concerns

Port aldermen, residents are worried about impact of gas station and convenience store on Grand Avenue

A rendering shows what the Casey's General Store proposed for Port Washington's west site would look like. City officials and residents expressed concern Tuesday about the impact the gas station and convenience store would have on Grand Avenue.
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday tabled action on a conditional use permit that would set the conditions for a Casey’s General Store proposed for Port Washington’s west side.

Much of the discussion Tuesday revolved around traffic, particularly access to the site from Grand Avenue.

Casey’s has proposed improving and sharing the existing access to Eernisse Funeral Home — a proposal the state Department of Transportation is reviewing, said Lauren Downing, project manager with ARC Design Resources, which is designing the store for Casey’s.

The DOT, which approved the access as a temporary measure when the road was reconstructed in 2011, has said they need to go through the process of modifying the access, which would require the addition of a turn lane, Downing said.

Joe Eernisse of Eernisse Funeral Home said while his business supports Casey’s, he is concerned about potential safety issues, especially since there isn’t a turn lane now.

“It seems like it has a lot of potential for accidents and is not very safe at this point,” he said during a public hearing on the conditional use permit.   

Mayor Marty Becker noted that he received a letter from Kendel Feilen and Kathleen O’Sullivan-Feilen that also expressed concern about traffic in the area, saying they fear that Casey’s and a residential development proposed to the north would overload the highway there.

The couple also questioned the need for a gas station in the area, something Lynn Cosentine, 217 W. Jackson St., also stressed.

“I think it’s one of the last things we need in the city,” Cosentine said, noting a 90-second drive to the west brings motorists to Walmart and gas stations in Saukville.

“I don’t think it enhances Port,” she added, noting the city draws people due to its charm. “There’s nothing charming about a gas station.”

Ald. Mike Gasper agreed, saying it would not create an inviting western entrance to the city, especially since the six gas pumps and a parking lot would be located in front of the 4,286-square-foot brick building Casey’s wants to build on the site it plans to buy from Ozaukee County.

“I think a gas station can work here. I don’t think this is it,” he said, saying the plan might work better with the pumps behind the building where they are less visible.

Gasper also compared Casey’s to the Kwik Trip in Saukville, saying the Saukville store is assessed at about $690,000 per acre while the Aster Street houses near the proposed Casey’s are assessed at about $1.25 million per acre.

“We’d get a better value if we plop a couple houses on it,” he said.

Ald. Jonathan Pleitner said neighbors are concerned not just about safety but also about noise, light pollution and cleanliness of the property.

“It’s not the ideal use of this land,” he said.

Single-family houses would be difficult to site there because of the roundabout at the Grand Avenue-Highway LL intersection, Ald. Mike Ehrlich, an architect, said, adding a commercial use is better for the site.

City Administrator Mark Grams said Ozaukee County has had the site on the market for five years, and Casey’s is the only business to make an offer.

“How long do you want to wait for that ideal development?” he asked. “They’re not racing to the county’s door for this site. It’s a difficult site.

“You can talk about all the taxes it (Casey’s) generates or doesn’t generate, but right now you’re getting nothing.”

Ald. John Sigwart suggested the city not act on the conditional use permit until it hears from the DOT about the Grand Avenue access issue — something Downing said could take six months for the agency to decide — while Ehrlich said conditions could be written into the permit to incorporate whatever the DOT decides.

Aldermen will discuss the matter again when they meet on Tuesday, Aug. 21.


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