City Plan Commission nixes Walgreen’s exceptions

The Kenosha City Plan Commission met earlier this evening.  The first two agenda items had to do with the special exception requests of Walgreen’s, 3805 – 80th Street, to the spacing requirements spelled out in the city’s zoning ordinances.  The applicable sections read:

No Class “A” (beer) License shall be located within 2,640 feet of any other city-issued Class “A” License, unless the proposed location held a Class “A” License within the three hundred sixty-five (365) days preceding the application; and

No “Class A” (liquor) License shall be located within 5,280 feet of any other city-issued “Class A” License, unless the proposed location held a “Class A” License within the three hundred sixty-five (365) days preceding the application.

Walgreen’s is requesting both retail beer and liquor licenses.  The commission voted 3 to 4 to 1 to deny the exceptions.  Those voting for were Alderperson Kevin Mathewson, Ron Stevens, and Mayor Keith Bosman, who is the chairman of the commission.  Those voting against were vice chairman and Alderperson Anthony Kennedy, Alderperson Jan Michalski, Kathryn Comstock, and Anderson Lattimore.  Robert Hayden abstained from both votes due to one of his family members being employed at Walgreen’s.

The two Walgreen’s representatives said that they spoke to the alderperson of the district, Daniel Prozanski, and Alderperson Curt Wilson, and the two alderpersons had no concerns.  Neither of these two alderpersons were present at the meeting.  The mayor said that “companies that make big investments in the community should be allowed to compete.  This will not be a 24-hour, seven day a week, operation.”

In a related item, the commission voted 4 to 4 to do away with these same spacing restrictions.  This amendment was sponsored by Alderperson Jesse Downing, and co-sponsored by Alderpersons Patrick Juliana and Rocco LaMacchia.  None of the alderpersons were in attendance at the meeting.

Stevens said that doing away with the spacing/distance requirements would eliminate the need for action by this commission.  “It would revert back to the way it was a few years ago.  The City Plan Commission would not be involved,” said Stevens.  Bosman said that these restrictions had been put in place a year ago, and they had been sponsored by Downing.  Jeff LaBahn, director of city development and inspections said that there were three requests of this nature prior to tonight, plus the two tonight, for a total of five exceptions.

Stevens wanted to know what Downing had in mind as he proposed to do away with these restrictions.  Michalski stated that his impression was that the spacing requirement was never enforced, and it was, therefore, superfluous.  Michalski said that he was not in support of doing away with the restrictions.  Comstrock agreed.  She said, “This is not how Kenosha should be viewed by outsiders, one tavern after another.”  The commission was reminded that these ordinances related to off-premises sales establishments.  They have nothing to do with license quotas.

Mathewson wanted to know if there were similar ordinances in other nearby villages, but LaBahn didn’t know.

Stevens thought that these ordinances were “a noble effort, but they don’t do anything.  We have other legislative bodies that control density.  There is not a lot of teeth in these ordinances.  There is no control.  I feel the repeal is good.”  Hayden agreed with Stevens.  “This is for retail only, not bars.  They’re not necessary.”

Kennedy said that he was the sole dissenting voter on the Licensing & Permit Committee, and he would explain the reason why.  The City Plan Commission review would be removed if this passes.  “We are responsible for the Kenosha of today and tomorrow.  We provide the long-term vision of the city.  Giving up the review takes us a step back.  I’m not supporting it,” Kennedy said.

Michalski said that he has a problem with the density of these outlets.  He stated that he was not supporting it.

Since there was a tie in the vote from this commission, no recommendation moves forward to the Common Council.  Those voting for the repeal of the section were Mathewson, Hayden, Stevens, and the mayor.  Those voting against were Kennedy, Michalski, Comstock, and Lattimore.

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