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Pabst lawyers digging into Kwik Trip vote

Aug. 12, 2013

City of Oconomowoc — A lawyer representing Pabst Farms called the recent vote denying a lot division and conditional-use permit to allow for construction of a new Kwik Trip, "very disconcerting."

Madison law firm DeWitt Ross & Stevens, which represents Pabst, is is researching whether Pabst Farms developers' local, state and even constitutional rights were violated by the Common Council's denial of the Kwik Trip requests at the July 26 council meeting.

"I can't think of an issue where city officials spent more time ... hundreds of hours. Then to vote the conditional-use permit down without any questions, or opportunity for our client to comment (is confusing and upsetting)," said attorney Jon Axelrod.

A special Plan Commission meeting preceded the council meeting; the commission unanimously recommended the items concerning the proposed Kwik Trip.

Kwik Trip had been working with officials after the Architectural Commission denied the plans in a close vote. The recent tweaking seemed to please officials enough to recommend the project to the council.

The council's first vote was on a certified survey map (CSM) to carve out a parcel of land from Pabst ownership for the Kwik Trip. The vote failed, 5-3, with Aldermen Mike Miller, Cathleen Slattery, Bob Morgan, Jim Larsen and Tom Strey voting no. Aldermen Dave Nold, Jim Preston and Rich Allen voted yes.

Mayor Jim Daley asked City Attorney Bill Chapman if a vote on the conditional-use would even be necessary after the CSM was rejected, and he said to continue. City Planner Jason Gallo explained that he thinks Kwik Trip has complied with all zoning and conforms to the conditional-use permit being requested.

"Then I encourage discussion at length," Daley said, adding that the earlier vote could be construed as not allowing a development in an allowable area. "We need a firm record of what your reasons are," he said.

Allen also asked for more discussion, confused on whether the officials who voted no did so because they did not want a Kwik Trip there, or they just didn't approve the land division.

"That's supposed to be a destination stop. That side of the road is coming into our city, and we don't need a gas station there," he said, explaining that a gas station already exists across the street.

Slattery agreed with Miller. She added that she had safety concerns about the amount of traffic coming out of the proposed gas station and car wash that would cross a bike and pedestrian trail. She noted that zoning for that area had been changed from office to commercial and that she did not agree with the change.

"I don't think it we should be chopping up Pabst into pieces. We are going to set a precedent moving forward. This is not the precedent I think the people who sat in these chairs before us ... we need to stop prostituting land in this city and take responsibility for lifelong decisions, and that's why I voted no, and that's why I will vote not for the conditional-use permit," she said.

Slattery took issue with a recent Focus article in which she was quoted on another statement she made before her vote about anything with the Pabst Farms name on it needing to be "blue ribbon" class. "Saying that we denied it for blue ribbon class is simply not true," she said in an email Aug. 7.

Axelrod said the firm is reviewing the facts to see whether the reasons council members cited for voting against the Kwik Trip are legally defensible.

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