New Berlin — A proposal to build a Costco members warehouse store and gas station on Moorland Road will go to the New Berlin Common Council on Monday, Aug. 26, for rezoning approval after the Plan Commission last week approved its building and site plans.
Several neighbors objected at the public hearing before the commission that the proposed Costco would result in many more cars on the narrow and picturesque Grange Avenue, that the retaining wall with a mximum height of 21-feet high was too dominating, that wildlife would be devastated and that the city was losing its rural flavor.
Zoning for the vast majority of the store's site between Grange Avenue on the south and Small Road on the north allows the kind of store being proposed. The requested rezoning is for two small sections of the site which is south of The Ridge Theater and another commercial building.
Laura Hintz was among residents who objected that Grange Avenue was too narrow and doesn't have any shoulders. Due to the lack of shoulders, she has to wait for cars to clear before she can step into the road to take the mail out of her mailbox, she said.
An estimated 75 additional cars in an hour would use Grange Avenue during the peak of business on Saturday afternoons and 50 cars would be added at the peak evening hour on weekdays, according to a traffic study done for Costco by Graef engineering.
The city's traffic engineer Tammy Simonson said the traffic report estimates that 7 percent of the roughly 1,080 trips in and out at the peak hour on Saturdays and of the 720 trips at the evening peak hour on weekdays would take Grange. Those living east of Moorland could take Grange or Small Road to reach the store.
Costco stores generally have about 5,500 to 6,000 trips per day, said Ted Johnson, president of TJ Design Strategies Ltd., planning, site development consulting firm, of Oak Brook, Ill. Johnson is Costco's development director for Midwest projects.
Based on Grange getting 7 percent of that average, the street could receive 385 to 420 more cars per day because of the Costco store.
"We're aware that Grange Avenue is a very narrow road," Simonson said. Some time ago, the city had proposed widening the road, but residents opposed the idea.
Neighbors were assured that no trucks would take Grange east of the store, but neighbors asked if there could be signs preventing cars coming out of the store from turning east.
That will be explored, Mayor Dave Ament said after the meeting.
Grange Avenue residents might be fighting an uphill battle, though, because a large section of farmland known as section 35 extending south of Grange is on the verge of being developed. It will have a northern exit onto Grange.
The traffic study estimated that once the homes, industrial and commercial building is done in 2025 it could add another 2,860 trips on the Saturday afternoon peak and another 3,135 trips at evening peak hour. It's unclear how many would use Grange Avenue.
It was the prospect of a portion of a proposed retaining wall being 21-feet tall that bothered neighbor Scott Jentsch.
"A 21-foot high retaining wall seems a little high," he said.
Jentsch was critical of the plan's impact on existing topography. Costco received a waiver of the city's requirement for 30 percent open space because its 25 percent open space plan also included more landscaping than required and incorporates underground storm water storage.
While the tallest portion of the retaining wall will be in the back, the plan is to plant evergreens at the base, Johnson said.
"On top of the wall we'll have plants cascade down the wall," he said.
Resident Laura Karel objected that the project would have a catastrophic impact on wildlife.
"This acreage is vital wildlife habitat," she said.
Neighbor Ron Gudinskas said the store would boost the city's tax base but could reduce the value of homes in the area.
"I can't imagine it would help to have a Costco around the corner," he said.
After the commission approved the building plans and recommended the rezoning virtually without comment, Gudinskas said, "Big money talks. I have clients in that area of business and I know they have a game strategy and 99 percent of the time they're going to succeed."
All people can do is try to reduce the impact, he said.
Hintz reacted, "I don't think traffic was taken into a full consideration."
Jentsch said, "In a utopian world we could keep all those trees."
Alderman Joe Stribl who sits on the commission said after the meeting: "Seeing other developments that could go in there, this could be the best use."
"The development is well-planned, well-thought out and fits in the community," he said.
COSTCO VITAL STATS
· 15300 W. Grange Ave., 17 acres on Moorland Road between Grange Avenue and Small Road
· 156,000-square-foot grocery/general merchandise store with attached tire center
· free-standing gas station
· Store hours: 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. weekdays; 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays
· Gas station hours: 6 a.m. daily; closing 9:30 p.m. weekdays; 7 p.m. weekends
· 75 percent of lights off after closing
· Targeted opening August 2015
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