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North Avenue gas station plan returns

City panel praises plan, orders traffic study

Oct. 2, 2012

Ajit Walia, whose proposal for a gas station at the corner of North Avenue and 106th Street drew objections from residents and rejection at the Plan Commission in August, brought the plan to another city panel this week, where it was better received.

Staff supported the proposal and members of the Community Development Committee expressed interest and requested a traffic study for the site.

"Your plan of operation is one of the more comprehensive that's come before us," Alderman Bobby Pantuso told Walia.

City Development Director Paulette Enders said her staff has reviewed the plan and recommends it on "a number of conditions," including hours of operation and times and routes of tanker-truck delivery of gasoline. Walia said he would like to be open from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., but could live with a 5 a.m. to midnight schedule.

A different outlook

Walia said he was encouraged to approach the committee by Alderman Brian Ewerdt, whose 6th District includes Mayfair Mall, across the street from the site, which is the former location of a credit union. Ewerdt suggested that a panel of aldermen might view the proposal differently than the Plan Commission, which is made up largely of citizens.

"We weigh the neighborhood vs. what's best for the community," Pantuso said.

"This is a seasoned business owner who has been successful in a similar business," Ewerdt said.

The fact that there is no gas station near the mall is compelling, he said. The nearest gas stations are at Mayfair and Burleigh roads, and North Avenue and 124th Street. Each is about a mile from the proposed site.

"He's reached out to the community and done everything right," Ewerdt said.

Walia pointed out that he owns a BP gas station at 12th Street and Highland Avenue, near downtown Milwaukee, that has offices on top and looks unlike a typical gas station, a design praised by Alderman Dennis McBride.

"I like to work with my neighbors, because every neighbor is my customer," Walia said at the meeting.

Worried about traffic

Alderwoman Kathleen Causier, a member of the Plan Commission and the Community Development Committee, expressed concern about traffic coming and going from the station.

Alderwoman Cheryl Berdan said that because North Avenue is a boulevard with protected left-turn lanes, she doesn't view traffic as a problem, and voted against the traffic study.

"This is a business that is car-based replacing a business that is car-based," Pantuso said, referring to the former credit union, which was drive-through.

Kristian Sydow, vice president of the retail group of Grubb & Ellis, which is trying to market the property, said it has been a struggle to sell it.

"We've had some interest," he said. "A couple (of parties) have looked at it, and they've all walked away.

"The ideal use would be a bank, but no banks have come to the table."

Walia said he would pay for a traffic study; although when contacted later, he said he was surprised at the high quotes he was getting. The matter was delayed until a study is completed, possibly in six weeks.

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