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O'Reilly OK'd despite not fitting East Tosa plan

Aldermen say there's no legal footing for denying business

March 21, 2012

An O'Reilly Auto Parts will soon occupy the space where Blockbuster once stood in East Tosa, despite concerns from some residents that it may not fit with the city's vision for the neighborhood.

At the recommendation of the Community Development Committee, the Common Council on Tuesday voted, 11-3, to adopt a resolution approving a conditional-use request for the more than 5,000-square-foot auto parts store at 6102 W. North Ave.

Aldermen Linda Nikcevich, Bobby Pantuso and Michael Walsh provided the dissenting votes.

Diverges from master plan

Walsh, who represents the 5th District, said advancing a development that is inconsistent with the recently adopted master plan for the East Tosa commercial district sends the message to neighborhood residents that their input is not valuable.

Likewise, Nikcevich, 1st District alderwoman, expressed concern that the O'Reilly development would not be a good first step in the goal of implementing as much of the North Avenue plan as possible.

"(Residents) had trusted us with our approval of the plan last year that we would do our very best to implement this vision, to fund this vision and to use our authority to make this vision a reality - in simple terms, to make North Avenue great," Walsh said.

Walsh emphasized that while O'Reilly Auto Parts may be considered a "good" development, good is not good enough when it comes to urban planning.

Fellow aldermen, however, could not find a good enough reason to reject the proposal.

"For this particular conditional-use permit, it's the reuse of an existing building," said Jill Organ, 4th District alderwoman. "There's no demolition, there's no rebuilding, there's no rezoning, there's no redevelopment. What legal footing do we have to stand on to deny this building owner's reuse of this building?"

Giving life to vacant space

In the current economy, it's much more likely that larger, nationwide companies can afford to rehabilitate vacant properties, 7th District Alderman Donald Birschel added. Economic conditions must improve for small businesses to take a chance, and having vacant properties will not help.

Fourth District Alderman Dennis McBride also noted that implementation of the East Tosa master plan currently is not funded. Before the city can expect to get the plan up and running, it must commit to invest in setting the stage for further development, through such initiatives as improved parking lots, pedestrian areas and seating.

In the meantime, although the O'Reilly proposal may not be ideal, it simply is not practical to leave a large property vacant, McBride said.

According to the resolution adopted by the council, O'Reilly Auto Parts will operate from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

No vehicle repairs will be permitted in the approximately 40-stall parking lot or on adjacent streets, except for those to lights, batteries and windshield wipers, and no overnight parking of customer vehicles will be allowed.

A landscape plan and any freestanding and exterior signs for the site will require approval by the city design review board.

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