The Wauwatosa Common Council's Feb. 7 denial of a zoning change at the proposed site of The Ruckus caught council member Joel Tilleson by surprise.
His support for the project is unwavering and the way the vote proceeded caused him to utilize a procedural strategy to keep the matter from being closed.
"This extended opportunity to reconsider will allow people to think about their vote," Tilleson said. "I worry this (vote) is going to drive away projects that the city could benefit from."
Due to a protest petition filed with the city by the property owners adjacent to the site, the vote required three-quarters of the council to vote in favor of a zoning change that would make the lot approved for a business. When five of the 16 aldermen voted against the ordinance, approval for Ruckus developers to proceed with their plan was denied.
Tilleson changed his vote from supporting the zoning change to opposing it so that he could bring the matter back to the council for reconsideration. City Attorney Alan Kesner said in order to bring the motion to reconsider, Tilleson had to amend his vote and he needed to do so before the presiding officer, Mayor Kathy Ehley, announced the vote total.
"I am strongly in support of this proposal and I think most people in the city are supportive of it," Tilleson said. "It is a parliamentary procedure available to any member of the council on any issue. It allows for a cooling off period."
Another rezoning vote
The motion to reconsider places the matter on the agenda of the next council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
The parcel where the restaurant is proposed at 8334 W. North Ave. has been dormant since a gas station closed over a year ago. The lot is currently zoned for residential use but the gas station was "grandfathered" and allowed to operate despite the property's zoning status.
In previous meetings regarding the project, neighbors have expressed concerns about things such as exhaust, parking, hours of operation and potential loss of property value. Colectivo is the developer looking to build the burger and custard stand in the MidTown Tosa location.
"We respect the process. It is too early to tell what the outcome will be," Scott Schwebel from Colectivo said. "When you believe in something that you think will be great you follow through until it is over. We've encountered resistance before."
RELATED: The Ruckus opens in Shorewood
Neighbors voice opposition
In attendance at the Feb. 7 meeting were about two dozen local residents who showed up to voice their opposition to changing the zoning on the property. The proceedings that took place left some of them in attendance to ponder about the motivations of the council members who voted in favor of the zoning change.
"I don't think it is fair to the citizens," said Andy Ryther, who lives next door to the site. "I was pleased with the outcome at first. Until Joel reversed his vote just so he could reconsider."
Both of the alderwomen who represent District 6, Allison Byrne and Kelly Rifelj, voted in favor of the rezoning. District 6 is the location of the proposed site and the surrounding neighborhood.
Byrne confirmed her vote for the change, citing the fact that no one has come along and offered to develop the property into a residence and believes this project is the best option.
Other council members voting against the zoning change were Michael Walsh, Nancy Welch, Tim Hanson, John Dubinski and James Moldenhauer.
"We seem to think that money and development trump any impact on a neighborhood," Welch said.
Tilleson said he understands the concerns of the neighbors and his fellow council members. He said he thinks the momentum by the citizens of Wauwatosa to slow development may get in the way of proposals that make sense.
"I don't doubt that there is going to be increased traffic," Tilleson said. "This project happens to be about the redevelopment of an abandoned gas station."