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Parking Concerns Spike Stein's Garden's 'Just Plants' Proposal

Commissioners sided with business owners who feared loss of customers due to placement of temporary outdoor store.

Stein's Garden and Gifts' plans for an outdoor garden center in a municipal lot were rejected by the Whitefish Bay Plan Commission Tuesday night.

The commission voted 5-1 to deny Stein's proposal to erect a temporary garden center, called "Stein's Just Plants," in the back of the parking lot behind from April 30 through July 6 in 2012. Only chairperson Julie Siegel supported the company's request.

Several commissioners said their vote was swayed against Stein's after hearing concerns from Silver Spring retailers about the loss in parking spaces.

Bill Kregel of said he still has a sour taste in his mouth after the road construction in 2009, but he said he was happy with the results. He said the lot behind his business is slightly smaller than it was after reconstruction this summer, and between employees and customers, the lot is packed.

"If you come there on a Saturday morning, you can't even come close to parking in that lot," he said.

Several commissioners urged the representatives from Stein's to draft a new proposal in a new location and possibly a smaller footprint. If Stein's submits a new proposal to the Plan Commission and it is approved, it will be up to the Village Board to approve a lease.

The proposed garden center would have taken up between 14 to 16 parking spaces in the northern edge of the 66-space lot nearest Beaumont Avenue and Consaul Place.

As part of the agreement, the garden center would have paid the village $15,000 in rent and donated 500 pumpkins for the Great Pumpkin Festival and flowers to the Public Works Department.

Pat Slugg, who owns  with his wife Dawn, said the impact of a parking shortage is greater than the rent Stein's would have paid for the parking lot.

"I don't think any one of us can justify that $15,000 in our loss of business. We stand to lose a lot more in business than a measly $15,000 because we are going to lose those parking spaces," he said. "Ruhama's has been here 51 years. Fitzgerald's has been here 55 years. You can ask anyone who's been around here as long as we have," Slugg said. "This is a disaster."

The Village Board in July as a one-year trial that would not set a precedent. The trustees' approval was also contingent upon a portion of the money going toward the parking utility, to which BID businesses contribute money.

At that meeting Whitefish Bay Business Improvement District Chairman John Stuhlmacher said the BID board voted unanimously in opposition to Stein's proposal, mostly due to the loss in parking. He did agree that $15,000 to the village parking utility would be the best place for any contribution to the village.

To clear up any confusion regarding the BID's earlier position, Stuhlmacher wrote a letter to Plan Commissioners stating the BID took a second vote at its most recent meeting. That vote, too, unanimously opposed the Stein's proposal.

"The general consensus was that the monetary 'incentive' does not outweigh versus broader concerns," said Stuhlmacher, who is also a co-owner of . "Particularly, much needed parking will be lost for an extended period of time which will be, at best an inconvenience to customers and, at worst, yet another reason for customers to shop somewhere else."

The garden center aims to open 10 to 12 of the temporary garden centers, known as “Stein Just Plants,” in 2012. The flower centers first opened in 2010, and they expanded with five new locations this year.

Absolutelyfabulous September 21, 2011 at 11:49 AM
OK, this may be far fetched, but is it possible that a Low Income Tax Credit Housing proposal be made for the lot behind the Fox Bay Theater? I only say that because for the developers it's a guaranteed cash cow via people receiving rent assistance from the Gov't and if the Village rejected it could the developer possibly sue like what happend in New Berlin and then the US Gov't gets involved and sides w/ the developer over discriminatory housing policies and New Berlin suddenly backs down or faces a multimillion dollar lawsuit as well as major fines/penalties? Sorry for the run on. It'll be interesting to see what happens to that parking lot.
Absolutelyfabulous September 21, 2011 at 11:57 AM
Or, could some developer possibly present the idea of LITCH and New Berlin as an example to get what they really want from the Village + concessions/financial assistance.
Jeff Rumage September 21, 2011 at 04:51 PM
There was some discussion at the meeting about putting Stein's in the far west parking lot behind Starbucks, but because it was zoned for condominiums, they would have to go through an arduous rezoning process. That lot will either stay a parking lot or become the site of a condo.
Paul S, WFB September 21, 2011 at 07:37 PM
We can't even give it a try for one year?? I'll take their "measely" $15,000. No wonder WFB got run over by Glendale and Bayshore. If this location is that problematic, you'd think the village would work with them find an alternate location. I'm sure there's a good reason Dominican can't host them and take a $15k donation in the process.
Absolutelyfabulous September 21, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Patriot- See, I don't know if your responses are sarcastic. What I do know is Low Income Tax Credit Housing is the flavor of the day along w/ developments that receive Bond financing and a requirement for that type of development is that a portion of the units are set aside for low income persons. Now, that is what Mandel is doing in Shorewood ie bond financing w/ a lot owned by the municipality which could possibly mean more control over what is developed. This lot, behind Fox Bay, is privately owned. The only thing I wonder is for how many units it is currently zoned for. If a development meets zoning, then I don't know why they could not propose LITCH or Bond Financing w/ units set aside for lower income individuals. All I'm asking is if this is a potential possibility for this parcel as a reality or as a bargaining chip to get what a developer really wanted + concessions for larger development/monies to fund the development from the Village. Like I said previously, this may be completely far fetched, but what can it hurt to pose the question.

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