Franklin - The Meijer grocery and department store inched closer to reality Tuesday as the Common Council unanimously voted to allow its proposed 191,000-square-foot plan.
The project still needs to be compatible with state Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation restrictions that will be reviewed Aug. 9 by the Plan Commission.
If those issues are ironed out, the project will be back in front of the Common Council on Aug. 21 for potential final approval.
The store is slated for construction at the eastern corner of Loomis and St. Martin's roads.
"We're hopeful that we can work everything out by the end of August," said Brian Randall, an attorney who represents Meijer who said the project would be on track for a 2013 opening. "It was important for us to get the size restriction lifted."
The restriction was part of the City of Franklin Comprehensive Master Plan that capped planned developments at 125,000 square feet.
By approving the plan amendment, council members said, the result is that future developers may come to the city without facing a size restriction. The council then may review each project on its individual merits.
Pros and cons
Meijer's merits have been debated by residents for several weeks now. Remarks by Darrell Luedtke, a 20-year resident who supports the project, and Linda Horn, a seven-year resident who opposes it, were representative of those who have appealed to the council.
"I believe Meijer is a good company and it will attract other development," Luedtke said. "We have other businesses around us and they do not present a problem."
Horn said she feels the 24-hour operation will be disruptive.
"I just hope they can work out shorter hours," she said. "I'm also concerned about the wetlands and the water runoff that will affect homeowners like me."
The city is waiting for word from the DNR. A June 29 letter from the agency indicated a number of development issues. Since then Mayor Tom Taylor has been in touch with DNR personnel who indicate the development should be able to work with state restrictions.
Another concern comes from the DOT, which is prohibiting access to the store parking lot from Highway 100, thereby directing more traffic to residential streets.
Meijer has offered to pay for a Highway 100 entrance and exit, though Randall said approval may not come until 2019.
The Meijer proposal also has made a neighboring development rethink its plans. United Financial Group, based in Appleton, which has favored the Meijer project, is considering reorganizing.
It now wants to situate its project further from Meijer's 24-hour operation and mix its senior housing with units for young professionals.
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