Buying A Blue Ribbon Dumb Lawsuit
There's "dumb", "dumber" and then there's "Blue Ribbon dumb", aka, the City of Oconomowoc Common Council.
Last month, by a 5-3 vote, the Oconomowoc Common Council denied a conditional use permit to Kwik Trip. Kwik Trip had been working for over a year to build a new gas station and car wash in the Pabst Farms development off Highway 67. The proposed Kwik Trip had previously received unanimous approval from the City Plan Commission.
In discussing the project, one member of the Council opined: "If you're going to put the Pabst name on it, it has to have blue-ribbon class". Presumably, the Alderwoman doesn't feel Kwik Trip meets that standard! (?)
Since "blue ribbon class" is not necessarily a valid reason for rejecting a conditional use permit, this ill-considered remark is the centerpiece of a $20 million claim filed by the developer against the City.
Here's the bottom line.
When Pabst Farms was originally proposed ten years ago, the world was a much different place. While it's not the moonscape that Milwaukee's Park East corridor has been for the last decade, Pabst Farms hasn't exactly been a magnet for high-end development. Therefore it certainly makes sense to, in the words of one Alderman, "provide services for people that live here, not who may come".
In some respects, the fight over Kwik Trip appears to be the first battle in what may be a long war. I expect a similar fight over plans to build a Walmart superstore and companion Sam's Club at Pabst Farms.
I think it would be great if Oconomowoc could somehow manage to re-create Chicago's Michigan Avenue at Pabst Farms. For a variety of reasons, primarily centered around lack of interest among retailers, this doesn't appear likely. In the meantime, Oconomowoc would do well to embrace the businesses that do want to locate in the community.
Personally, I'm a big fan of the Kwik Trip chain. I also certainly respect their refusal to be intimidated by union activists during the failed effort to recall Governor Walker. At the same time, I'm also a fan of creating jobs and contributing to the tax base of a community.
In other words, I think a second Kwik Trip would be an outstanding addition to Pabst Farms - and Oconomowoc's decision to shoot them down was "Blue Ribbon dumb".