John "Johnny V" Vassallo withdrew his proposal to construct a 20-story, 340-unit apartment tower
southwest of West Bluemound and North Mayfair roads in Wauwatosa, about 90 minutes before city leaders were to consider denying it at a Common Council meeting.
The move prevented the project from being denied, which would have prevented Vassallo from coming back with the same or similar proposal for six months.
Vassallo, owner of Mo's Restaurants
, leads the investors group that is pursuing the project.
The group informed the city at around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, 90 minutes before a scheduled Common Council meeting, that it was withdrawing its proposal.
Mayor Dennis McBride said during the council meeting he would honor the request. A vote to deny the project did not take place.
The withdrawal came after Vassallo's original proposal
— a 25-story, 354-unit tower — met stiff opposition from city residents and leaders who sit on the Wauwatosa Plan Commission and Community Affairs Committee.
His scaled-back plans did not fare much better
at the most recent Community Affairs Committee last week. The group of aldermen endorsed a denial of the project, and that denial was to get a final vote on Tuesday evening.
Lawyer Brian Randall, who represents Vassallo's group in the project, said in a letter to the city the group hasn't been afforded an opportunity to respond to various claims brought up by residents and in previous committee hearings.
"We are withdrawing the applications primarily because of some of the comments made during the most recent Community Affairs Committee meeting and our inability under the current procedural position to engage in further planning and design dialogue as part of our project planning process," Randall wrote.
Particularly, the investors group took issue with some claims made by lawyer Joseph Cincotta, who spoke at last week's meeting on behalf of a group of residents.
Cincotta claimed the specific rezoning Vassallo's group was pursuing, called a planned unit development, was being "stretched beyond what is appropriate." He also said the rezoning request was illegal according to state statutes, as it went against the city's comprehensive plan. City staffers contended the proposal was consistent with various components of the comprehensive plan.
Randall also noted that hours before the withdrawal request, the investors group was notified a citizen petition had been filed with the city that required a three-fourths majority vote from the Common Council to approve the rezoning request.
"The petition filed raises a number of legal and factual questions that we do not believe can be fairly considered on the same day of the meeting," Randall wrote.
Vassallo did not respond to a request for comment.
Aldermen at last week's committee meeting said they were disappointed with Vassallo's new proposal, because it did not seem to address neighbors' concerns. Residents opposed to the project argue it is too tall, too dense and would create traffic issues.
“I think this was a wasted opportunity for the applicant to heed some of the advice the committee gave him at the last meeting, and come back with a proposal to keep this conversation going,” Alderman Joe Tilleson said last week.