Panda Express, strip mall plans for Gasthaus site denied

Traffic, impact on nearby businesses among concerns [PHOTO GALLERY]

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:02 pm

Plans for a strip mall and Panda Express at the site of Weissgerber’s Gasthaus are on hold after the Waukesha Plan Commission voted 5-1 to deny preliminary site plans for the development.

A subsidiary of Panda Restaurant Group had proposed to build a 9,800-square-foot, multi-tenant retail and restaurant building at 2720 N. Grandview Blvd. with retail and restaurants, along with a standalone Panda Express.

The commission also voted unanimously to deny a conditional use permit for the Panda Express.

When the developer first brought the plans to the city in April, city staff recommended against it citing concerns with having two drive-thru restaurants on the site, traffic and issues with the architecture. At the time, the Plan Commission opted to put the project on hold.

The Gasthaus restaurant has since closed and the developer purchased the property for $1.6 million.

The revised plans brought to the Plan Commission eliminated a drive-thru restaurant on the strip mall, opting instead for outdoor seating. The architecture was also improved and the plans attempted to incorporate a gateway feature at the corner of Grandview and Silvernail Road.

The issue that ultimately sunk the proposal centered on traffic, with plans calling for the closure of a median allowing vehicles to turn into businesses north of Silvernail. There were also disputes over what would be done to mitigate traffic concerns.

Donald Murn, an attorney for the developer, said his client was willing to pay for a future study of the need for traffic lights, while city staff recommended the developer pay for the actual lights.

Owners of businesses located north of Silvernail spoke out against the plan, with David Schmidt, owner of a Mobil gas station on the corner, saying the closure of the median could put him out of business.

Several Plan Commission members cited their concern for neighboring businesses in voting against the proposal, which commissioner Andy Reiland said would be good for the area “no question about it.”

Waukesha Public Works direct Fred Abadi said differences in the peak traffic times for the proposed development and the Gasthaus made potential traffic problems worse, although several speakers noted the area can already be difficult to navigate.

“This is a difficult site no matter what development goes in there,” said commissioner Mike Payne, the lone vote against the denial.

Murn was more pointed in his comments ahead of the vote, saying the traffic concerns and disagreement over what money would be set aside for was not a proper standard for denying the preliminary plans.

“What you’re basically saying is this parcel is never going to be developed because there’s an existing traffic problem,” Murn said. “That means your zoning is ineffective and you’re making a ruling based, not on fact, but on will.”

Murn did not respond to an email and call Thursday seeking information on the developer’s plans for the project moving forward.



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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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