Dan Hewitt's property includes DJ's Pub and Grill along with residential buildings, and it's been a business of one type or another for about 90 years.
However, it has never been zoned as a business parcel, and that hasn't made a difference until the Janesville Road construction project.
The pub sits 10 feet off of Janesville Road and will be razed as the construction crews widen the road in 2013 as part of the multi-year project hoped to revitalize the downtown business district. Hewitt wants to rebuild the business, which would include an upstairs living space like the building has now, but will need to be rezoned as a business in order to do so.
And some residents aren't too happy about that.
While many residents at this week's Common Council meeting hoped there was some way for Hewitt to continue his business, some were suspicious over what could happen if the property was rezoned. Instead, they wanted to see the business granted "grandfather status," which can allow a property to continue existing under a certain zoning but not conform to it.
"I don't personally want to see him lose his business, but I'm not convinced it has to be rezoned," said resident Jerry LeClaire. "Show me a law, show me a statute, show me something that rezoning is required in order for DJ to go ahead and do what he wants to do."
"Any kind of a vote on a rezoning has to wait until at least we see a plan in order to have transparency and get away from any possible thoughts that other people might have as to what is the real reason behind this," LeClaire added.
Dave Taube was more direct on his suspicion, stating "the 3,000-square-foot structure DJ is proposing is amazingly similar to the one Mr. (developer Michael) Dilworth was proposing on the park on the lake project next door. It raises the question, who are you really dealing with?"
Another resident felt the business should not be rebuilt at all.
"This is a lakeshore property, even if it technically does not have lake access. I'm sorry he's losing his business, but a lot of residents are losing their homes, too, and that's just the price," said Debra Bolton.
"I'm not going to lament the loss of a tavern in Muskego — taverns are a nuisance business," she added. "You have something that is open until two in the morning and is commonly associated with drunk and disorderly conduct... Muskego residents are going to find a new place to drink."
Hewitt's proposed building would have to comply with new "downtown revival" zoning that would allow for a new business to be constructed on the land.
"This zoning district allows buildings closer to the street frontage (as close as 10
feet) and was originally created for parcels along the downtown of Janesville Road that were affected by the project in some way," City Planner Jeff Muenkel explained in a memo to council.
Responding to residents' concerns at the meeting, Muenkel said the zoning for new building could not be "grandfathered" because the entire structure is being demolished, and there would be nothing to apply the grandfather clause to.
"Anytime a structure is removed, if it is rebuilt, we have to comply with current zoning, and the legal non-conforming use it was operating under is eliminated," Muenkel explained.
He used the example of a deck off the back of a home which was built prior to the city's incorporation and exceeded codes. The deck could remain 'as is,' but once it was torn down, the newly-built deck would have to comply to current building codes.
Council members asked if there was a conditional use that could allow for the business to operate under residential zoning, but the planning department said such a grant would have to be created by the city, as none exists now.
Additionally, it would set a precedent in allowing other residential properties to also operate as a business if such a conditional use were created.
Overall, residents who were concerned over the lack of a formal plan were told that the matter would still need to be presented with complete plans to the Plan Commission, which is scheduled to meet July 9 before further action would be taken.
In addition, the council did not take any action as the ordinance to change the zoning was only a first reading, and will come back to council later in July.