West Allis officials concerned over what they say is a lack of code compliance

July 30, 2014

West Allis — A business owner's proposed new and used resale shop in one of West Allis' most visible shopping centers sparked a discussion recently about code compliance issues.

Members of the West Allis Plan Commission met Wednesday, July 23, and took up an application made by Rosa Salem, who is proposing the resale shop, Mom & Me, at 1530 and 1532 S. 84th St.

Mom & Me is to be located within State Fair Court II, one of three strip shopping centers south of State Fair Park. Salem's business plan had to go before commissioners because a special-use permit is needed under city code.

While commissioners were on board with bringing Mom & Me into a space occupied previously by Grecian Imports, concerns about code compliance violations permeated during the discussion.

According to city tax records, the State Fair Court shopping centers are owned by Thornton, Colorado-based Norwood Investments 84th LLC.

At last week's meeting, Bart Griepentrog, a planner in the city's zoning department, pointed to a number of property maintenance issues that previously were addressed with Norwood Investments representatives.

When an occupancy permit for a different tenant, Wings Academy Taekwondo, within the shopping center was taken up in September 2012, the city's inspection and zoning department raised concerns with a number of issues, including a large sign that was to be taken down and replaced and a requirement a large refuse container be enclosed.

The city also is taking aim at the lack of greenery throughout the commercial development.

"At the time of (the 2012) review, it was noted that an updated landscaping plan was to be submitted to show the species and quantities of landscaping in front of the new retaining wall," Griepentrog wrote in a memo. "Those details were never received."

According to city officials, one requirement – enclosing the large refuse container – was satisfied. But other issues have since cropped up, including a crumbling masonry wall on the perimeter of the property.

City staff expressed frustration with the lack of communication with Norwood Investments. Attempts at reaching an official for comment for this story were unsuccessful.

One proposal on the table was to deny Salem's permit – and any future tenants of the shopping center – until full compliance was achieved.

"I think we need to stop coddling business owners," commissioner Wayne Clark said.

In the end, however, commissioners recommended granting Salem the permit necessary to operate Mom & Me with the caveat Norwood Investments satisfy all of the city's issues by the end of the year.

If noncompliance remained an issue, commissioner Jean Wolfgang suggested issuing citations.

"We could do that, rather than penalize the tenant," she said. "But I would like to see enforcement on the part of the owner."

Mayor Dan Divine, who chairs the commission, said the city's inspection department is in the midst of a thorough review of properties flagged with prior violations.

"The list we have has some that are blatantly poor and others that have a few issues with dead trees," Divine said. "Then we have others that are in compliance."

City Planner Steve Schaefer said he is in the process of working with City Attorney Scott Post to determine how staff at city hall can most effectively enforce outstanding violations.

As for Mom & Me, there is one last step before Salem can begin operations at State Fair Court II. Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on the special use permit for the business during a public hearing at the next common council meeting on Aug. 5.

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