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West Allis revisits some business zoning rules, but doesn't open the door to all proposals

April 9, 2013

West Allis - West Allis officials are still sorting out what businesses should go where, and not everyone will get the place they want.

As it now stands, second-hand shops could have a wider range of potential locations, but a tattoo parlor that wants to open downtown and a former restaurant property in a residential area remain in limbo.

Second time around

The Plan Commission has recommended that second-hand shops that don't sell expensive jewelry or gold now be allowed in all commercially zoned areas except downtown.

A couple of years ago the city had lumped them in with pawn shops and relegated them all to Highway 100 from about Oklahoma to Lincoln avenues. For businesses such as the Playroom Closet, that caused a problem.

Owner Janice Edwards had operated the Playroom Closet at 93rd Street and Greenfield Avenue for many years before moving the children's clothing and toys consignment shop to 1320 S. 108th St. Under the city's current zoning rules, that new location isn't valid. Under the new rules, which must still be approved by the Common Council, it would be.

She isn't the only one who would benefit from the rule revision.

The city gets a lot of questions from business owners whose main business is selling new merchandise, but who also refurbish used articles to sell. That's especially true of electronic stores that sell used as well as new computers, said Bart Griepentrog, a city planner.

With a greater awareness of recycling, businesses are increasingly offering used merchandise alongside new. The proposed ordinance change recognizes that.

"This makes more sense in today's economy with recycling," Griepentrog said.

The Common Council could vote May 7 on the ordinance change.

Pierced by tattoo interpretation

What won't go to the Common Council is a request to change city ordinances so that a tattoo shop can open downtown.

The Downtown Business Improvement District supported the request, but wanted the city to require tattoo shops to be at least 2,000 feet apart. That put the Plan Commission in a bit of a quandary.

If it recommended the ordinance change, the tattoo shop could not open where it wants to because the space would be beside a body piercing business.

The BID argued those are two different kinds of businesses, but the Plan Commission didn't see it that way.

"It's all body art," said Steve Schaer, planning and zoning manager. "It would be splitting hairs."

More than that, the city attorney said the city would need a solid reason for requiring separation so it doesn't get sued. The commission and staff didn't believe there was a satisfactory reason, such as increased crime or loitering.

So, the commission left the ordinance as it is.

No place to eat

As for the old restaurant site whose neighbors are people, not business, no new decision has been made on the future of that lot.

The site was previously used by Pleasant Valley Inn, 9801 W. Dakota St., which had operated there since the 1940s and continued under a grandfather clause until it closed, Griepentrog said.

The property is zoned for single-family homes. The property has been for sale for about a year.

To open a business there would mean the property would have to be rezoned. But to avoid spot zoning, the whole area would need to be rezoned, which is unlikely, Griepentrog said.

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