Janesville frontage road dispute might end up in court

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Thursday, May 26, 2011
— A disagreement about Milton Avenue frontage-road access near Morse Street could end up in Rock County Court.

The Janesville Zoning Board of Appeals after a 5˝-hour hearing on Tuesday upheld a conditional-use permit issued so Sara Investment Real Estate can build a gas station and fast-food restaurant on the corner there.

Nearby landowners argued against the project, saying the access would create traffic problems.

“We didn’t want them to so much deny the conditional-use permit as much as modify it by removing that access,” said Jon Groessl, an attorney representing Marwood Corp.

Marwood owns the land on which the nearby Kwik Trip is built.

Representatives from Sara Investment want to build a frontage road that would parallel Milton Avenue and curve north along Morse Street to serve its development at 3377 Milton Ave. The frontage road would connect to Milton Avenue at an existing drive just north of Kwik Trip.

Sara representatives say they need the Milton Avenue access to operate a successful business.

Attorneys for BLM Land, which owns the Sara development site, say the adjacent landowners are just fighting future competition.

The main issue is safety, countered Groessl, who said his client is deciding whether to take the case to Rock County Court. He cited increased traffic and a tight turning radius for trailers.

He also disputes the terms of a deed that held 10 feet of future frontage road in escrow.

Groessl said a deed releases a 10-foot gap, which the new frontage road would need to cross to connect to Milton Avenue, only if the northern property owner builds that road. He contends that the planned road is not really a frontage road but a private drive to the future gas station.

City planners required that the frontage road be one way so vehicles could only enter the Sara site from Milton Avenue and exit on Morse.

Fred Wesner, who represents BLM, told council members in early May that the concerns aren’t about safety but about competition.

Even an attorney representing Marwood said that is a concern.

“This will cannibalize the present local businesses if we have another gas station in this area,” Tara Spoon said, predicting that two gas stations ultimately would fail.

A second gas station operates on the other side of Milton Avenue. The owner of that business, Jim Campbell, also spoke against the new development citing safety concerns.

Both sides had experts testify at the zoning board’s meeting Tuesday to support their contentions.

Brad Schmidt, associate planner for the city, said planners believe the project would be safe. One reason is because they required that the frontage road be one-way.

Schmidt said the city must consider what is a permitted use of a potential development and give the OK if it meets minimum standards. It can’t dictate what it thinks the market requires.

Groessl said his client contends that the access would not be allowed today it if wasn’t already there.

This is just a trade-off the city made because it wants a development there, Groessl said.

Last updated: 5:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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