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Janesville vs. Menards

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Greg Peck
May 24, 2013

Under ordinary circumstances, most readers likely would agree that a business owner should have the right to use property for any desired purpose—within reason.

So was the Janesville Plan Commission right to reject, on a 6-1 vote, Menards’ plan to convert its vacant store at Pontiac Drive and Highway 14 into miniature storage units?

The property is in a visible location, at a crucial gateway to the city. The city staff recommended against a conditional-use permit for reuse of the building. Staffers believe that patience will bring the right tenant or buyer to make the property into something that will boost neighboring business opportunities and offer the right image for people entering Janesville.

Menards lawyer Tyler Edwards pointed out, however, that the company created similar storage facilities out of its vacant buildings in Sheboygan and Eau Claire. He suggested the proposal would have filled a vacant building, created jobs and bolstered tax revenues. He said the conversion wouldn’t necessarily have been permanent and that Menards still would have sold for a fair price.

Yet Duane Cherek, city planning services manager, suggested the reuse would have detracted from neighboring properties. He said redevelopment should fit efforts to make Janesville a regional shopping destination and that self-storage units typically are placed in industrial zoning and away from commercial areas and main highways.

Who’s right in this debate? We’ll share our perspectives in our editorial Saturday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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