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April 2014

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Lisbon to stay out of Meijer controversy

Border agreement violated according to lawyer for opponents

Village of Sussex - A lawyer opposing the proposed Meijer supercenter at Highway 164 and Lisbon Road (Hwy. K) has hinted that he might challenge in court the construction of the nearly 200,000-square-foot store because he believes it violates a border agreement between the Village of Sussex and the Town of Lisbon.

Sussex Village Attorney John Macy adamantly disagreed with Joseph Cincotta who represents three Lisbon families who are objecting to the store.

Lisbon Town Chairman Matt Gehrke later said that the town intends to stay out of the fight between Cincotta and the village over the border agreement and the proposed development.

"We have had our attorney look into it. We might be able to do something that might delay the approvals, but at the end of the day it is going to get approved. It would be a waste of the taxpayer's money," Gehrke concluded.

The Sussex Plan Commission appears ready to approve next month a conditional use permit that will allow construction and operation of the supercenter.

The commission spent about two hours last week reviewing a proposed conditional use permit drafted by Macy and the village staff that included six findings of fact that help justify nearly three dozen conditions being placed on construction and operations of the store.

However, construction of the store cannot begin until the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issue environmental permits which may not occur until early summer at the soonest, according to Meijer officials.

After the commission meeting on Jan. 17, Cincotta said that he and his clients have not yet weighed their options on a possible court fight over the proposed development.

But Cincotta hinted at the possibility of legal action during a loud and lengthy argument with Macy and Village Administrator Jeremy Smith after the meeting. Although they often raised their voices, Macy and Cincotta remained civil to each other during the argument witnessed by plan commission members, residents and officials.

Cincotta argued the border agreement was violated because the town had not prepared a land use plan for the land where the Meijer site is proposed. In addition, he said, the land use plan should have been reviewed by a joint committee of town and village officials as required in the border agreement.

Furthermore, he argued, based on statements by town and village officials, it was the intent of the border agreement to prohibit "big box stores" from being located on land that borders the two communities.

"The approvals by the village are, in effect, unilaterally amending the Boundary Agreement and approving a development within the territory covered by the agreement contrary to its provisions and intent," Cincotta said in a letter to the Village Board.

Macy and Smith pointed out there is no reference written in the agreement to prohibiting "big box stores."

However, the village did amend the village code toincrease from 125,000 to 250,000 square feet the maximum permitted size of buildings in some zoning districts.

Macy and Smith also argued that the border agreement did not require the town to prepare a land use plan for the land where Meijer would be located. They said the agreement exempted that requirement from any lands that were eventually going to become part of the village which included the Meijer site

Officials may also face the challenge of crafting language in the conditional use permit that addresses a concern raised by Village President Greg Goetz about what happens if Meijer's closes.

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