West Allis - Seeking to head off such things as storage yards or heavy manufacturing from coming to a portion of Highway 100, West Allis officials propose rezoning properties that are currently manufacturing to commercial.

There's nothing wrong with manufacturing or storage, Steve Schaer, planning and zoning manager, is quick to point out, just maybe not on Highway 100.

"The Highway 100 corridor has become a retail, commercial area," Schaer said. "We feel the commercial market has set the pace." Also, the city's comprehensive 2030 land use plan calls for more stores, restaurants and offices along the thoroughfare, he said.

But rezoning is not a done deal.

Comments wanted

"We want to see the comments and concerns of property owners and officials," Schaer said. Some businesses might not want to become legal, but nonconforming uses.

The first comments were to have been taken at a hearing on Tuesday, with another hearing for additional proposed rezonings on Dec. 6.

The area in question is between Greenfield Avenue and Becher Street where 24 properties are zoned manufacturing. Only one is vacant, the AMF bowling alley that is now up for sale and one of the triggers for the city concern, Schaer said,

A new owner could tear the AMF building down and create outdoor storage or even rebuild as a manufacturing company, he said.

No change

Even if the properties are rezoned, companies can continue as they always have. However, if they move, another manufacturer would have to move in within a year or the property would have to be used as a retail business.

Not that many businesses would be affected by rezoning to commercial. Many of the 24 properties zoned manufacturing are actually commercial, anyway, including Sam's Club, McDonald's Restaurant and and Allied Pool. All are allowed under manufacturing zoning.

The main businesses that would be affected are American State Equipment, a material handling, paving and general contracting firm; the Badger Truck Center that has a dealership and repair center; a car rental agency; Able K/B/S Kohler showroom and warehouse; and Lexco Tile and Stone, Schaer said. Parts or all of their businesses would become legal but nonconforming to zoning.

Kohler, which only recently built on Highway 100, would  be fine as far as its showroom goes, but its warehouse would become nonconforming. Lexco Tile's showroom also would be fine, but its outdoor storage would become nonconforming.

Ironically, Days Inn that is currently nonconforming would become a conforming use with a change to commercial zoning.

Both manufacturing and commercial land uses have their advantages, Schaer said.

Pros and cons

Manufacturing provides jobs while commercial brings shoppers and diners into the area where they spend money keeping businesses going that pay taxes and add to quality of life, he said.

While city officials feel Highway 100 isn't the best spot for manufacturing, it once was.

Borden's dairy, Crestwood Bakery, the Excalibur company and a 7-Up bottling plant all were located in that stretch of Highway 100, Schaer said.

All have left. Sam's Club, McDonald's and Starbucks are now where Borden's used to be, he said. Culver's Restaurant and the shopping center behind it are where Crestwood Bakery used to be. Some of that land probably also is where the bottling company was, as he remembered, Schaer said. Allied Pool is where Excalibur was, he said.

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