A parade of angry town of Waukesha residents filled the seats in town hall and enjoined their officials to oppose the granting of a conditional use permit to a developer for a proposed event venue and banquet facility on Lawnsdale Road.
They got what they wanted.
The town board, after 4½ hours at the Feb. 9 meeting, denied a conditional use permit for the venue, dubbed Lilac Acres, on a 4-1 vote. Chairman John Marek was the lone dissenter.
The venue – a rustic 3,200-square-foot banquet hall with a bar and a 2,000-square foot deck that would host around 90 events a year – was planned to be situated on about 20 acres of farmland at S47 W23045 Lawnsdale Road, just west of Highway 164 near the Mill Creek Estates.
The vote came after numerous residents and adjacent property owners railed against the proposal for Lilac Acres during a three-hour public hearing. Among the most cited issues were increased traffic, concerns about noise, the venue's hours of operation, the prospect of intoxicated drivers, and assertions that the structure would ruin the aesthetic character of the surrounding neighborhood and potentially lower property values.
"The biggest concern I have (is) is this going to decrease the quality of life we have in that area," said nearby property owner Eric Regenfelder. "If we allow these commercial entities to start coming into our residential areas, the town is not going to be a great place to live."
A handful of residents also said they would move if the permit was granted.
Ken Miller, a developer and town plan commissioner, was the petitioner. He said his daughter Sara would run Lilac Acres.
The public hearing was held in front of the plan commission, but the town board had the final say on the conditional use permit, said Town Attorney John Macy. The plan commission recommended denial.
In compliance with law, Ken Miller recused himself from the commission to make the proposal to avoid a conflict of interest, and Macy said Miller had no role in the commission's decision on his petition for the permit.
"I know of no ethics violation," Macy said.
According to its business plan, Lilac Acres planned to host weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, fundraisers, meetings and conferences. The venue could support up to 200 guests and would operate primarily on weekends from 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.
The business planned to use two grain silos on site to reinforce the bucolic ambiance, according to planning documents, but an old barn on the property had to be razed about a month ago because it could not be refurbished, Miller said.
Denial of the permit does not mean Miller cannot apply for another one, but a new permit could only be granted if any future proposal for Lilac Acres is altered.