Gas station construction stopped

Gas station construction stopped

By James Larson

Construction of a new gas station and carry-out restaurant on the corner of Center Street and Richards Street, which has been opposed by some neighbors, has stopped pending a Board of Zoning Appeals (BOZA) hearing to be held next week.

A backhoe and other heavy equipment, which sat idle next to the partially-completed foundation and plumbing for several days, have been removed. A Bobcat skid-loader remains, along with stacked pallets of cinder blocks, a portable restroom and a pair of concrete mixers, behind a chain-link fence.

“I've been shut down for paperwork,” said Sayed Turab. Turab owns the lot and operated Jari's Takeout, which was razed this spring to make way for the new store, to be called Jari's Pantry.

Turab's permission to build, granted in January 2008, specified that all necessary permits had to be obtained within one year. 6th District Alderwoman Milele Coggs said in an email, “In April 2010 neighbors raised objections to the gas station...upon further research it was revealed that some permits...were not pulled until March of 2010.”

The email also said that the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) had issued cease and desist orders and that all permits had been rescinded.

Turab said part of the reason for the delay was that his financing, some of which came from the Milwaukee Economic Development Council (MEDC) and the State of Wisconsin, didn't come together in time.

“It is the city fighting the city now,” said Turab. “Why let me pour the foundation and then stop it? The money is already invested.”

Turab has had similar businesses in Milwaukee dating back to 1990.

Shea Schachameyer circulated a petition to stop the construction, and posted fliers encouraging neighors to attend the hearing and speak against having a gas station in the neighborhood.

“Richards is wider than most of the other streets around here, and all that extra traffic is going to come down our street,” Schachameyer said in a telephone interview. “I don't ride my bike past some intersections, like the one on Holton and North, because there's a gas station and all that traffic.”

Schachameyer said she expects crime to increase and property values to fall if the gas station opens, and that a gas station would provide a place for drug dealers and other criminals to loiter.

“There's a higher-than-usual number of homeowners around here,” said Schachameyer, “and I got 40 signatures just on these two blocks (the 2600 and 2700 blocks of North Richards).”

Schachameyer said neighbors also had concerns about graffiti and trash. DNS Online records show several complaints. Todd Wyler at the department said in a telephone interview that all complaints had been resolved with the exception of the BOZA issue.

Turab says he's trying to improve the neighborhood, and thinks his store will cut crime and raise property values. He also said the store will not sell alcohol, items that can be used as drug paraphernalia, or single cigarettes, and that it will be well-lit to deter illicit activities.

“There will be no business but legal business,” he said. “They cannot do illegal business in the light.” He also said he plans to have 16 security cameras inside the store and 16 outside and hire a security staff.

Job applications for Jari's Pantry specify that Turab is willing to provide a second chance to people that have a criminal record if they sign a pledge to refrain from criminal activities. Turab said he also plans to match customer donations to feed Milwaukee's hungry.

“This is what I can do, and I must not smell alcohol or see the effects of drugs,” Turab said. “I'm 63 years old. I could retire, but I want to do something for this neighborhood.”

Turab said he has been in the food business most of his life, starting as a child when he worked in bakeries his father owned in India and Pakistan. He said he later worked as a managing controller and project director for R.C. Cola in 26 countries in Africa and Europe.

When and if Jari's Pantry opens for business, Turab says he plans to sell E85 and E20 fuels “for a green America.” The planned menu includes Mexican and Italian food along with barbecued ribs and deli sandwiches.

“At all of my stores, we have never been a corner store,” said Turab. “We have always been a neighborhood store.”

“I don't know why they don't want to see this neighborhood grow.”


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