Stein's Garden and Gifts' plans for an outdoor garden center in a municipal lot were rejected by the Whitefish Bay Plan Commission Tuesday night.
The commission voted 5-1 to deny Stein's proposal to erect a temporary garden center, called "Stein's Just Plants," in the back of the parking lot behind Associated Bank from April 30 through July 6 in 2012. Only chairperson Julie Siegel supported the company's request.
Several commissioners said their vote was swayed against Stein's after hearing concerns from Silver Spring retailers about the loss in parking spaces.
Bill Kregel of Fitzgerald's Pharmacy said he still has a sour taste in his mouth after the road construction in 2009, but he said he was happy with the results. He said the lot behind his business is slightly smaller than it was after reconstruction this summer, and between employees and customers, the lot is packed.
"If you come there on a Saturday morning, you can't even come close to parking in that lot," he said.
Several commissioners urged the representatives from Stein's to draft a new proposal in a new location and possibly a smaller footprint. If Stein's submits a new proposal to the Plan Commission and it is approved, it will be up to the Village Board to approve a lease.
The proposed garden center would have taken up between 14 to 16 parking spaces in the northern edge of the 66-space lot nearest Beaumont Avenue and Consaul Place.
As part of the agreement, the garden center would have paid the village $15,000 in rent and donated 500 pumpkins for the Great Pumpkin Festival and flowers to the Public Works Department.
Pat Slugg, who owns Ruhama's with his wife Dawn, said the impact of a parking shortage is greater than the rent Stein's would have paid for the parking lot.
"I don't think any one of us can justify that $15,000 in our loss of business. We stand to lose a lot more in business than a measly $15,000 because we are going to lose those parking spaces," he said. "Ruhama's has been here 51 years. Fitzgerald's has been here 55 years. You can ask anyone who's been around here as long as we have," Slugg said. "This is a disaster."
The Village Board approved Stein's concept in July as a one-year trial that would not set a precedent. The trustees' approval was also contingent upon a portion of the money going toward the parking utility, to which BID businesses contribute money.
At that meeting Whitefish Bay Business Improvement District Chairman John Stuhlmacher said the BID board voted unanimously in opposition to Stein's proposal, mostly due to the loss in parking. He did agree that $15,000 to the village parking utility would be the best place for any contribution to the village.
To clear up any confusion regarding the BID's earlier position, Stuhlmacher wrote a letter to Plan Commissioners stating the BID took a second vote at its most recent meeting. That vote, too, unanimously opposed the Stein's proposal.
"The general consensus was that the monetary 'incentive' does not outweigh versus broader concerns," said Stuhlmacher, who is also a co-owner of Winkie's. "Particularly, much needed parking will be lost for an extended period of time which will be, at best an inconvenience to customers and, at worst, yet another reason for customers to shop somewhere else."
The garden center aims to open 10 to 12 of the temporary garden centers, known as “Stein Just Plants,” in 2012. The flower centers first opened in 2010, and they expanded with five new locations this year.