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Four Points hotel in Oak Creek grounded by airport restrictions

March 13, 2013

Oak Creek - After years of discussion and planning, developer Syner G's proposed Four Points Sheraton Hotel may be 20 feet too tall for county regulation.

The revelation was delivered by zoning administrator Pete Wagner at Tuesday's Plan Commission meeting. That, and a multitude of other concerns, led to a motion to table approval of the site plan by commissioners Tuesday night.

There are other issues, including non-approval by the state Department of Transportation to allow the hotel full access on Howell Avenue, thus effectively eliminating left turns out of the 408-room hotel's parking lot.

Too tall an order

But the main obstacle for local officials was that the 55-foot proposed hotel did not receive approval from the Federal Aviation Association nor Milwaukee County, both of which limit building heights near General Mitchell International Airport to 35 feet.

In the planned unit development for the hotel, the language stated that at no point should the building exceed 60 feet in height and that any height variances needed from the FAA and Milwaukee County were the responsibility of the applicant.

If Syner G can prove to the FAA that its building will be properly lit for airplanes to see, the developer could be cleared to build the 55-foot tall hotel. Milwaukee County, according to Wagner, usually falls in line with the FAA's judgment.

Stating that he had spoken with a representative from the airport shortly before the Monday meeting, Wagner added that the representative told him Syner G was well aware of the height restrictions and were going to take care of them in 2008.

"I wasn't aware of it until the airport rep talked to me at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon," Wagner said.

He added, "I thought it might have been taken care of and it was an oversight by the airport representative. We would like to see development go on that site, but that would be a condition that would need to be taken care of."

When asked by Alderman Daniel Bukiewicz if he was aware of the FAA regulation, Syner G representative Eric Nordness said it was news to him.

Other bad turns

The hotel has other obstacles to overcome beside its height.

Another concern was put forward by Plan Commissioner Brian Johnston regarding the Department of Transportation's role in the site's access to Howell Avenue. The DOT has not approved full access to the site, which would limit hotel lot exits to left-turn only.

"That would probably be an issue," Nordness said.

Other concerns on the site included:

 

That the plan add screening for rooftop equipment, more species diversity (with trees in the landscape), and a seven-foot buffer between fire hydrants and trees;

 

That the developers contact a biologist about keeping geese out of their retention pond;

 

And that the developers avoid planting trees on a sanitary sewer.

While the developers were able to answer a few questions posed by the commissioners and said they would make calls to address the various issues, the plethora of concerns prompted Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi to ask for the approval of the site to be tabled.

"Although the project has been talked about ad nauseam for three-plus years, there are still too many questions," Scaffidi said, adding: "The obvious one is the airport question. It's appalling to me that I'm sitting here listening to a discussion about a 55-foot-high hotel in a 35-foot-area. That seems nuts to me."

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