September 16, 2009

Gas station in West Racine would be 'unacceptable' under work group's proposal

We reported last week on a West Racine "work group" that had been quietly meeting to discuss the vacant lot at the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard. The group included three aldermen and two top city development officials, along with eight or nine city residents.

The group was organized to gather a series of recommendations for the Redevelopment Authority of Racine, which owns the vacant lot. Despite being leaked a draft of the recommendations, we held off reporting them until a revised list could be put together. Now, we have the revised list - and it's very similar to the original list we saw last week.

That's not good news for Tom Tousis, the Racine businessman trying to build a bank, gas station, grocery store and sit-down restaurant on the site. At the same time, it's good news for opponents of the project.

The work group proposal labels the gas station an "unacceptable" use that is inconsistent with the West Racine plan. If approved by the Redevelopment Authority, the proposal may kill Tousis's $5 million development before it ever reaches the City Council. (The full list of recommendations is below.)

revised draft of recommendations out to members of the work group Tuesday night. People on the list included: Aldermen Aron Wisneski, Terry McCarthy and Jim Spangenberg; Jeannie Creekmore, Frank Ricchio, Keith Deschler, Jim and Sally Neitzel, Larry Gregg, Nancy Smith, Robert and Jenny Gonazlez, Robin Wilson, Steve Torosian and Timothy Casey.

(The group includes all five members of the West Racine Business Improvement District, plus West Racine business owners and residents, and the real estate agent listing the site.)

A public meeting on the recommendations is scheduled for Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. in the Sanctuary of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 3319 Washington Ave. The meeting will also be announced in West Racine with automated calls.

Here are the recommendations:

PREFERRED USES [revised text]

Preferred uses: High quality commercial development featuring street level retail is the preferred land use for the redevelopment. Examples of preferred uses are:

· Full service grocery.

· Table-service restaurant.

· Multi-tenant retail building, featuring shops such as: hobby shop, book store, bank or other savings deposit institution, gelato/ice cream shop, bicycle shop, jewelry store, men’s and/or women’s clothing store, and other specialty retail, except as prohibited below. The separately listed required and permitted uses may also be combined within the building. The building may be a conventional multitenant building or a market pavilion that blends common areas and pedestrian areas with the retail space.

· Outdoor seating.

Permitted uses: The Authority may permit, on a case-by-case basis, uses that are consistent with the objectives of the West Racine plan and are compatible with and supporting of the preferred uses. Such uses would not be the exclusive use of the property. Examples of permitted uses are:

· Owner-occupied housing units.

· Senior (55+) rental housing.

· Fast food restaurant without drive-through.

Unacceptable uses: The Authority shall not permit uses that are inconsistent with West Racine plan even though the use may be permitted by the zoning code of the City of Racine. Such uses include but are not limited to:

· Car wash.

· Gas Station.

· Pawn shop.

· Rental housing – general population.

· Buildings four stories or taller.

· Bar/tavern.

· Convenience stores.

· Car sales.

· Fast food with drive through.

· Rent-to-own store.

As a part of the acquisition and demolition of the buildings formerly on the property, the Authority removed certain uses from the property. The Authority will record a deed restriction prohibiting such uses from returning to the property. These uses are:

· Check cashing, pay day loan, and similar stores.

· Resale and second-hand stores.

· Tobacco store.

· Tattoo parlor.

· Automobile repair garage.


All proposals must consider and explicitly address the continued operation of the farmers market that is currently on the property. The size of the market, location on the site or relocation to another site, and other changes may be considered. The developer is expected to work with the West Racine Business Association, which is the sponsor of the farmers market, regarding its future.


  1. I have to agree. The business would have combined several of the unacceptable type. Fine for Douglas Ave. but not ideal for this spot.

  2. What a way to ensure that the lot remains vacant for another 9 years.

  3. Dustin, can you find out if this is illegal? It sounds like a few of the "godfathers" getting together to make rule for the rest of Racine. Can I start a group made up of my friends and place deed restrictions on my competition? How sweet that would be.


    i think this would be catch, if the local yokels could dream a little bigger!

    1. We already Have Wild Root Market Co-op coming into the city!

  5. We are glad that is what our city officials consider the taxpayers of Racine, "local yocals".

  6. Whole Foods (AKA Whole Paycheck). Hah. WF only moves to areas where people have paychecks.


  8. There are plenty of folks within 30 minutes of here who have ample pay checks. You get what you pay for. The salaries of employees would be above average. The Docs and nurses and technical staffers from all saints would be customers...however you want another pick and save, just like another cit-go or whatever they call themselves these days.

  9. Whole Foods would not be able to build on that property. The underground pipes prevent them from building their standard building. Our alderman paid to have several large grocery store chains fly in to take a look at the property. All of them spent a combined 5 minutes there and knew the vacant lot was unacceptable for their needs.

  10. By By Tom Tom!

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. If the gas and Gryro's are so good, take the 8 mile trip across town and ENJOY.

  13. Would that not also rule out gas stations and storage tanks used by
    them....cripes there is really not much you can do with that
    location.LOl maybe mound cemetery might want to set up above the ground
    crypts for pets, there.I think racine is just plain damn unlucky!

  14. Whole Foods in Racine? That's hilarious! Highest unemployment in the state and someone thinks "Whole Paycheck" is gonna move in here? Yeah, right. In case anyone hasn't noticed, Whole Foods is always in neighborhoods where other UPSCALE shops and restaurants are located. As if anything in this town is considered upscale. That wouldn't fly here - people think Applebee's and Olive Garden are upscale around here.

    That corner isn't big enough for anything but a restaurant, if you ask me. But when the surrounding businesses are an empty former grocery store, a too-small can't-see-it-from Washington Avenue CVS, a ghetto-type resale shop, and a few kookie health food/acupuncture shops - tell me what kind of restaurant wants to be surrounded by that? Answer: Fast food. And it seems that won't be happening either.

  15. Maybe the local aldermen should contact the Unemployment Compensation Department of our government. I here that things are booming for them here in Racine and they are looking for a larger site to expand.

  16. Maybe these goons should be recalled, then maybe the rest of them would try, and I mean try, to follow the rules.

  17. Maybe not a Whole Foods, but a People's Food Coop like they have in LaCrosse, Wi would be perfect for the area.

  18. If I am correct this man has been showing his proposal around the area since May, when did this group start meeting? Sounds like the Aldermen are out witch hunting! The list they came up with seems to me like it was designed to hurt this one guy. If these meetings are legal, I feel safe to say that the three Aldermen are anything but moral people. Thank God that "The Three Amigo's" don't represent me.

  19. It would be nice if the development was more of a destination, rather than just another place to do an errand, i.e., gas station, convenient store to get milk......can we be a little more creative here people? And just because there is an empty lot, doesn't mean it should be developed JUST to get it developed. Lastly, even though this may sound better than the 55 unit development, does NOT mean it is the right development....

  20. Looks like this be a great time to make the area into a park for West Racine something to unite the area.

  21. We already have a park a couple block South.

    It seems to me that Tom's proposal meets most of the "criteria" from the Authority, other than the gas station. This proposal may not be perfect, but we have to be realistic. It's a good plan for the area overall.

  22. A co-op would be great.

  23. 8:58

    How about a Co-Op that sells locally grown organic food and perhaps a Diner that would use local food too?
    Cooks could be from the Gateway cooking school part of pre employment training.
    Wait staff could come workforce development as a job skills program.
    Maybe not for that corner a building cost too much but I am sure in Racine one could find empty buildings.

  24. Holly,
    I would much rather have a resale shop. I wouldn't say it is ghetto. That is a bit harsh. I suppose you have a boutique somewhere. We are in Racine, who really can shop at boutiques?

    Those kookie health food and acupuncture shops are very important to some people. We don't run off to the MD for every headache. We are not pill popping, beer chugging, fast food devourers. My family is practically never out ill. I would much rather trust food and vitamins to any chemical toxin they dream up in their pills and are being sued about 2 years later.

    Next time your feeling not right you should check them out.

  25. Most of you are so ignorant, you can come up with 100 more ideas for that area, but the bottom line is there is only one person that wants to develop it. It is not like there is a line of people waiting to buy up the property. This your chance - take it or leave it. If you leave it, I'm sure Tom can find another suitable site and you can retain your gravel pit.

  26. Might be best if Tom did that. May I suggest the 4th circle of Hell?

  27. I'll leave it, 11:08.

    That's the kind of thinking that concerns me. "We better jump on it because it's the best we got!"

  28. 11:59 - it is the only thing you've got and the only interest in years.

  29. This vacant lot has been empty for 9 years. Every year it sits vacant the property taxes that would be generated are dumped into the TIF. That means not only is it not generating taxes, but any taxes a vacant lot would generate is costing us additional taxes.

    In 9 years that has cost us, the taxpayers, over $1 million.

  30. so fear should make us jump on a crappy plan.....

    oh yay - another gas station, bank branch, convenience store - what a great way to make racine a better place

  31. 3:56 - Well wallow in your gravel pit - that's where you belong.

  32. i'll take a gravel pit and patience than a convenience store, gas station, and video poker in the middle of a neighborhood any day

  33. Anon 4:12- This is a grocery store with fuel pumps, restaurant, and bank. How can you be opposed to that?

  34. As a small business owner, I would doubt if any of the business-types listed could afford rent in a new construction and be successful at this time.

    Sometimes, new "development" is not always the best choice.

  35. Keith W.DEschler9/17/2009 8:57 PM

    hmmm,at 10,300 sqaure feet I would hardly consider that a convenience store.

  36. WK how much longer before your address is listed as Bolgia 10 or maybe even 111 Third Circle Lane? Both locations are fitting of you.

  37. Seeing Tousis is a Union man, I assume the employees of the Mini Mart will be required to join the Grocery Union. Including himself and other Family that will be employed.

  38. you are all so stupid. gripe all you want about the gas station or the video poker or whatever else you pull out of your ... Id take video poker any day over the drug deals that go down it that lot. if you have such great ideas reach into your back pocket and start digging. unless your all on those computers at the workforce development center. Its about frikin time we do something with the gravel lot. stop being so darn picky. maybe in tom gets shot down ill buy the land and make a porn shop there. yall like that now wont you??

  39. correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't the Class B license that Mr. Tousis seeks exempt him from the smoking ban?

    Seems like his little gambling den would be packed full of people who had no place else to smoke if it did...
    And would make people a lot less likely to visit it as well.
    (unless you were also a two-pack a day smoker, in which, you were probably first in line to use the machines in the first place, as that's another thing that those machines seem to attract, other than people with minimal hygine and those who smell like a brewery.)
    Perhaps this is the type of crowd that Mr. Tousis wants to bring to West Racine to begin with. Who knows?

    A lot of the naysayers aren't speaking out about the developer's plans in general, we're speaking out over certain elements.
    I'm sure if Mr. T presented a plan without a gas station, or one that didn't need the liquor license, I'm sure the plan would not have many complaints.

    Could I also point out that as a 'gas station' more than likely, he'd be selling cigarettes, something that's also 'restricted' by the recommendation.

    I don't think the committee is trying to drop the project, I think they are trying to turn it into something that would benefit the community rather than Mr. Tousis' bank account.

  40. Class B liquor licenses do not exempt an establishment from the smoking ban. Don't forget that the Pig sold cigarettes. You people are acting like nobody smokes or drinks in West Racine. Remember people, neither is illegal and those voters have rights also. Does it make a difference if you are a lady from a wealthy family that likes to down a couple of bottles of vino every night, or a mechanic that likes to have a few beers when he gets home. Is one more glamorous or respectable than the other? Get off the high horse you are riding!

  41. "video poker any day over the drug deals that go down it that lot."

    What drug deals?

    And I wound not mine a porn store at least we still have a farmers market

  42. Capitalist Pig9/21/2009 11:57 AM

    Working hard and making money should be illegal. I think everyone should stay home and live off the profits from small marijuana growing operations and government checks. What the hell hell is wrong with us? This country is going to hell when people start thinking like that! I'm considering moving to Russia, I hear that capitalism is alive and thriving in Moscow!

  43. Boys in the Hall9/21/2009 7:00 PM

    Wonder if Mr. S doesn't care what the unions think now?

  44. Every business this Family has had only lasted 5-7 years. Looks like future vacant eye sore waiting to happen.

  45. You must be mistaken, 5-7 years is how long it takes to sell a couch at Johnson's Furniture.

  46. Dino the Dolly9/21/2009 9:56 PM

    In 1-3 years there will be an empty furniture store building down the street. Right now it is full of unsold furniture. Anyone want to buy a file cabinet?