A crowd packed Monday's Redevelopment Authority meeting to see what would happen with Tom Tousis's request for an option to build a grocery store, restaurant and gas station in West Racine. His request passed on a unanimous voice vote. So many people packed the committee room Mayor John Dickert, left-foreground, stood for the discussion and vote.
A proposed grocery store in West Racine cleared the first of several hurdles Monday evening.
The Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously to grant developer Tom Tousis an option on land at the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard to build the grocery store, along with a restaurant and gas pumps.
Tousis's request now heads to the full City Council on Jan. 5 for final approval on the option. It's a positive step forward for Tousis, but the approval process is far from over.
If the City Council finalizes the option, the city's Access Corridor Review committee and Plan Commission will review the specifics of Tousis's proposal. Both committees will take a close look at the project's layout, traffic impact and the overall fit in West Racine.
Monday's meeting went relatively smoothly for a project that's proven controversial in recent months. The meeting opened with RDA member Pete Karas asking the proceeding be held in open session. No one objected and the meeting proceeded with the understanding that it could go into a closed session, if needed.
Tousis and developer Ray Leffler sat at the table along with the RDA members and City Development Director Brian O'Connell. Mayor John Dickert, Aldermen Terry McCarthy, Aron Wisneski, Sandy Weidner and Mike Shields watched in the audience. Alderman Jim Spangenberg sits on the RDA.
There was little debate on the proposal and once Karas made a motion to accept Tousis' option, with Scott Terry seconding, the proposal passed on a unanimous voice vote with no further discussion.
Despite taking a step forward, Tousis's proposal is far from finalized. Along with passing city committee and the City Council, it needs to come back before the RDA to finalize a developer's agreement. Tousis must also secure a liquor license and financing for the $5 million project.
The option approved Monday by the RDA would sell RDA-owned land at Washington Avenue and West Boulevard to Tousis for $250,000. Tousis would receive $50,000 of mortgage relief every year for five years - or $250,000 - if he creates at least 24 jobs.
Leffler, a prominent local developer who is working with Tousis, said the project would create more than 24 jobs.
"We want to over-deliver, which is what our intention is," Leffler told the RDA.