O'Reilly Auto Parts is on North Avenue to stay – for perhaps 15 years, anyway – as the Wauwatosa Common Council approved a conditional use permit Tuesday night for the national chain store.
The issue has been a contentious one, with lengthy official debates and volleys of e-mails and petitions from area residents, many of whom did not think an auto parts store in the former Blockbuster building was a good fit for the neighborhood.
At the heart of the disagreement was the North Avenue Plan, which is supposed to be a roadmap for revitalization of the district and was adopted last year into the city's master plan.
The North Avenue Plan was created using a $40,000 Community Development Block Grant and calls for further city spending over the next 15 years to encourage more private investment.
Neighbors along the East Tosa corridor, and some aldermen, felt short-changed that the taxpayer-funded plan had not operated to bring in a more exciting occupant for the block-long site.
But by Tuesday, it had become clear that no roadblocks could be thrown up in front of O'Reilly or property owner Dan Cohen, who had every legal right to sign a 15-year lease and no obligation to pour money into a major redevelopment.
Most opponents, in the end, even acknowledged that O'Reilly is a good company, well-structured and financially strong, and probably the best tenant that could have been hoped for, especially compared to an indefinite vacancy.
However, Ald. Michael Walsh, who up until then had not had all that much to say about the leasing, read a lengthy prepared statement of opposition that began with a recollection of a sign posted by his high school wrestling coach.
"It said, 'Good is the enemy of great,'" Walsh said, and he went on to say that "good enough" was not good enough when a neighborhood's expectations had been raised so high.
A number of other aldermen congratulated Walsh on the eloquence, passion and cogency of his argument – even as they strongly disagreed with him.
Ald. Dennis McBride called Walsh's statement one of the best presented he had heard in Council chambers. But, he said, he had to counter it.
"I've also heard it said that 'Perfect is the enemy of good,'" McBride said.
Along with other's who would end up supporting the plan, he said that waiting for the ideal occupant to come along – even if it were legal to do so – would very likely prove counterproductive by creating a long-term vacancy.
Walsh was joined only by Alds. Linda Nikcevich and Bobby Pantuso in voting against the measure.