Bank’s patience wears thin, but developer says Cedar Vineyard deal imminent Print
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Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Tuesday, 21 November 2017 19:17

At stake is plan for sprawling Port subdivision, lakefront nature preserve

    Even as Waukesha State Bank continues to market the former VK Development land on Port Washington’s south side — and officials say there is interest in the parcel — the man behind the Cedar Vineyard subdivision planned for the property said he was to meet with the bank Tuesday in an effort to finalize the purchase of the land.
    “Hopefully, everything will get resolved then,” Tom Swarthout, president of the Highview Group, said Monday. “We’re progressing to a closing.
    “There are a lot of things that have to align, and we think they are. The grants, the Land Trust — everything’s coming together.”
    But Keith Van De Laarschot, a commercial banker with Waukesha State Bank, said the property remains on the market.
    “We’ve had some interest,” he said. “We’ve had some people call. We’re hopeful.”
    The bank has been marketing the 240-acre parcel along Highway C in the Wall Street Journal’s mansion section, most recently on Nov. 17, listing it for $18 million and touting it as pristine lakefront land with 1.25 miles of continuous Lake Michigan frontage.
    Van De Laarschot said he has had “very little contact” with Swarthout, but said the developer is continuing to work on his project.
    “If his plan comes back, I’ll be happy to work with him,” he said. “I think it would have been a great project.”
    If Swarthout’s plans don’t come together, he said, “hopefully we’ll find another great plan.”
    But Swarthout said he’s been working diligently on the project, adding he met with bank officials two weeks ago and with City of Port officials last week to resolve any remaining issues.
    City officials said that they remain confident the Cedar Vineyard proposal will come to fruition.
    “We’re still confident it’ll all work out,” City Administrator Mark Grams said last week.
    Grams said that recently the Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requested another review of stormwater management plans for the development — a condition of grants that Ozaukee County and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust will use to purchase 100 acres of environmentally sensitive land, including Cedar Gorge, in the middle of the proposed subdivision.
    That review has now been completed, Grams said.
    In addition to the nature area, the Land Trust would also purchase land along the Lake Michigan bluffs and beach. These properties, along with the preserve, would then be deeded to Ozaukee County to be maintained as public land in perpetuity.
    The Cedar Vineyard subdivision would also have 82 single-family lots with a vineyard planted along Highway C. A winery  would be developed on the southwestern corner of the highway and Stonecroft Drive.
    The winery and vineyard are to be run by Steve and Maria Johnson, who own Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery in Kewaunee and Door 44 Winery in Sturgeon Bay.
    Because of the public-private partnerships needed for the development, officials said, the Cedar Vineyard deal has been complex and has taken longer than expected.
    “We’re going to get this done,” Swarthout said.