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Port Washington

Call for lakefront plan meets with skepticism PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 February 2018 20:03

Alderman doesn’t find a lot of support on council for proposal to freeze development while document drafted

    Ald. John Sigwart last week proposed a moratorium on lakefront development in Port Washington until a neighborhood plan could be done for the marina area, but that idea was met with quick opposition.
    There have been a number of plans developed for the area and the entire downtown, officials said, and the area is thriving.
    “Just 10, 15 years ago, there was nothing going on in our city. Now people want to invest in our city. Why would we want to slow that down?” asked Ald. Dave Larson.
    There are numerous city committees and officials that have worked on planning for the community, he added, and the city needs to put its faith in them.
    “I would put more stock and faith in that group than a private company,” Larson said.
    City Administrator Mark Grams concurred, saying the committees and panels that have done planning for the city have done a good job.
    “I don’t know why we really need to take another step back,” he said. “Developers are looking at properties. The market is good. What we identified in those plans is what’s being done now.”
    Mayor Tom Mlada agreed, saying the city has done a great deal of planning, most recently in 2014 when a redevelopment plan envisioned a number of projects for the downtown and again last year when the city economic development plan for 2035 was created.
    The 2014 plan, he said, led directly to a plethora of projects in the downtown, including the Blues Factory, Pier Street Apartments and the Lake Pointe Condominiums.
    “Why would you want to hit the pause button?” Mlada asked.  “I’m a little taken aback.”
    Sigwart, however, said he is concerned with the pace and scale of lakefront development, citing Ansay Development’s plans for NewPort Shores — which had not yet been made public.
    “From my perspective, this project is massive for downtown,” he said. “It’s even more massive for the marina district. That is such a major undertaking on mostly private land I think we ought to slow down.
    “I love the project. They (Ansay) did a lot of really good planning, but everything we’ve done in the marina district has been on a lot-by-lot basis.
    “I would like to see the city do some neighborhood planning.”
    The city, he said, has been reacting to plans forwarded by developers and he would like to see that change.
    Ald. Mike Gasper said planning will tell developers what the city wants to see in the area.
    “By doing the planning up front, we’re telling developers ‘This is what we want to see,’” Gasper said.
    He said he does not believe the city has used its zoning codes adequately to define what is acceptable in the area.
    Ald. Dan Benning said he would like to see the city refresh its planning, then use the information it gathers as a guiding list of goals.
    Sigwart noted that the city has worked hard to make the existing projects “as good as they can be within themselves.”
    But, he added, the city doesn’t have enough information to judge how the projects will affect the entire area.

Council pans wheel tax but mayor forges ahead PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 19:14

Aldermen opposed to special levy but Mlada still wants a vote on his plan

    It looks as though Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada’s proposed wheel tax is in for a rough ride.
    Mlada said Tuesday he would bring the wheel tax back for a vote when the Common Council meets on Wednesday, Feb. 21, despite vocal opposition expressed by aldermen.
    Three aldermen said they oppose the fee, and two others said they are struggling with the issue.
    “To me, one of the main functions of local government is to take care of the roads,” Ald. Dave Larson said. “I think that needs to be done through the tax levy and borrowing. I just don’t like the idea of fees.
    “The juice is not worth the squeeze on this one.”
    The idea isn’t popular among city residents, Ald. Mike Gasper said.
    “I’m not sure if anybody I’ve talked to has been in favor of this,” he said.
    But he added, residents have indicated they would be willing to support a referendum to raise the tax levy to pay for more road work.
    That feeling was echoed by Ald. John Sigwart, who said that of the 14 constituents he’s spoken to, 11 oppose the wheel tax.
    Of those 11, he said, eight residents said they would support a referendum to raise more money for roads.
    “I remain opposed to the wheel registration fee. I feel very strongly this is not popular in my district,” Sigwart said, adding, “I’m fearful if we would pass this, we wouldn’t have a prayer of getting a referendum through.”
    Mlada proposed the wheel tax in November, saying it would provide another source of funding to fix the city’s streets.
    The proposed $20 per vehicle wheel tax, which would be collected by the state when vehicle registrations are due each year and then sent to the city, would generate about $200,000 annually, Mlada said. That’s enough to resurface two-thirds of a mile of a street, resurface and replace the curb along one-third mile or completely reconstruct streets on almost two city blocks.
    It would not supplant but supplement the city’s annual borrowing of about $800,000 for road reconstruction and resurfacing, he added.
    “This is not a complete solution,” Mlada said. “This is not a sexy solution. But we do have to repair and maintain our infrastructure.
    “We do have some years coming up where we may not borrow at all. Absent this, we’ve got zero (funds) then. The reality is we need more revenue.”
    The city has about 16 miles of streets that are rated poorly, and it would take about $20 million to fix them all, officials have said.
    Even from the beginning, the wheel tax has come under fire from residents and officials.
    A number of officials have said the city should instead seek another way to fund roads, perhaps by holding a referendum to increase the levy limit so the city could directly tax residents more for road work.
    State levy limits prohibit the city from raising taxes significantly to finance roadwork, officials said.
    Sigwart said he prefers holding a referendum and increasing the levy, saying it’s one way to get the funds needed to pay for roadwork on a regular basis.
    Several other aldermen said they are unsure how they will vote on the wheel tax.
    “I’m struggling with this,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich said. “Ideally, I like the idea of going to referendum to raise the levy. If that doesn’t work, we’ve still got this (wheel tax proposal).”
    Ald. Dan Benning agreed, saying he hasn’t made up his mind of the wheel tax either.
    “We need to take a step back and take a look at how we do things,” he said. “We need to look at the bigger picture.”
    But Mlada said he believes this is the right time for a wheel tax, saying it will give the city some funds on a consistent basis to tackle its deteriorating streets.
    “I think this is a valuable fight to fight,” he said.

Alderman wants moratorium on marina development PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 31 January 2018 19:39

Sigwart says city should commission comprehensive neighborhood plan before more projects advance

    Port Washington Ald. John Sigwart said Tuesday he will ask the Common Council on Tuesday to place a moratorium on development in the city’s marina district until a comprehensive neighborhood plan for the area is done.
    Sigwart said he will bring a proposal for that plan from Vandewalle and Associates to the council for its consideration, saying the need is especially acute because Ansay Development will bring its plans for the Marina Shores project to the city soon.
    “We’ve got to do some planning,” Sigwart said. “We’ve been planning one parcel at a time. We need to look at the whole area.”
    Preliminary plans for the Marina Shores development unveiled in late 2016 called for a six-story building with a restaurant, stores and commercial operations on the NewPort Shores property.
    Sigwart, who has been on a mission to get the city to do more neighborhood planning, especially in the marina district, told the city’s Community Development Authority last month that need will become especially acute as longtime city officials such as Administrator Mark Grams and Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, retire — something Tetzlaff will do this spring.
    “My primary concern is for the marina district,” Sigwart told the CDA. “The marina district has all the potential in the world. (But) we’re still studying it one lot at a time.”
    He said he wants to see a neighborhood plan created that would look at everything from land uses to traffic patterns, adding he sees an eventual need for some type of controlled intersection at Jackson and Franklin streets.
    “I think we need to get our arms around the district,” he said. “I want to have good planning at the lakefront.”
    CDA member Bill Prince said the city has done planning for the marina district, but Sigwart said it was “inadequate.”
    “We have to get the property owners involved, find out what they have planned for their properties,” he said.
    The study he is proposing, Sigwart said, would include values for properties in the area to give property owners a realistic value for their land.
    Vandewalle, Sigwart noted, has a process they use to engage the public and property owners in planning.
    Other areas where Sigwart said he wants to see neighborhood plans done include South Spring Street — “That whole corridor is in need of something,” he said — and the proposed tax incremental financing district four, especially the area around the NorthPort Shopping Center.
    “It’s a lot of work, but those areas are really important to the city,” he said.
    Sigwart said whatever plan Vandewalle would come up with doesn’t have to be set in stone.
    “It doesn’t have to be a controlling document to the point of absurdity,” he said. “This would be something that, when people come in with their projects, we can say ‘this is what we envisioned.’”
    The study will likely be an investment, Sigwart said.
    “Is it going to be a lot of money? I think so,” he said. “Do we have that money available? No. We may need to borrow to fund it.”
    Tetzlaff said the study should also take a look at form-based zoning.
    “I think that’s another important piece of the puzzle,” he said, noting the city has talked about the concept, particularly for the downtown area, but has never moved forward with it.
    Sigwart originally said he wanted to see the city move on his proposal by late April or early May, but said his timetable has been moved up.
    “The only problem with our downtown is it’s too small and too beautiful. We can’t afford to make a mistake,” he said.

With Blues Factory deal done, focus shifts to design PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 18:50

Developer asked to make changes to accommodate public lakefront plaza for adjacent condo project

    The City of Port Washington sold the north marina slip parking lot to developer Gertjan van den Broek and TBF Development LLC for the Blues Factory entertainment complex.
    It’s a major step forward for the project, but it does not mean the controversy over the proposed development has eased.
    But, van den Broek said, “It’s exciting.”
    Now, in many ways, the hardest work comes.
    Van den Broek is working with the city and neighboring property owners Jim Vollmar and Don Voigt on a plan to widen the alley and create a public plaza between their buildings when the Blues Factory is built and the vacant grocery store in the Port Harbor Center is converted to condominiums.
    “We’ve committed to working with Don and Jim,” van den Broek said. “We’re excited to see a proposal come up for the grocery store space. We view this as an opportunity for all of us to get that entire area redeveloped. If we have to wait six to 12 months to do that, we’ll do that.
    “Getting two shovels in the ground is the goal. We will give them the space and encouragement to do their work, within reason.”
    For Vollmar and Voigt, whose concept plan has been met with enthusiasm by officials, that means first obtaining a height variance from the city since their proposed building will exceed the 35 foot standard.
    The building itself will meet that standard, but the peaked roof will reach to 45 feet, something the project architect said is needed to ensure the structure has a coastal aesthetic.
    The Common Council is expected to consider the height variance when it meets on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
    Hand-in-hand with that, van den Broek, Vollmar and Voigt are working with the city on plans to widen the alley and create a public plaza there.
    Officials have lauded that plan, saying it will create a more aesthetically pleasing area that will draw people in.
    But it all starts with the height variance, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said.
    “If that gets rejected, the negotiations will probably end,” Tetzlaff said.
    “At this point, everybody is on board with doing something like this. We want two shovels in the ground, two successful projects there.”
    Van den Broek concurred, noting that the final design for the Blues Factory will depend on what happens with the alley.
    “A lot of the alley really depends on their final design,” he said. “It starts with the height exemption.”
    If the council approves the height exception, Vollmar and Voigt will then proceed with final designs for their building and use those to look at financing and ensure the plan is feasible, a process  that both van den Broek and Tetzlaff said typically takes about six months.
    “They have to verify the feasibility of the project,” Tetzlaff said.
    At the same time, the city and van den Broek need to reach an agreement to amend the developer’s agreement, which sets deadlines for various phases of the Blues Factory proposal.
    There’s no way around that, van den Broek said.
    “Those are two conflicting requests (negotiating with Vollmar and Voigt and meeting the current deadlines),” he said. “We’re going to have to resolve that.”
    Tetzlaff agreed, saying, “something’s got to give.”
    Once that occurs, van den Broek said he will have to amend the Blues Factory plan to accommodate a widened alley and plaza.
    In the meantime, the city is proceeding with plans to have the tieback and deadmen that stabilize the sheetwall that secures the parking lot replaced, a project expected to be done in the next month or two.
    And van den Broek said he is continuing to work to promote interest in his plan and hold discussions with people interested in operating the various spaces in the Blues Factory, which will pay homage to the role Port Washington played in blues recording history as home to the Wisconsin Chair Co., the parent company of Paramount Records.        
    The entertainment complex is expected to have a performance area, restaurant and banquet facility, and van den Broek said he’s in discussions with people interested in running those spaces.

City clears way for major Harbor Club expansion PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 January 2018 19:42

Port Plan Commission OKs revised concept plan for senior living facility, council takes first look at rezoning

    Plans for a major expansion of the Harbor Club senior living facility on Port Washington’s north side took a leap this week.
    The Common Council on Tuesday took its first look at rezoning needed to accommodate the expansion, and the Plan Commission last week gave concept approval to the plan.
    It’s the second time the proposed expansion was heard by the commission, which previously expressed major concerns about the proximity of a planned three-story, 66-unit building to existing houses along Holden Street.
    The new plan moves that building farther east, so it is 60 feet or more away from the neighboring houses.
    It also took what had been envisioned as a rectangular retaining pond on the southwest side of the property and created two undulating ponds. A bridge and gazebo are envisioned to be built between the two sometime in the future.
    Across from the ponds are sites for future independent senior housing units, although the design of these has not been determined.
    The plan also reserves two spaces for future memory care units.
    “I think this solves a lot of things,” commission member Brenda Fritsch said. “I think you’re creating a much more inviting space. It keeps that feeling and sense of independence.”
    Commission member Tony Matera concurred, saying, “You really created a lot of privacy for the residents on Holden Street.”
    Noting that the design places the new building closer to the existing facility than previously planned, Ald. Mike Ehrlich, an architect and commission member, said, “It’s a little bit tighter campus so it encourages interaction between the buildings.”
    The plan will create a formal entrance to the current campus near the Harbor Club, extending and enhancing the driveway on the west side of the property to the south and adding landscaping.
    The expanded driveway, which will include a new parking area near the Harbor Club, will lead to the new senior apartment building, which will have underground parking.
    Pam Schlenvogt, executive director of the Harbor Campus, said there has been “a lot of excitement and buzz” in the community about the expanded facility,  noting she has a waiting list of people interested in the new building.
    “This is really going to keep our seniors living in the community where they’ve lived, where they’ve raised their family,” she said.
    The Common Council is expected to take final action on the rezoning request when it meets on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
    In other action, the Plan Commission last week approved a special exception that will allow Drews Hardware to erect a monument sign in front of its store.
    The new sign will replace the current pylon sign, which is in disrepair.
    Pylon signs are no longer allowed in the city under the sign code, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, noted.
    “When this (new sign) came over my desk, I was really excited,” he said, noting it is significantly more attractive than the current sign.
    “I think it’s a home run,” Matera said.
    The special exception was needed to reduce the setback for the sign — which will be at the south entrance to the store’s parking lot — from 10 feet to 4 feet. The sign will not encroach on the sidewalk, commission members noted.

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