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Port Washington

No such thing as a free lighthouse, mayor warns PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 20:06

Although Port will not pay to acquire pierhead light, cost of repairing, maintaining it will be significant, he says

    The message from Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada last week was blunt — long-term repairs to the lighthouse will cost a significant amount of money that the city doesn’t have.
    It will take investment from the community to help make these improvements, Mlada said.
    “We have to be open about this,” he said. “This is going to have to be something the community embraces. The funding for these significant long-term (issues) is unknown.”
    Mlada gave a presentation on the lighthouse ownership and funding as part of his initiative to discuss pressing issues in the community and their budgetary impact.
    Officials are still waiting for the federal government to convey ownership of the lighthouse to the city, something Mlada said is “a very significant responsibility.”
    Short-term repairs to the structure are estimated to cost $30,000, he said, including $25,000 for replacement of the porthole windows.
    The city has about half that amount already, much of it realized through the sale of lighthouse ornaments created by John Reichert, an artist and owner of Chocolate Chisel.
    Reichert plans to continue those fundraising efforts with a special ice cream flavor and sales of lighthouse candy bars, Mlada said. While significant, these are just “chipping away” at the expenses.
    Long-term, the city needs to invest between $500,000 and $1 million to repaint the structure, Mlada said.
    Other enhancements are also envisioned, such as lighting the exterior and improving access to the interior of the structure, he said.
    “We’re going to have to figure out a way to get people into the first and second levels,” Mlada said.
    The city has also applied to have the lighthouse named to the National Register of Historic Places, he said, adding it will likely take four to six months for a decision in the matter.
    The city has established a Lighthouse Preservation Fund and plans to seek grants, private donations and other sources of funding to pay for the long and short-term work, Mlada said, but the impetus is on the community.
    “The key is anything we raise goes right back in,” he said.    
    The city has received two 18-inch-tall replicas of the lighthouse that it plans to place in cases atop donation boxes, Mlada added. One will be placed at the gateway to the breakwater that leads to the lighthouse, with funds collected daily, and the other will rotate between the Niederkorn Library and businesses in the community.
    “Every little bit adds up,” he said, noting they will provide an easy way for both tourists and residents to contribute to the cause.
    “We hope the community supports this. This is really built on fundraising,” Ald. Doug Biggs said, contrasting it with repairs to the breakwater, which the city is helping fund.
    If the community wants the city to fund the lighthouse work, he noted, something else has to give.
    “That would mean less money for roads, for the breakwater, seniors, whatever,” he said. “Tell us what your priorities really are.”

Split council OKs deal for marina area condos development PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 18:11

nTwo new aldermen vote against agreement for development on car, boat trailer lot city plans to sellby city

Ozaukee Press staffA developer’s agreement between the City of Port Washington and architect Stephen Smith, who plans to build 11 townhouses on the city-owned car-trailer parking lot at the east end of Washington Street, was approved Tuesday night.

It wasn’t a unanimous decision, however. Aldermen John Sigwart and Mike Gasper voted against the agreement.

Gasper said that before the city sells the parking lot, it needs to do something to replace the boat-trailer parking that will be lost.

“My concern is we’re doing this in the wrong order,” Gasper said. “We really need to be replacing that parking before we do this project.”

Other aldermen argued that taxes generated by the improvement can be used to pay for improvements like reconfiguring the marina parking lot to handle additional boat trailers.

The project, known as Lakepointe Townhomes, is expected to pay for itself — making up for an estimated $300,000 in utility costs and remediation work —  in roughly three years, they said, by generating $77,000 annually in taxes.

The developer’s agreement approved Tuesday sets forth the conditions under which the sale of the parking lot and development of the townhouses will be allowed.

It calls for the city to move two sewer mains — one of which will remain on the property while the other is moved into the street — and to pay to remediate the soils on the land.

That cost is expected to be minimal, City Administrator Mark Grams said, because the only soils expected to need remediation are those disturbed by footings for the three townhouse buildings, since they won’t have basements.

Smith is expected to buy the property for $140,000 by July 17, and the agreement requires that construction begin within six months or the city can buy the land back.

Amy Otis-Wilborn, 233 Pier St., questioned the sale price, calling it “outrageous,” especially since the city will still be paying for the utility work and remediation.

Ald. Dave Larson disagreed, saying the $140,000 sale price is significantly more than other communities are getting for prime properties. He noted that the City of Mequon purchased a former gas station, remediated the land and then sold it for $1 to facilitate development of Cafe Hollander.

Similarly, Ald. Doug Biggs said, the Village of Grafton paid roughly $1 million for the Lumberyard property and then sold it for $1 for development.

“This is a prime piece of real estate,” Larson said. “Once you factor in the additional costs the city has to incur, we’re looking at a payback period of three years.

“I think it’s a fantastic project. Everyone wins with this one.”

Biggs concurred, saying the townhouses fit the site and blend with the aesthetics of Port Washington.

“This one felt right. I’m excited about this project,” he said.

Smith said there is a significant amount of interest in the townhouses, adding one unit has already been spoken for.

He said he expects to bring final plans for the development to the Plan Commission for approval in June.

Although the property is in Port Washington’s tax incremental financing district, Smith is not seeking any incentives for the project.

The development is expected to add $4.3 million to the city’s tax base.

Council poised to ink deal for first marina district project PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 20:58

Agreement would clear way for condos on car-trailer lot being sold by city

The Port Washington Common Council is expected to consider next week a developer’s agreement that will outline the remaining conditions architect Stephen Perry Smith needs to meet in order to build 11 condominium units on the city-owned car-trailer parking lot at the east end of Washington Street.

If the agreement and ultimate sale of the parking lot are approved, Smith’s townhouse development would become the first marina district proposal to be constructed.

Aldermen were originally expected to review the agreement at their May 2 meeting, but because the document wasn’t completed until shortly before the meeting, officials tabled the matter until the council’s May 16 meeting.

“We really need more time to look at it,” City Administrator Mark Grams told aldermen. “I don’t want to rush you into making a decision.”

Smith’s offer to purchase the property, which was accepted by the Common Council last month, called for the developer’s agreement to be approved by May 3, unless both sides approved another date. Aldermen agreed to postpone the date, but did not specify a new one.

Since last week’s meeting, officials have been working to amend the proposed developer’s agreement, Grams said.

That’s due in large part to the fact that the city, which had initially intended to move two sewer mains off the property, is now planning to keep one on the parcel but move the other.

Much of the developer’s agreement deals with the utility work, Grams noted.

The city’s engineering firm has determined the cost of moving a force main that crosses the parking lot into Lake Street is more difficult than expected, Grams said.  Consequently, it would cost the city about twice as much as expected.

The current plan is to keep the force main on the parking lot, moving it slightly to accommodate Smith’s design, and place an easement over it.

A gravity sewer on the property would still be moved out of the parking lot, Grams said.

The original estimate to move both sewer lines was between $250,000 and $300,000, Grams said. The change would bring the cost to about $200,000.

Grams said Tuesday that the city hopes to get bids for the utility work in time for council approval on June 6. 

Officials hope the sewer work will be completed in July, Grams said, adding that the sale of the parking lot to Smith will be finalized shortly after that.

Smith, who is not seeking incentives from the city for his project, will pay $140,000 for the car-trailer parking lot. Grams said the proposed agreement calls for Smith to begin construction of his project within six months after purchasing the property. If he doesn’t, the city has the option of buying the property back. 

In addition to moving the sewer lines, the city is to remediate the site so Smith’s buildings can be constructed there.

Grams noted that the remediation is expected to be minimal since the townhouses won’t have basements.

“We won’t know exactly how much it will be until he submits his foundation plan,” Grams said.

Amy Otis-Wilborn, 233 E. Pier St., told aldermen last week that she believes the city should not pay to have the sewer lines moved but instead pass the cost on to Smith.

“What about the developer taking on that cost?” she asked. “It’s a low price. It’s a prime piece of property.”

Smith told aldermen last week that he is comfortable delaying approval of the developer’s agreement until May 16, noting he is fine with the document.

However, he asked aldermen to also extend the June 16 closing date for the purchase.

“We need the approved developer’s agreement as part of our financing,” he said, adding a delay in signing the agreement could cause a financing delay.

Mayor bristles at questions about tabled ordinance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 20:20

He calls motivation for questions about board appointments ‘disgusting’

It was expected to be a simple matter before the Common Council Tuesday — an initial review of a proposed ordinance change that was to be tabled until May 16. 

But after a resident questioned the reasons for the change, which dealt with membership on the city’s Design Review Board,  Mayor Tom Mlada became upset at what he characterized as a challenge to his character, saying it was “really disheartening and disgusting to me.”

“I’m tired of it,” he said. “I pour myself into this job.”

If people have questions about his appointments or initiatives, he said, “how about the courtesy of a phone call to ask about it.”

The proposed ordinance change would define the membership of the city’s Design Review Board — the city engineer, a representative of the police or fire department and three people appointed by the mayor. One of those three may live outside the city, the proposed ordinance said, and one could be a citizen of another country.

Kim Haskell, 767 W. Grand Ave., said she was asked by people on her Facebook page to question the ordinance because the language “seemed specific.”

“The concern is was there already someone in mind (to fill the positions),” she said. 

People are worried the mayor may be considering a developer, Haskell said, adding that could constitute a conflict of interest.”

Mlada noted that officials are working on the wording of the proposed ordinance and thus the matter was being tabled. He said it was as a bookkeeping matter caught as the city works to recodify its ordinances.

“I did not design that change with a person in mind,” Mlada said, particularly not a contractor or developer, as people have intimated.

His appointments are always made with the intention of allowing for a broad cross-section of ideas, with an eye for a person’s qualifications, Mlada said.

“To suggest I appoint anyone for any other reason is insulting to me and insulting to them,” he said.

He asked residents and the council for their trust, saying, “After five years, I think I’ve earned it.”

City Attorney Eric Eberhardt noted that the Design Review Board is an advisory body that doesn’t make final decisions on any matter. 

There’s a potential for a conflict of interest, with virtually every member of the city’s committees and boards, he added, and these issues can be dealt with as they arise.

Council aims to hone its communication skills PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 21:04

Port officials to dedicate meeting time to discussing key issues so residents don’t feel left in the dark

For the next year, the Port Washington Common Council will devote a portion of each meeting to discussing the pressing issues facing the community, Mayor Tom Mlada announced last week.

The initiative will look at the community’s needs and the attendant expenses involved in each, he said, explaining this is an effort to give people the background needed as they look at various projects the city is considering.

He framed the topics as “challenges and opportunities” the city is facing and dealing with.

“This is an introduction to the topics,” Mlada said. “It’s meant to be a starting point. It’s a way to invite people into the conversation so they understand the situations we’re facing and the interconnectedness of them all.”

Development issues have split the city in the past year, and Mlada said the sessions will give people the background they need to fully assess these proposals. 

Ald. Doug Biggs said the council  “heard loud and clear” people’s concerns that they want more information about what is happening in the city, and the initiative will address that.

Decisions aren’t likely to be made on the nights when each topic is addressed, he said.

“We believe it’s important to get all that information to the community to make sure we’re all singing out of the same song book,” Biggs said.

Underscoring the effort are several core principles, Mlada said — increasing residential density, attracting strategic retailers and adding attractions that will enhance downtown and draw people there year-round, and preserving and enhancing safe public lakefront access.

“We must drive economic growth within our community to be successful long-term,” he said. 

Mlada noted that the earliest topics involve costs and needs the city needs to address soon, while those later in the year will deal with funding.

“These are conversations we have to have,” Mlada said. 

While people may disagree on the solutions to many of the issues, he added, “they need to understand what we’re facing.”

The topics to be addressed are:

nBreakwater repairs on May 2.

nThe lighthouse preservation efforts on May 16. The city has not yet received ownership of the lighthouse from the federal government, Mlada said, but that is expected to occur soon.

nStreet and sidewalk projects and the pavement and surface evaluation and rating system used to determine their priorities on May 6.

nPolice and fire department needs on June 20.

nIn July, when the council holds only one meeting, capital needs across all city departments will be examined.

“There are capital needs that are going unfulfilled,” Mlada said, adding that the challenge for the city is that “the more we push things down the line, the more expensive they become.”

nMarketing and economic development will be addressed Aug. 1.

nA review of city revenues is slated for Aug. 15.

nA borrowing update will be given on Sept. 5.

nThe city’s tax incremental financing district will be examined on Sept. 19.

nGrowth strategies for the city’s manufacturing and commercial base will be discussed Oct. 13.

nThe city’s economic development plan for 2035 will be reviewed on Oct. 17.

nBudget realities are the subject for the Nov. 7 meeting.

nDowntown redevelopment is slated for the Nov. 21 meeting.

nA year-end review will be held on Dec. 5.

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