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Port Washington


Blues Factory foe, Main Street clash over signs at farmers market PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 21:03

Vendor says he has a constitutional right to distribute placards opposing sale of land at event held on city street

    An outspoken critic of the City of Port Washington’s decision to sell a lakefront parking lot as a site for the Blues Factory entertainment complex said he plans to distribute yard signs opposing the land sale at Saturday’s farmers market despite a notice from the organization that manages the market stating that he cannot do so.

    “The farmers market is a public event on a public street managed by a government entity using public money and the constitutional right of free speech applies: You can distribute any sort of political statement you like, no permission needed,” Pat Wilborn, whose company PortFish operates a stand at the market, wrote Tuesday in an email to Port Main Street Inc. Executive Director Lauren Richmond.

    The email was in response to a message Richmond sent to Wilborn last week stating: “We also wanted to remind you that the distributing or soliciting of any non-approved or stand-related materials is prohibited at the market.”

    During an interview Tuesday, Richmond softened the position of Main Street, which organizes and oversees the popular farmers market held on Main Street.

    “Technically, according to federal law, it (distributing signs) is allowed, but we have final say on what is distributed at our market,” Richmond said. “We can remove a vendor for any reason we see fit.

    “That said, we absolutely don’t want to do that. We don’t want to take away anyone’s constitutional rights.”

    Richmond said Main Street won’t object if Wilborn makes the signs available at his farmers market stand.

    “As long as people are not being harassed or being forced to sign something,” she said.

    The sign dispute is playing out in the context of a community deeply divided over the Common Council’s unanimous decision Sept. 1 to sell land at the end of the north slip marina along Washington Street to Madison developer Chris Long, who plans a Paramount blues-themed entertainment complex designed to evoke the Wisconsin Chair Co. factory that once occupied the property.

    And now the debate threatens to spill over into the area of constitutional rights.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged there are limitations on where First Amendment rights can be exercised, but it has been clear that the rights of free speech and assembly in public parks and on public streets are essentially unfettered.

    In its 1939 decision Hague vs. C.I.O., the court explained, “Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens and discussing public questions.”

    Richmond admitted regulating signs and other material that express opinions at the farmers market is a delicate issue.

    “It’s a little sticky,” she said. “We understand the market is on city property, but it is our farmers market.”

    Richmond said her email regarding the signs was triggered by complaints she received about the manner in which Wilborn was soliciting signatures on petitions opposing the parking lot sale at the farmers market.

    “I did get complaints from people who were a little offended about how they were approached,” she said. “The farmers market is supposed to be a social event intended to promote local shopping. Once I start getting calls in the office, we have to start taking a look at what’s going on.”

    Richmond said Main Street’s farmers market committee discussed the issue briefly, but the organization’s board of directors has not.

    Wilborn said any complaints about how he collected petition signatures at the farmers market were unfounded.

    “I certainly wasn’t rude to anyone,” he said.     

    Aside from clarifying whether people were city residents, Wilborn said, he asked shoppers two questions: Are they aware the city intends to sell the lakefront parking lot  and would they be willing to sign the petition opposing it?

    Wilborn, who noted that he organizes the winter farmers market in Port, said he understands the value and charm of the summer market and has done nothing to diminish that.

    “I certainly don’t want to create an adverse situation,” he said.



 
Aldermen agree to consider allowing pet pigs PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 16 September 2015 19:23

Council authorizes draft of law after resident asks to keep pot-bellied animal in city

    Port Washington resident Becky Casarez was halfway to hog heaven Tuesday night after the Common Council authorized City Attorney Eric Eberhardt to draw up an ordinance that would allow her to have a pot-bellied pig as a pet.

    “Thank you,” Casarez told aldermen. “Pigs are great. They’re really lovable, caring and a great pet.”


    Casarez, who lives at 126 Woodruff St.,  asked aldermen in June to consider allowing pot-bellied pigs just as they currently permit dogs and cats.


    She had considered getting a more traditional pet, she said then, but she is allergic to cats and hasn’t found a dog she likes.


    But when a friend told her about potbelly pigs, she knew she had found the pet for her.


    Port Washington officials wouldn’t be the first in the area to allow pot-bellied pigs to be kept as pets if they pass the proposed ordinance.


    City Administrator Mark Grams noted that the Village of Grafton allows residents to have one Vietnamese pot-bellied pig as a pet.


    Just as with dogs and cats, the animals need to be kept on a leash in public and their owners must clean up after them, he said.


    “The only problem they had was a couple of residents trying to pass off some other kinds of pot-bellied pigs for Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs,” Grams said.


    Noting that the city allows residents to have two dogs and two cats, Ald. Kevin Rudser questioned why it would limit the number of pigs to one.


    “Is there any reason we would not allow two pigs?” he asked. “They might like a friend.”


    Grams said he suggested it so officials could determine if there were any issues surrounding pot-bellied pigs.


    “You might want to take it slow,” he said.


    Ald. Bill Driscoll said he asked his sister-in-law, who has had two pot-bellied pigs as pets, what negatives there are in keeping the animals.


    “She said ‘I can’t think of a single one. In every way, they’re as good or better than a dog,’” Driscoll said. “She said they’re cleaner and easier to train.”


    She also recommended the city allow a maximum two pigs per household and that it prohibit breeding the animals, he said.


    Only Ald. Doug Biggs voted against the move, saying he had serious concerns about spending taxpayer money to allow one person to obtain the pet they desired.


    Biggs, a member of the city’s Finance and License Committee, estimated the cost of drawing up and implementing an ordinance to be between $1,500 and $2,000.


    “We’re going to be spending taxpayer money for effectively one person. That seems fiscally irresponsible,” he said.


    While Biggs said he “didn’t care one way or the other” about whether pot-bellied pigs should be allowed as pets, he noted that there wasn’t a hue and cry for the measure.


    Driscoll asked if the city could eliminate some of the cost by approving the measure when it recodifies its ordinances, but Eberhardt noted that process won’t be completed until spring or summer.


    “Let’s just get it done,” Rudser said.


    Eberhardt told aldermen he would present an ordinance with a “Whitman’s sampler” of conditions to keep pot-bellied pigs. Officials can decide when they initially review the document which of these rules they want to keep.


    The city is expected to consider the ordinance before the end of the year.    


    Casarez said she is determined to get a unanimous decision in her favor.


    “Ald. Biggs, I will win you over,” she said. “I am determined.”


    This is the third time in the past four years that aldermen have been asked to allow an unusual animal in the city.


    In 2012, they approved beekeeping in the city and in 2013 they turned down a request to allow chickens in the community.



Image information: PORT WASHINGTON OFFICIALS agreed Tuesday to consider allowing residents to have a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, a decision prompted by one woman’s quest for a pet.                  
              


 
Inspection to pave way for lighthouse deal PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 20:52

Condition will help Port officials decide if they will try to acquire landmark also sought by Michigan group

    An inspection of the Port Washington lighthouse by the National Park Service will be done sometime in September, marking the start of a 90-day window for city officials to make an application to acquire the landmark, Mayor Tom Mlada announced last week.

    “The clock is ticking,” Mlada said. “We’ve got a lot to learn about it (the condition of the lighthouse. And there’s a lot of work to be done.”

    The Coast Guard has decided to divest itself of the Port Washington lighthouse, and earlier this year published a notice to discern if anyone is interested in acquiring the structure.

    Both the City of Port Washington and the Michigan-based Geek Group sent letters of interest to the General Services Administration saying they would like to acquire the lighthouse.

    Mlada said he initially hoped that a partnership could be forged with the Geek Group that would ensure the city had control of the structure, but that does not seem likely.

    The city has formed a committee of interested people to explore the acquisition and application, and one of those members recently went to Michigan and spoke to a Geek Group representative who said they believe they will be successful in acquiring the lighthouse on their own, Mlada said.

    “He said they have no interest in a partnership and they emphatically believe they will be granted conveyance,” he said.

    “Now, it’s up to us .... to submit an application, a robust one.”

    The lighthouse is a defining feature of Port Washington, Mlada said, one the city has to work to protect.

    “It speaks to who we are,” he said.

    Mlada asked that anyone interested in joining the lighthouse committee contact him.

    “We have to tell our story, what it means to us,” he said. “It’s important.”

    City officials agreed last fall to consider acquiring the distinctive lighthouse, but said then that the need to ensure the iconic structure remains in the harbor must be weighed against the cost of renovating and maintaining it.

    The lighthouse, which was built in 1935, consists of a metal Art Deco tower that rests on a 20-foot-square cement base that has large arches on each of its faces so it doesn’t obstruct the view of mariners using the harbor.

    Since it was built, the distinctive lighthouse has been a symbol of Port Washington, used on everything from the city’s logo to postcards.

    A trip to the breakwater and lighthouse is part of the tourist experience in Port Washington, and images of the lighthouse are captured by hundreds of photographers each year.

    The fact that the city is currently working to stabilize and improve the breakwater on which the lighthouse is located makes it even more important that officials ensure it is maintained, officials have said.

    The federal government has placed 154 lighthouses throughout the country on the market since it began divesting the structures in 2001, according to the National parks Service website.

    Ten of those, including Port Washington’s, have been in Wisconsin and 43 in Michigan.

    Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, lighthouses are first offered to governmental units, non-profit and educational agencies and community development organizations.

    They are conveyed to these groups at no cost, but these groups must maintain the lighthouses while the Coast Guard continues to maintain the lights.



 
City readies applications for breakwater grants PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 20:02

    Port Washington officials are hoping to parlay an $11,000 investment into enough money to make a real dent in funding the remaining improvements needed for the north breakwater.

    The Common Council recently approved agreements with Foth Infrastructure and Environment LLC to prepare applications for two grants for the breakwater project.

    Those grants, if approved, would complete the city’s $1 million commitment to the Army Corps of Engineers for work to be done next year on the steel-cell portion of the breakwater and provide a significant amount of funding for a walkway from that portion of the structure to the lighthouse, officials said.

    The city had applied for a $250,000 Harbor Assistance program grant from the Department of Transportation. But, City Administrator Mark Grams explained, area legislators and Foth officials recommended the city increase its request to $425,0000.

    “Our chances (to receive a larger grant) appear to be very, very, very good,” Grams said.

    Mayor Tom Mlada noted that the reason the city qualifies for this grant is that the Denis Sullivan has been visiting on a regular basis.

    If the city were to receive this grant, he said, the funds would be combined with a $500,000 Waterways Commission grant and $73,000 Boating Infrastructure Grant, Grams said.

    “We would be able to reach our $1 million commitment to the Army Corps,” he said.

    Just a few weeks ago the city was skeptical of its chances at any additional grant money, Grams acknowledged.

    “It’s looking brighter,” he said.

    The city will also apply for a Boating Infrastructure Grant for work on the breakwater east of the steel cells, Grams said.

    “There aren’t many grant opportunities out there (for that portion of the work), but this is one of them,” he said.

    The maximum grant is $1.5 million, Grams noted.

    “Will we get that amount? I’m not sure,” he said. “But we’ll shoot for the moon and see what we get.”

    Foth will be paid $5,000 for work on the Harbor Assistance Program grant and $6,000 for work on the Resources Boating Infrastructure Grant.

    Aldermen also approved the revised application for the Harbor Assistance grant.

    The steel-cell portion of the breakwater and the walkway east to the lighthouse are not the only areas the city is hoping to improve.

    The city is also raising funds for renovations at the entry to the breakwater, including making it handicapped accessible, installing a boardwalk and fishing platform and developing a kayak launch and wetlands.

    The cost of that work is estimated at $600,000, plus $100,000 for engineering.

    The city has already received a $75,000 stewardship grant for that work, he said. The Fund for Lake Michigan grant includes $75,000 for the entryway and $2,500 for the city to take part in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Grams noted.


 
Subdivision TIF plan clears final hurdle PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 22:09

Financing district that will pave way for Cedar Vineyard project gets board approval

    A tax incremental financing district that will pave the way for the Cedar Vineyard subdivision and improvements to Port Washington’s industrial park was unanimously approved last week.

    The Joint Review Board created the district Aug. 19 after reviewing the projected costs and benefits of the district, which will encompass 409 acres on the city’s south side.

    City officials have been outspoken in their support of the TIF district and the subdivision proposal, noting the development will not only bring high-end housing to the community but a public nature preserve that includes the Cedar Gorge and Lake Michigan bluff.

    The land includes the 227-acre Cedar Vineyard site, where 73 lots, a winery and vineyard are proposed to be created along Highway C, as well as a patchwork of industrial park land stretching from Highway C west to South Spring Street.

    The costs include $7 million for infrastructure — costs that are projected to be paid off within 16 years.

    The direct benefits of the district include an estimated $72 million increase in the city’s tax base and a significant increase in manufacturing jobs, according to a report by Christy Cramer of Trilogy Consulting, the city’s TIF consultant.

    “Obviously those increases in taxes won’t be realized until the district is closed,” she said.

    That’s because in a TIF district, taxes generated by improvements on the properties pay for the infrastructure over the length of the district.

      Cramer estimated the TIF district could result in an additional 1,147 jobs over its life. Of these, she said, 512 jobs would likely be created during the first phase, when the subdivision and some of the industrial park work is done.

    Board member Karen Makoutz, the Ozaukee County treasurer, questioned the method used to estimate the job numbers, saying it’s unlikely the winery and vineyard would create that many positions.

    But board chairman Doug Biggs, a city alderman, said that many of these jobs will result from improvements to the industrial park.

    Cramer acknowledged the numbers may not hold up over time, but noted they are an estimate.

    “It’s really dependent on what type of businesses would come in, and that’s a very difficult thing to say right now,” she said.

    Eric Ryer, the citizen representative on the board, said the TIF district will be good for the city.

    “I think it’s a good plan,” he said. “It looks like the lots (in the Cedar Vineyard subdivision) would sell and the nature park would be a great asset to everyone in the community.”

    City Administrator Mark Grams said the key to the district are the numbers.

    “It’s clear the TIF increment generated over 20 years will be able to pay the costs,” Grams said. “To me, that’s obviously the key, that it can generate the increment (taxes) needed to pay for the TIF borrowing.”

    The Joint Review Board is made up of representatives of all the taxing districts — the City of Port, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College — as well as a citizen member.



 
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