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Port Washington

City says yes to half of dock railing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 01 March 2017 19:43

Port aldermen agree to spend $81,486 for upgrade that will cover western portion of lakefront promenade

A long-awaited railing will be installed along half the promenade at Port Washington’s Coal Dock Park this spring.

After a long debate Feb. 22, the Common Council unanimously agreed to pay Badger Railing $81,486 for the upgrade.

The company’s bid was the lowest of four submitted for the project, which will cover the western 588 feet of the promenade.

But the railing, which has been hotly debated since the park opened in 2013, continued to be a hot topic for aldermen.

Ald. Dave Larson opened the discussion by saying, “I’m still not sure I’m fully in favor of this railing.”

While the city will be using $45,000 in grants, $29,000 from its Coal Dock Park borrowing and $4,000 in donations to cover the majority of the cost, it will still be spending $15,000 of its own money for the railing, Larson said.

“In terms of priorities and where we’re putting our money, I’m just not sure this is where we should spend our money,” he said. 

He noted that there are no railings along the breakwater, which is narrow and exposed to the rough lake and traversed by numerous residents and visitors of all ages. 

Navy Pier in Chicago, the San Antonio Riverwalk and other facilities don’t have railings, Larson added.

Ald. Mike Ehrlich asked whether the city would be open to additional liability if it made “a conscious decision” not to install the railing. That’s not the case, City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said.

Ald. Kevin Rudser, a member of the Parks and Recreation Board, said the committee wants to see the railing installed, noting it has pushed for that to happen since the park opened.

If anyone were to fall off the promenade, he said, they would travel 18 feet into water with a swift current, Rudser said.

But while there was a significant outcry for the railing the first year the park was open, he said, “Since then it’s kind of gone away. Does time show we don’t need it?”

City Administrator Mark Grams said the biggest issue may be the idea of turning down a state grant for which the city has applied.

If the city changed its mind at a later date and decided to install a railing, he said, “You’re never going to get a grant for that railing. Why would the state give you another grant when you already gave one back?”

The city does plan to apply for another grant to help pay to extend the railing along the easternmost 560 feet of the promenade, Grams said.

Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, chairman of the Coal Dock Park Committee, noted that the committee originally decided not to install a railing along the promenade for two reasons: the 18-foot walkway was so wide members felt it was not needed because the public would stay far from the edge, and because it envisioned boats mooring there and requiring unfettered access to the dock.

“Originally we envisioned boat traffic to be a lot more intense than it is,” Vanden Noven said.

If the railing is installed, he said, it would be set four feet back from the edge with gates to allow boats to moor along the promenade.

Vanden Noven said he could see both sides of the issue, but acknowledged his wife refuses to allow their family, which includes two young children, to walk the promenade because of the lack of a railing. 

Mayor Tom Mlada noted that the organizers of festivals held in Coal Dock Park have said a railing would be beneficial.

“We should probably be consistent and take the grant,” Vanden Noven said.

Ald. Paul Neumyer acknowledged the difficulty in obtaining grant funds in making the motion to accept the grant.

“We’re trying to get young families down there. I think it’s a good preventative measure,” Neumyer said. 

The contract calls for the railing to be installed by June 30.

Ansay alters plans for marina area apartments PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 20:13

Developer scraps plans for 44-unit luxury building, focuses on smaller project elsewhere in lakefront district

Ansay Development’s plan for a 44-unit luxury apartment building planned to be built between Pier and Jackson streets in Port Washington’s marina district has been scrapped, officials said last week.

Instead, the firm intends to build a smaller apartment complex on the former Victor’s restaurant property one block to the south, which it owns, City Administrator Mark Grams told the Plan Commission and Joint Review Board on Feb. 16.

“We have no plans for how many apartments there are going to be,” Grams said. “We  know it’s going to be smaller.”

Company officials indicated it could be a 22 to 24-unit building, he said, although that’s subject to change.

Grams said Ansay officials indicated the reason for the change is simple — “Basically, the numbers don’t work out for them,” he said.

The property where the apartments were to be built is owned by Charlie Puckett, and Grams said Puckett and his wife have indicated they will likely develop that property sometime in the future.

The couple has suggested they would like to build brownstones, Grams said, although they did not rule out an apartment building. 

The change in the company’s plan came abruptly Thursday morning, forcing the city to delay expected action on amendments to the downtown tax incremental financing district.

The amendments include the addition of five parcels, including both the land where the apartment building was to be constructed and the new site, as well as development incentives for these projects.

The financial projections for the district need to be changed now that the proposed development has changed, Grams said.

To accommodate Ansay’s original plan, officials had included funds in the TIF plan to move a sewer line on a city-owned parking lot, $600,000 to acquire the Victor’s property, and millions of dollars in development incentives, Grams said.

Now, those numbers are in flux, and the impact on the entire TIF district needs to be recalculated to ensure the district will be financially viable, he said.

Christy Cramer of Trilogy Consulting, the city’s TIF consultant, said the original amendments to the plan showed the district would be economically feasible.

At first glance, she said, the plan may also work without the 44-unit apartment building proposed by Ansay.

“It appears it’s going to be slightly better with the changes,” she said.

Ansay’s plans for the marina district have changed several times since it was first proposed last year. 

The latest proposal, made in December, was a $38 million development that included 14 row houses to be built on the former Victor’s restaurant site and adjoining city parking lot, 44 luxury apartments one block to the north and a six-story “Marina Shores” building for a restaurant, stores and commercial operations on the NewPort Shores property. This plan would have required $7.73 million in TIF funding.

Grams said Ansay has indicated its plans for the Marina Shores building are proceeding.

Grams told the Joint Review Board and Plan Commission that he hopes to get the updated numbers sometime this week.

The Plan Commission, which had been expected to act on the TIF amendments last week, would then hold a special meeting to consider the changes to the plan.

The Common Council is expected to act on the TIF amendments during its Tuesday, March 6, meeting, with the Joint Review Board acting on it within 30 days.

Man charged after standoff with SWAT team PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 15 February 2017 20:11

A 48-year-old man who authorities say held officers at bay for nearly six hours after firing several shots from a .40-caliber handgun outside his Grand Avenue house in Port Washington late last month now faces a felony charge filed in Ozaukee County Circuit Court.

Richard W. Conrad was charged last week with failing to comply with officers who were trying to arrest him.

He also faces misdemeanor counts of possessing a firearm while intoxicated and disorderly conduct.

The standoff began around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29, after Conrad’s neighbor called police to report that Conrad had fired several shots outside his home at 911 W. Grand Ave. and made comments about being “done living” and wanting to “end it,” according to the complaint.

Police blocked off the area and told area residents to seek shelter in their homes and stay away from windows.

The Ozaukee County SWAT team was called and attempted numerous times to contact Conrad, who lived alone, by telephone but were unsuccessful.

As the standoff wore on, officers decided to fire tear gas canisters into the house.

Port Washington Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said officers eventually saw Conrad, who appeared unarmed, walking through the house. They were able to talk to him and he invited them inside. The officers declined but because Conrad was near the door they were able take him into custody.

Conrad appeared to be drunk, officers said, and a test administered at a hospital showed he had a blood alcohol level of .33, more than four times the .08 threshold for intoxication, the complaint states.

Authorities recovered a number of guns from Conrad’s house, Hingiss said.

The standoff ended just after midnight Monday, Jan. 30.

During Conrad’s initial court appearance Monday, Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy set his bail at $5,000, ordered him not to consume alcohol and to wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet

The felony Conrad faces is punishable by a maximum 1-1/2 years in prison and two years of extended supervision.

Teen not barred from school for locker room horseplay video PDF Print E-mail
Written by bill Schanen IV   
Thursday, 09 February 2017 00:37

Prosecutor seeks restrictions but judge doesn’t ban contact with Port High, schoolmate

The question in an Ozaukee County courtroom Tuesday wasn’t what amount of bail to set for Tanner R. Meinel but the conditions the 17-year-old Port Washington High School student charged with a felony for making a video of locker room shenanigans and posting it on Snapchat will have to live by while his case is pending.

Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Sisley, who said he didn’t know if Meinel was in school, recommended he be prohibited from having contact with Port High and the 16-year-old he recorded on the video.

That, Meinel’s attorney Matt Last said,  would be a problem. Meinel, who after the Nov. 10 locker room incident was described  by Thad Gabrielse, Port High’s dean of students and athletic director, as a “very good kid” who was “fooling around and didn’t think,” is finishing his senior year at the school.

At the very least, Sisley said, Meinel should be prohibited from having contact with the 16-year-old in the video.

Last, however, said that both teenagers are members of the Port High wrestling team, and the no-contact order proposed by Sisley would mean Meinel would have to quit the team.

Both teenagers have described each other as friends in police reports and comments made to Ozaukee Press.

Sisley relented after reading a report that indicated the 16-year-old did not want a court order prohibiting Meinel from having contact with him.

Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland said he saw no need for such an order.

“I’m not going to interfere with the authority of the principal and the coach at the school,” he said.

The only condition set by Voiland is that Meinel not have a cell phone with a camera.

Last said, “Mr. Meinel no longer has a cell phone.”

Instead of a cash bond, Voiland set Meinel’s bail at a $2,500 signature bond. By signing a signature bond, a defendant does not have to post cash but promises to pay the amount of the bond if he violates the conditions of his bail.

On Dec. 29, Meinel was charged with capturing an image of nudity in a locker room under a statute referred to as Wisconsin’s revenge porn law, inspired by jilted lovers who post nude photos of their exes online to exact revenge. The felony Meinel faces is punishable by a maximum 1-1/2 years in prison and two years of extended supervision.

Meinel is accused of recording a cell phone video that shows the naked backside of the 16-year-old as he was retrieving his underwear in a school locker room after phy-ed class, then posting it to Snapchat, the popular mobile app that typically self-deletes images and videos 10 seconds after they’re opened.

According to a Port Washington Police Department report, a student who received the Snapchat video reported it to Gabrielse. School officials then notified police of the incident, which occurred around 10:20 a.m. on Nov. 10.

Administrators said they were obligated to report the incident to police because the video was posted on the Internet, but added that they didn’t think doing so would result in one of their students being charged with a felony.

“It was definitely a surprise to us,” Supt. Michael Weber said last month. “We thought if anything he might face a misdemeanor or just receive a warning.

“Sometimes people get caught up in the law, and it’s not fair and it’s not right.”

Among the students interviewed by officer Eric Leet after the incident was the 16-year-old, who said he was showering when two other students started joking around by pretending they were going to throw his underwear in the shower.

A short time later, the 16-year-old said, he exited the shower and found his underwear hanging from a speaker box. He retrieved his underwear, then noticed Meinel making a video of him with his cell phone. He said he did not agree to be recorded on video or to have the video distributed and was embarrassed by the incident, according to the police report.

“He indicated that although he didn’t want to get anyone in trouble over the matter ... he was disturbed by the video and its distribution,” Leet wrote in the report.

Meinel admitted taking the video and posting it on Snapchat after happening upon the scene, but said he meant no harm to the teenager shown in the video, whom he considered a friend.

“He (Meinel) indicated that he wasn’t trying to embarrass (the 16-year-old) and that he believed they were actually friends,” Leet wrote in his report. “He stated that it was just kind of a funny scene and he sent it out as more of a joke.”

Leet spoke with other students who confirmed that the “horseplay” with the underwear was not done to stage the video taken by Meinel. The officer then told administrators that he considered the creation of the video and its distribution “very serious,” adding that he would be “looking at and considering a request for criminal charges,” according to the report.

Ultimately, Leet asked the district attorney to charge Meinel with the felony he now faces.

Port poised to expand downtown TIF district PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 01 February 2017 19:45

Move would pave way for marina district, downtown projects with increased incentives for developers

Port Washington officials are preparing to amend the city’s downtown tax incremental financing district plan to include five additional properties and millions of dollars in development incentives not envisioned when the district was created almost seven years ago.

The proposed amendment, which will be the subject of a public hearing before the Plan Commission on Feb. 16, marks a renewed commitment to the district by city officials who consider it a necessary tool to ensure the downtown remains vital.

It’s also a recognition that many of the projects now under consideration for the downtown and lakefront were not envisioned when the district was created, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of palanning and development, said.

Among those projects are the Blues Factory entertainment complex and plans by Ansay Development to create a 44-unit luxury apartment building between Pier and Jackson streets just west of Lake Street and a six-story Marina Shores building for a restaurant, store and commercial operations on the NewPort Shores property.

“We really undershot what we would be able to attract in terms of private investment,” Mayor Tom Mlada said. “The incentives in place were not sufficient. Clearly we did not foresee a pretty significant development, for instance, on the NewPort Shores property.

“There has been a pronounced emphasis on redevelopment in downtown over the last four or five years.

The TIF plan amendment calls for adding five properties to the district — the Port Harbor Center strip mall along the north slip, NewPort Shores restaurant and several houses that would be razed for Ansay’s apartment building, Tetzlaff said.

It also updates the district’s costs and revenues, including infrastructure work, remediation of city-owned parking lots in the area, changes to the marina parking lot and increased development incentives.

The city has already exceeded the $750,000 in development incentives originally anticipated when the TIF district was formed, giving $1.75 million in loans to developer Gertjan van den Broek for the Port Harbour Lights retail and residential project downtown and agreeing to $1 million in incentives for van den Broek’s Blues Factory development.

Ansay has said the apartments and Marina Shores developments would require $3.5 million in incentives as well, and Tetzlaff said the city is also including some incentive money for the former grocery store in the Port Harbor Center.

“Nothing’s going to happen there unless there’s some inducement,” Tetzlaff said.

“Very few of these projects would happen without incentives,” he added, noting that land in downtown is more expensive than elsewhere and redevelopment is often pricier as well.

Development incentives are relatively new in Port Washington — Port Harbour Lights was the first project in Port to receive them — but they are a common tool used by communities statewide to spur redevelopment.

In the Village of Grafton, for example, incentives have been used for at least eight redevelopment projects that have increased the value of the downtown by more than $25 million, officials have said.

While incentives are included in the plan, they will only be awarded if the developments they support can repay the loans, officials said.

Tetzlaff noted that the city uses extremely conservative estimates when calculating these numbers to ensure taxpayers won’t be on the hook for development.

A TIF district uses increased property taxes within the area to pay for public improvements that benefit the district. Once those improvements are paid for, the district is dissolved.

The downtown TIF district has paid for a number of public improvements downtown already, including parking lot, alley and street improvements.

When the city’s original TIF district was retired in 2007, it had a surplus of several hundred thousand dollars and much of that money was used for property tax relief.

The city has been considering amendments to the downtown TIF district plan for several years, hiring Trilogy Consultants to help crunch the numbers.

After the public hearing, the plan requires approval by the Common Council and the Joint Review Board, which is made up of representatives of the various taxing districts in the TIF district  — the city, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College — as well as a citizen.

Although the city has talked about amending its downtown TIF plan for several years, it waited until now because it wanted to know what developments were planned, Tetzlaff said.

“We’re just including stuff that’s been proposed or that we know of,” he said.

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