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List of potential bluff land buyers grows PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 19:16

At least four developers now indicate they will try to purchase city-owned parcel earmarked for mixed use

At least four developers, including Ansay Development of Port Washington, have indicated they will seek to buy 44 acres of prime bluff land owned by the City of Port just south of the We Energies power plant, officials said Tuesday.

The comments came as aldermen unanimously approved a request for proposals from developers who want to buy both the city-owned land and an adjoining 11-acre parcel owned by We Energies.

Developers can seek to acquire just the city-owned land or both parcels.

The news of interest in the city’s land was welcomed by aldermen who earlier this year were negotiating a sale to Ansay Development for a corporate campus without any competition.

When talks with Ansay stalled this summer, the city broke off negotiations and decided to market the property, which it acquired more than a decade ago when We Energies renovated its Port plant. 

Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, told aldermen Tuesday that even without advertising, the city has received calls from four or five Milwaukee area developers interested in the land.

One, he said, is a construction firm and another a large consulting firm that deals with many developers.

That news wasn’t entirely unexpected, aldermen said, because the land is exceptional.

“This is a prime piece of real estate,” Ald. Dave Larson said. “People are going to jump on this. It’s an outstanding opportunity for a developer.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich, an architect, concurred.

“I think you’re going to see quite a bit of interest,” he said.

While officials have been planning to seek proposals for the city-owned property, they were surprised to discover that We Energies wanted to offer its property for development as well. 

The utility has specified that its land, which is just north of the city’s property, be used for commercial development, Tetzlaff said.

The utility is requiring that any construction on its land be completed within five years, he added.

The city’s parcel is earmarked for a mixed-use development — either a mix of commercial and residential uses or a combination of various types of residential development, according to the request for proposals.

In a nod to concerns voiced by Larson, officials agreed to add a note that any commercial development planned for the city-owned land should complement the businesses in downtown.

The request for proposals acknowledges that of the 44 acres owned by the city, only about 27-1/2 are buildable.

Development plans need to take into account the primary environmental corridors in the area and the fact that the bluff and ravines are prone to erosion, the request for proposals states.

The preferred development will provide public access to the bluff and scenic lake vistas and help connect the downtown to the Cedar Vineyard development, the request states.

Ald. Paul Neumyer said he is adamant that public beach access be provided with the development.

“I don’t want to see that (access) blocked,” he said. “I want people to be able to walk all the way to Cedar Vineyard.”

The city has worked hard to ensure the public has this right, he noted, and needs to continue that quest.

Proposals need to include a monetary offer to purchase — the land is appraised at $65,000 an acre, the request notes — as well as the costs associated with the development and the estimated final value of the project.

The request for proposals is expected to be distributed to interested developers beginning late this week.

Proposals are due in 90 days, on Jan. 6. 

A team consisting of members of the Design Review Board, Community Development Authority and Plan Commission, as well as an alderman and city staff members, would evaluate the proposals the following week, selecting as many as three finalists who would make presentations to the Common Council Jan. 18.

The council could approve a plan that night or at its next meeting.

The time schedule is aggressive, Tetzlaff said, but realistic.

“What’s the reason for being so aggressive?” Ald. Bill Driscoll asked. “Is this going to discourage anyone? This is such a prime piece of property, I want to make sure we give people enough time.”

Many communities only allow 60 days when seeking proposals, Tetzlaff said.

Grams said developers will tell the city if they believe the timeframe is too short and officials can make a decision then.

The city will market the property throughout the state and to a limited degree nationally, officials said.

A link to drone footage of the site taken by Ross Kroeger, the city’s engineering technician, will be used to give potential buyers a feel for the property, they said.

Noting that We Energies has a deadline for construction on its property, officials debated whether to impose a similar timeline for development of its land.

A deadline is important, aldermen agreed.

“It eliminates anyone buying it to sit on it for 15 years,” Driscoll said.

Aldermen agreed to specify that construction must begin within a year of purchase of the city land, with a timetable for completion of the project provided by the developer. 

 
School Board likes what it sees in surprise offer for land PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 28 September 2016 18:20

Proceeds from sale of 54 acres could finance Port High athletic field project

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board has shelved plans to market 54.5 acres of farmland on the city’s west side because it has received an unsolicited offer to purchase the property that is too good to ignore. 

After meeting in closed session Monday, the board voted to counter the offer, which Supt. Michael Weber characterized as attractive. 

The district’s counteroffer will address  language and contingencies, not the purchase price, which the board believes is fair, said Weber, who declined to name the prospective buyer or comment further on the offer because negotiations are ongoing.

“The board is ready to accept the monetary offer pending some language it wants reworked,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to wrap this up pretty quickly now.”

Weber said he expects the board to vote on a final offer at its Oct. 10 meeting.

The district has not released a recent appraisal of the property, but given the land’s location, it is thought to be a valuable site for residential development. Located north  of Grand Avenue and east of Highway LL, it is flanked by subdivisions on three sides — Spinnaker West to the south, The Woods at White Pine to the west and Lake Ridge to the east — and bordered by farmland to the north.

Proceeds from the sale of the land — conceivably worth somewhere in the mid to high six figures — will likely be used to make improvements to Port Washington High School’s outdoor athletic complex, Weber said.

“This is very exciting,” he said. “I think everybody will be quite happy. We’re putting property back on the tax rolls and providing an ideal site for homes that will bring families into the community and children into our schools.”

In May, a year after the approval of a $49.4 million referendum that reflects the board’s commitment to renovating and expanding its current schools rather than building new ones, officials decided it was time to sell the land the district has owned for 47 years.

The district purchased the property, which is comprised of two parcels, in January 1969 from Elmer and Myrtle Bley for $149,944.

Since then it has been seen as a site of a future school, but as the city developed around it and the needs of schools changed, it became a less desirable school site. And with the approval of a referendum that provides $46.5 million to modernize the high school and $3.8 million to expand Dunwiddie Elementary School, officials said it was time put the property on the market.

The board requested proposals from real estate brokers and received two, but plans to list the property changed and the timeline for the sale of the property accelerated after the district received the unsolicited offer — prompted, Weber said, by Ozaukee Press articles on the district’s decision to sell the land.

The pending sale comes at a good time for the district because while the referendum is financing building improvements, it does not include money for outdoor high school athletic facilities. 

Officials envision a fairly sweeping project that would include the replacement of the grass football field with artificial turf, new lighting and sound systems and a press box. The project could be expanded to include artificial turf and other improvements to the baseball diamonds and track and field facilities. 

The land sale proceeds, which have not yet been formally earmarked for the project, would add to what the PWSSD Foundation Inc. is working to raise for the improvements. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that while independent of the district is working closely with it to raise individual and corporate donations for school improvements.

 
City says yes to mixed use of bluff land PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 19:59

Divided Port council approves changing master plan to allow multiple types of development on 44-acre site

Port Washington aldermen voted 5-2 Tuesday to allow a mixed-use development on 44 acres of city-owned bluff land south of the We Energies plant.

Aldermen Mike Ehrlich, Bill Driscoll, Kevin Rudser, Doug Biggs and Dan Becker voted in favor of changing the city’s 2035 master plan, saying it will maximize the use of the land and accompanying tax base.

The change would allow the property to be used for a development like the one proposed last year by Ansay Development, which wanted to build a corporate headquarters, including a boutique hotel, there.

Aldermen Dave Larson and Paul Neumyer voted against the change, saying they want to see a residential development on the property that will support, not compete, with the downtown.

“Any kind of mixed use could have restaurants, a hotel, that pulls people out of our downtown,” Larson said. “I don’t think that’s the right approach. I think the best use of that land is residential, low-density residential.

“It’s important we do this right.”

The land has been designated for low-density residential use since 2010, he noted. 

But other aldermen disagreed, saying a mixed-use development doesn’t necessarily mean a blend of housing and retail uses. It could be defined as a mixture of different types of housing, they said.

“I think this gives us the most flexibility,” Biggs said. 

But Larson said that changing the use now will lead developers to only submit mixed-use plans for the land.

“All we’re going to see are mixed-use proposals,” he said. “We’re not going to see any residential developments.”

Biggs said the same argument could be made if the master plan wasn’t changed. The only proposals the city might then receive would be for residential, not mixed use, developments.

When the city seeks developers for the property, it could make it clear that aldermen are willing to change the plan for the right project, Larson said.

“We have the same flexibility then,” he said.

Ehrlich, an architect, said developers may be reluctant to invest the tens of thousands of dollars needed to create a mixed-use plan for the land without an assurance that the city would allow it.

“By changing the plan, you’re showing them we’re open to it,” he said.

The lack of a change “didn’t scare away Ansay,” Larson said.

Biggs noted that whatever is done, the city should seek project proposals not just locally but nationally.

“This is a special piece of land,” he said. City officials have been working on a request for proposals for the land that will be presented to the council for approval next month, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

 
What’s the best plan for city’s bluff land? PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 20:15

Officials debate whether to allow mixed-use development on 44-acre site earmarked for residential 

The proper uses for a 44-acre parcel of bluff land owned by the City of Port Washington was debated last week as aldermen were asked to consider an amendment to the community’s 2035 master plan.

The amendment would allow a mixed-use development on the property, such as the one proposed by Ansay Development or a neighborhood plan that includes retail and residential uses.

But Ald. Dave Larson spoke against the amendment, saying it would allow commercial and retail uses he doesn’t want to see outside the downtown.

“I am generally not in favor of anything but residential on that property,” he said. “I’m very leery about redirecting any commercial uses outside our downtown. We’ve worked so hard to redevelop downtown, and I don’t want to take anything away from that.”

Approving any other use should only be done if the “right project” comes along, Larson said.

“Why would we want to change it (the uses) unless we know what it’s going to be?” he asked, noting the master plan could be amended if and when the right project comes along.

A mixed-use development typically means a combination of residential and commercial uses, but it could also mean a mix of residential uses, such as low, medium and high-density housing, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

The Plan Commission and Community Development Authority strongly recommended the city change the land use to allow mixed use developments, Tetzlaff added.

“That doesn’t mean we just rubber stamp it,” Larson said.

The Plan Commission is expected to further discuss the proposal to change the master plan when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15.

A public hearing on the issue will be held during the Common Council’s Tuesday, Sept. 20, meeting, and aldermen could vote on the matter that night.

Ald. Doug Biggs argued that the mixed-use development allows the city to consider many different types of projects, including those that are residential.

“This gives us flexibility,” he said. “This could end up being entirely residential.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich said that expanding the potential uses on the site would open the doors for another developer to consider the site, noting that right now it is only intended for low-density residential uses.

“It could hamper other submissions,” Ald. Kevin Rudser said.

But Larson said developers know the system and realize the city can amend the permitted land use if it likes a project.

“It just adds a layer of complexity for a developer that can only make it more difficult,” Biggs said. 

Ald. Bill Driscoll said, “I think it’s important we don’t do anything that could possibility limit any ideas. We’re not smart enough to know what grandiose ideas might come to us.”

But Larson said developers are smart enough to know the city would work with them if they like a proposal.

If the city decides against allowing a mixed use for the land, developers might take that to mean that the city only wants a residential use, Ald. Dan Becker said.

“Some developers might say they had a kick at the cat and kept it residential,” Becker said, adding a mixed-use development could draw more people to the community and result in a higher tax base.

Ehrlich suggested that if the city doesn’t change the land use now, it could include a clause in its request for proposals saying officials would consider amending the master plan for the right project.

Mayor Tom Mlada suggested the city talk to developers to see how they would interpret that kind of clause and whether they believe it would keep someone from proposing a project.

“That’s an incredible piece of property and we want to maximize the impact,” he said.The city acquired the undeveloped land from We Energies more than a decade ago as part of a deal in which the community agreed to support the utility’s conversion of its coal-fired plant to a natural gas-fueled facility.

Eyed through the years as a prime residential site, officials held onto the property as the real estate market ebbed and surged but decided last year to look into the potential of selling it.

In December, Ansay proposed buying the land and developing a corporate campus there, and the city negotiated exclusively with the firm until July. 

Officials again received a proposal from the firm last month, but decided they would seek proposals from other developers as well.

 
Grants give Exploreum new ways to teach students PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 19:46

The Port Exploreum is developing a curriculum for students visiting the museum in downtown Port Washington, thanks to grants from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the Jane Bradley Pettit Brookby Foundation.

The grants, which total $53,000, will be used for the Lake Michigan Learning Lab project, which is aimed at students in grades six through nine, said Bill Moren, who is heading development of the Exploreum’s educational programs.

The project will include a curriculum for students to follow before they visit the museum, as well as materials to consider after their visit.

It will also include using the Lake Michigan table at the museum. Students will be given scenarios, then asked to make various decisions in response, and the impact on a variety of settings — urban, suburban, industrial and agricultural — will be discussed.

“We want to show students what goes into the watershed and how to make the best decisions to cut down on pollution and the like,” Moren said. “These are the people who will make these decisions in the future.”

The project fits with the Exploreum’s freshwater mission, he said.

“The lake has been the driving force in Port Washington’s history,” Moren said. “The preservation of the lake is equally important. We need to make sure the lake remains healthy.”

The learning lab program will train about 40 teachers, Moren said, adding that the Exploreum has hired an educational consultant to develop materials for the teachers to use.

The goal is to get at least 1,000 students through the program, said Wayne Chrusciel, executive director of the Port Washington Historical Society, which operates the Exploreum.

The museum hopes to offer school tours every Tuesday, when it is closed to other visitors, he said.

“We’re trying different ways to get school districts and students involved,” Chrusciel said, noting the Port Washington-Saukville School District has played an active role in creating the curriculum and working with the Exploreum.

The program can be expanded to include learning experiences in partnership with such organizations as Riveredge Nature Center in the Town of Saukville and such agencies as the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Moren said.

“This is an experiential learning experience,” he said. “We want to link the activities to reinforce the lessons they learn. It makes it more powerful.”

 
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