Plan links heights of buildings to location

Shorter structures near lake, taller ones downtown is aim of proposal backed by Port Plan Commission
Ozaukee Press staff

A plan to restrict building heights near Port Washington’s lakefront and historic downtown while allowing taller structures farther to the west was endorsed by the Plan Commission last week.

Building heights have been a contentious issue in the city, especially near the lakefront where recent developments have prompted a number of people to call for more limits, saying they fear the taller buildings will take away from the city’s charm and block the lakefront from view.

Officials have recently called for a stepped-back approach, with shorter buildings allowed in the marina district and Pier Street corridor and higher structures allowed along Franklin Street.

Still taller buildings would be allowed in the civic square district — defined as the area north of City Hall to Jackson Street between Wisconsin and Milwaukee Streets — and along Grand Avenue.

Commission member Kyle Knop suggested altering the plan by allowing buildings to get taller if they are stepped back in the Franklin Street and Grand Avenue districts.

For example, if a building met the maximum three-story, 45-foot height limit at the street and then stepped back 24 feet, the building could be 12 feet higher  at that point.

Even with a special exception, no building would be allowed to be more than 57 feet tall under Knop’s proposal.

Mechanical equipment and similar items would be included in the height  restrictions.

He also proposed moving the district boundaries so they aren’t in the middle of the street but instead include buildings on either side of the street.

It’s a concept commission member Chad Mach backed.

“I’m not a fan of drawing lines down the street so one side of the street is one height and the other is different,” Mach said.

Commission member Eric Ryer said he would like to see some of the Franklin Street limits continue for a way along Grand Avenue “or you turn the corner and all the sudden you’ve got a building that’s much taller.”

Knop suggested that the city not allow buildings in the civic square district to be taller than the top gable of the historic courthouse — a suggestion embraced by commission members.

“We’re the City of Seven Hills. If we start putting four stories at the top of those hills, we’ll look like San Francisco pretty quick,” Mayor Ted Neitzke said.

Similar maximum heights should be adopted elsewhere in the downtown, he suggested.

He pointed to the Harborview Cleaners building at the corner of Franklin Street and Grand Avenue.

“If we don’t zone properly, someone will come in and say I want the same height as the hotel across the street,” Neitzke said.

A suggestion that the city use general language rather than specific height measurements was rejected by the commission.

“I want more specificity,” Ald. Paul Neumyer, a member of the commission, said, noting that’s the best way to let developers know what the city will allow.

“Vague is not our friend,” Knop added, saying developers will then push to extend the limits.

Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said the height limits are likely to be incorporated into the downtown plan currently being developed by the city.

A draft plan is expected to be the subject of an open house in late February, he said.


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login