Path to industrial park serves as the key to attract business and people
Just where is the Village of Belgium going and what will it look like in the near and far future?
Inquiring minds like Don Gotcher want to know.
The Plan Commission member asked about developing forward-looking documents such as five-, 10- and 20-year plans, and even a 50-year plan at last week’s meeting.
“I think we should start thinking about what we want the village to look like, what we want in the village. Do we want a grocery store here?” Gotcher said. “What do we want in the village to make it a more viable village than it is?”
Discussion ensued, and most of it came back to one point: paving Silver Beach Road.
“We have to start looking out past our hands to see what we want out there. As a commission, that is part of our job,” Gotcher said. “We should start doing our job.”
Village President Vickie Boehnlein, leading her first Plan Commission meeting, asked if that kind of visioning work isn’t typically done by an economic development board.
Roger Kison, the village’s building inspector, said the commission’s role is to provide zoning so it’s in place for businesses looking for locations.
“If I come here with a grocery store, is there a place for me to put that grocery store?” he said.
The commission decided the next step would be to work with the Ozaukee Economic Development, the county’s economic development department. Commission member Clem Gottsacker said the two entities have worked together in the past.
But the sticking issue remains the same. Attracting industry is key to growth of business, and that’s difficult without a paved road leading to the industrial park.
Boehnlein said the park wasn’t located in a smart place years ago, but realized a paved road would make things easier.
“If that road’s in, it would be perfect,” Gottsacker said.
“If Silver Beach were done, I don’t think it would be in a bad spot, either,” Boehnlein said.
The Village Board last November approved delaying the Silver Beach Road project, estimated to cost $3.2 million, because obtaining grant funding was in question, tax incremental finance district money would not pay for half the project as originally thought and the Main Street reconstruction project is scheduled to start soon.
Paving Silver Beach Road would increase the village’s debt service portion of its tax rate from $1.25 to $2.77 per $1,000 of property value. The owner of a $175,000 home would see an increase of $266 in taxes just for the project, which was too much for the board to swallow.
Instead, the board voted not to pave Silver Beach Road until after the state-led Main Street reconstruction project is completed. The state picks up 80% of the cost and the village and county 10% each.
The Main Street project is expected to cost the village $1.5 million if it chooses to bury utility lines, $1 million for lights and $400,000 for road work. The project is slated to start in 2017 or 2018.
“My concern is I don’t want to see Silver Beach die,” said Gotcher.
“I’ve been saying for years Silver Beach is an extremely high priority,” Boehnlein said. “If people are here, retailers will want to be here. Yes, development is attached to that.”
But she said she has heard numerous complaints about the double-digit percentage rise in the 2016 tax levy, and she doesn’t want to impose an even higher increase.
The village’s TIF district originally had in its plan for Silver Beach Road to be paved, but it’s still a dirt road after 20 years.
“Someone, somewhere dropped the ball and it hasn’t happened,” Boehnlein said.
Expenses on the village’s TIF district expire next year, but the village won’t start receiving tax revenue from the TIF until 2022.
Gottsacker said he has talked to CEOs about Belgium’s industrial park.
“They want that Silver Beach Road done,” he said. “We need to keep this on track. It is extremely important.”