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.