Port CDA begins preparing document city will use to market property even as group continues to fight sale
The process of seeking development proposals for city-owned lakefront land took a slow step forward Monday as the Port Washington Community Development Authority debated what it would look for in a plan.
Members examined requests for proposals for development projects from several communities, trying to pick and choose items that are most important to them.
“You’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development. “But it’s important for you to tell people your expectations and how you will make your decision.”
But even as the city moved forward with a controversial plan to sell the parking lot at the end of the north slip, a petition circulated by Citizens for a Clearer View of the Harbor, which hopes to head off development of the public lakefront land, and signed by more than 400 people who don’t want the property sold, was presented by Pat Wilborn.
Wilborn asked officials if the fact that so many people don’t want to see the lot developed would be included in the request for proposals, saying a developer should be aware of the opposition before making a commitment.
He also asked how a development would fit in with the city’s vision for the lakefront, which he said has not been articulated, and asked how much money the city would ask for the land.
“Is it worth $100,000, $300,000, $600,000?” he asked. “Have you done an appraisal?”
That is one item the CDA considered when talking about what to include in the request for proposals, though no decision was made.
The city needs to decide whether it will list a sale price, a minimum price or simply let the developer make an offer, Tetzlaff said.
“A lot of communities give the property away because they want the development,” he added.
The city could also consider leasing the land over a long term, Tetzlaff said.
To develop a price, the city would seek an appraisal of the property, he said.
The city would also likely seek information on what assistance a developer might want from the community, Tetzlaff said.
Ald. Mike Ehrlich, a member of the CDA, said he would like to see the Main Street Design Committee’s plans for the area — which are still being developed — included in the packet, as well as the city’s development standards.
The city won’t just be looking for the high bidder when it sells the property, officials stressed.
“The highest bid isn’t necessarily what’s important,” Ehrlich said. “It’s the use and the return we will get.”
CDA member Bill Prince concurred, adding, “The emphasis is on getting it right.”
Other information sought in development proposals often includes background on the developer, including his experience, as well as financial and marketing proposals, Tetzlaff said.
CDA member Jason Wittek suggested the city also seek a design schematic, saying it will help officials judge how a plan will fit with the downtown.
The city needs to include such things as a site description, photos and maps of the area, what’s permitted in the zoning code and a statement about what it wants to see done with the parking lot, Tetzlaff said.
That statement would include the city’s desire that any development become a destination for residents and tourists, he said.
It should also include the fact that the city wants the development to maintain access to the harborwalk, to be relatively open and to maintain some open areas on the water sideof the parcel while allowing a connection to the shopping center to the west, Tetzlaff said.
Mayor Tom Mlada said a long-term business model should be submitted with the proposal to help officials judge the viability of the plan.
“We don’t want to have an empty building in five years,” he said. “It has to fit with Port Washington. It should be unique, so it can demonstrate it will pull people into downtown.”
Mlada said the city also needs to look for a plan that will be implemented quickly.
That’s important, he said, because city officials want the development to be “catalytic.”
“If we move that down the line five years, we’ve missed that opportunity,” he said.
CDA members were asked to list what items they want included in a request for proposals before the group’s February meeting. At that meeting, those lists will be reviewed and used to compile a draft request for proposals that will be considered by the CDA in March.
It will then be considered by the Common Council before going out to potential developers in April.
CDA members agreed that developers would likely have at least 90 days to submit proposals, which could then be reviewed by the CDA in July.
The Plan Commission could review at the plan that same month, with the Common Council considering it after that time.
The city reserves the right to reject any and all proposals, officials noted.
“That may well happen,” Tetzlaff said, noting the city could then opt to seek new proposals or come up with some other concept for the property.
If a proposal is accepted by the city, a developer’s agreement would need to be drafted before the sale is completed, Tetzlaff said.