Access to Casey’s site comes with sticker shock

State puts $274,000 price tag on linking county land to highways for convenience store, apartments
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

If a Casey’s General Store is to be built at the northwest corner of the intersection of Highways 33 and LL in Port Washington, it’s going to cost about $274,000 just to gain access to the property, the state Department of Transportation has told Ozaukee County officials.

Word on the fee comes well over a year after Iowa-based Casey’s reached an agreement with the county to buy the approximately six-acre site for $500,000 that was created when the cloverleaf interchange there was demolished in 2011 and replaced with a round about.

Casey’s has proposed building a 4,286-square-foot red brick gas station, store and car wash there.

The $274,000 would buy the county, the City of Port Washington and Casey’s access to the property from Highway 33 and from Highway LL, plus access off LL to another six-acre parcel north of Casey’s where Cardinal Capital Management has proposed building a 90-unit apartment building with units set aside for people with disabilities.

Officials also have petitioned the state to allow the existing median cut on Highway 33 to remain with the addition of a left-turn lane on eastbound Grand Avenue for the store.

Earlier this year, the state told officials the access from Highway 33 alone would cost $55,000. But they went back to the drawing board after county officials reminded them that access from LL also was needed.

The size of the fee came as a surprise to county officials.

“They believe they have restrictions for permanent accesses. We believed that we had free and clear access,” county Public Works Director Jon Edgren said. “If we want to change that then it requires about $274,000.”

Last week, members of the county Public Works Committee met in closed session with county Corporation Counsel Rhonda Gordon to craft a response to the state.

No action was taken, Edgren said, adding that he was directed to get some additional information for Gordon.

Local officials have complained about how long the state is taking on the project.

In July 2018, the county reached an agreement with Casey’s for the purchase of the site. 

“The agreement was extended as we were waiting for the DOT to appraise the value of the access easements,” County Administrator Jason Dzwinel said. “The sale will not be final until the access issues are resolved.”

Casey’s officials have said they would invest $4.3 million in the site. They also have said the company plans to sell the northern three acres of the site for additional development, presumably commercial or residential development.

The state is charging for access points are on Highway 33 because the frontage road there to Eernisse Funeral Home is a private drive. 

If that road is taken by the city and made a public road, there would be no access charge, Edgren said, but the City of Port Washington would be responsible for its maintenance.

If an access fee is paid, it’s unclear who would pay. 

While the county technically is the point negotiator with the state, the payment would probably be a matter of negotiation between the four parties.

“The county has not determined what steps we will take next with the access easements,” Dzwinel said. “Our attorney is reviewing the appraisal reports and the real estate documents. When that is complete we may approach the DOT seeking a resolution. I believe there to be enough gray area in the documentation where that may make sense after a detailed legal review.”

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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.

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