Last-minute deal keeps Cedar Vineyard proposal alive

Ozaukee County’s plan to enlarge nature preserve convinces agency to extend deadline for key grant

A NEW SIGN erected on the site proposed for the Cedar Vineyard subdivision and nature preserve indicates that despite years of negotiations with the developer, the Lake Michigan bluff land is still on the market. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

ineyard subdivision planned for Port Washington’s south side have more time to work out a deal with the land’s owner following an 11th-hour deal struck Tuesday between government officials that would expand the nature preserve within the project.

Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Director Andrew Struck proposed to federal and state representatives that a 101-acre proposed nature preserve, which is seen as key to getting the Cedar Vineyard project off the ground, be expanded to include another 70 acres of wetlands at its southern end.

That idea appealed to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program whose $1 million grant, along with a $1 million state stewardship grant, would be used to purchase the 101 acres of environmentally sensitive land, including Cedar Gorge. 

The NOAA grant had been in danger of falling through because Cedar Vineyard developer Tom Swarthout of the Highview Group has been unable to strike a deal with the property owner, Waukesha State Bank.

The purchase of the 70 additional acres of wetlands would be funded through a $300,000  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant that also requires a $75,000 match from the county and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, according to county documents.

That grant is intended to preserve habitat for migratory birds, specifically the short-eared owl, a state-designated “species of special concern” that nests in the area.

County Administrator Jason Dzwinel also said after Tuesday’s meeting that the county has other funds available to expand the preserve even more by adding parcels along the Lake Michigan bluff and elsewhere.

As proposed, the development would include 82 half-acre lots surrounded by a vineyard along Highway C and a winery on the west side of Highway C south of Stonecroft Drive.

Dzwinel said that proposal may undergo some changes to accommodate the expanded preserve.

The plan is to have the Highview Group purchase the entire parcel from Waukesha State Bank and almost immediately sell the preserve land to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

The Land Trust would then transfer the preserve to Ozaukee County, which would hold it in perpetuity.

“The next steps would be to get an appraisal so we will be working with the land trust, the state and the feds to complete that process and then we’ll move forward,” Dzwinel said.

“There’s no firm time line” when the property will be appraised, he added. 

“The time line will come from the federal government but they gave us a conceptual approval today,” Dzwinel said. “This will allow the developer some additional time to determine what he needs to do.”

Dzwinel added that there also was “positive feedback” on the new plan from Waukesha State Bank representatives.

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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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