One step forward, one back for Cedar Vineyard

Developer, bank finally reach deal for Port bluff land but key grant for nature preserve has expired

Bluff land off Highway C on Port Washington's far south side is the proposed site of the Cedar Vineyard subdivision and a nature preserve. Press file photo.
Ozaukee Press staff

It’s one step forward and one step back for the proposed Cedar Vineyard subdivision on Port Washington’s southeast side.

City Administrator Mark Grams said Monday that developer Tom Swarthout and Waukesha State Bank have reached an agreement on the price of the 227-acre parcel.

However, he said, the agreement is contingent on two $1 million grants, one of which has expired.

The $1 million Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program Grant awarded to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust elapsed when the new fiscal year began July 1, Grams said.

“We know the Department of Natural Resources loves the project, but rules are rules,” Grams said. “The money’s gone.”

Officials from the city, Ozaukee County and the Land Trust are working to see if they can get the grant back, he said.

They could reapply for the grant, but it won’t be until October or November that they would learn whether they will be awarded the funds, Grams said.

“I don’t think the bank wants to wait that long,” he said.

“We’re seeing what we can do to get that money back. We’re working all the angles.”

The grant is key for several reasons, Grams said.

The grant provides half the money needed for the county and the Land Trust to purchase roughly 100 acres of Lake Michigan bluff land for a nature preserve encompassing the most environmentally sensitive areas of the subdivision, including Cedar Gorge, he said.

It also serves as the matching funds for a $1 million National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program grant that’s been awarded for the project.

“The key with NOAA and the stewardship grant is you have to have a match for each one,” Grams said. “NOAA is the match for the stewardship grant, and the stewardship grant for the NOAA grant.”

But the NOAA grand is also on shaky ground, Grams said.

“It’s still hanging in there, but we could loose it at any time if they fund another project,” he said.

The Cedar Vineyard development, which was lauded by officials and residents alike when it was proposed four years ago, 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.

The plan is to have the Highview Group purchase the entire parcel from Waukesha State Bank and 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.

“It’s been one thing or another (since the project’s been proposed),” Grams said. 

While Swarthout and Waukesha State Bank have reached an agreement on a price for the land, Grams noted that they still don’t have a signed sales contract yet.

“They’re working on it now,” he said. “But at least we know the deal appears to be in place. That part is promising.”


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Ozaukee Press

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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Port Washington, WI 53074
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