Parking lot proposed for site of razed building

Interim plans of Port Harbor Center owners also call for bocce court, lakefront picnic area

THE LONG-VACANT north end of the Port Harbor Center has been razed to comply with a city order, clearing a view of the harbor from Washington Street. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press Staff

A plan to convert the former grocery store space at the Port Harbor Center into a parking lot with amenities such as a bocce court, rain garden and picnic area until the land is redeveloped was met with praise and skepticism from Port Washington aldermen Tuesday.

Aldermen said the plan is an attractive way to beautify the site of the former grocery store, which was razed this spring, but several officials also questioned whether the plan would be a temporary or permanent solution.

“This looks so nice. If there’s something that concerns me, it’s that it looks so permanent,” Ald. Paul Neumyer said.

The improvements are needed, officials agreed. City Administrator Mark Grams noted that while the owners of the shopping center, Jim and Karen Vollmar and Don and Mary Ann Voigt, followed the city’s repair or raze order, they failed to remediate the site as required by city codes.

“In essence they’re capping the site and will remediate it in the future when they develop the site,” Grams said.

The center owners had planned to convert the former grocery store into condominiums but decided earlier this year not to move ahead with that plan and the city, which had held off on enforcing the repair or raze order, moved forward with it.

Travis Peterson, environmental manager for Kapur and Associates, which is doing work on the site, told aldermen that there is some contaminated soil on the property and leaving the slab in place is the best way to deal with it right now.

“It’s actually acting as the best barrier, preventing any direct contact risk,” he said.

It makes more sense to leave the slab in place than to remediate the property now and have to redo the work when development occurs in the future, Peterson said.

“This is a temporary aesthetic fix, which I would really like to see them do,” Ald. John Sigwart said. But it’s an expensive fix, he said, adding, “I don’t really believe this plan is going to be built.”

Grams said he brought the matter to the council to determine if aldermen were willing to allow these improvements to suffice until the property is developed, but aldermen took no action on the concept plan, which is expected to be reviewed by the Plan Commission on Thursday, May 17.

City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said that even if the city approves the plan, it should retain the right to fine the shopping center owners because they haven’t met city codes throughout the process. 

Although extensions were granted by the city, he said, he believes the site may not have met city codes for months.

“I wouldn’t give them a clean slate and a pass,” he said.

While aldermen debated a deadline for the work, Ald. Mike Gasper noted that the center owners have said the work could be completed by July 1.

“If we’re going to hold them to something, hold them to their own deadline,” he said.

Aldermen are expected to discuss the potential for fines when they meet on June 5.

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