Revised plan a sign of life for long-awaited Cedar Vineyard project

Developer says he plans to proceed with land purchase for Port subdivision, preserve despite loss of grants
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

In a sign of new life for the beleaguered Cedar Vineyard subdivision, the Port Washington Plan Commission will review a revised site plan for the proposed development on the city’s south side when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15.

The site plan will delineate land to be set aside for conservation purposes, facilitating a $300,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant application, City Administrator Mark Grams said. That money would be used to pay for the purchase of wetlands on the south end of the subdivision, he said.

Developer Tom Swarthout of the Highview Group, who said he has reached an agreement with Waukesha State Bank to purchase the subdivision property, on Tuesday called the revisions to the site plan minor, noting they reduce the number of home sites by six and create more open space.

“They really are very minor changes,” he said, meant to “get the ball rolling.”

The revised plan calls for Swarthout to purchase a 227-acre parcel of Lake Michigan bluff land along Highway C from the bank for the subdivision, which would include single-family lots, a vineyard, winery and a 100-acre nature preserve encompassing the most environmentally sensitive areas of the subdivision, including Cedar Gorge.

There would be 76 home sites east of Highway C, where previously there were 73, and none on the west side of the highway, he said.

On the west side, he said, there would still be a winery with public restrooms, trails and a parking lot for both the winery and people using the trails in Cedar Vineyard.

The remaining 22 acres on the west side of Highway C would be transferred to a nonprofit organization for preservation, Swarthout said.

On the east side of the highway, there would be 43 lots south of the gorge, three more than originally planned,  and 33 lots north of the gorge, he said.

The proposed 102-acre nature preserve would be retained and ultimately transferred to Ozaukee County in perpetuity.

The two $1 million grants that were to be used to purchase the preserve have both expired.

The county and Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, which had acquired these grants from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are working to reapply for the stewardship grant and find other funding sources, Grams and Swarthout said.

There could be a funding gap between the time the Highview Group purchases the property and the awarding of any grants, and Swarthout said he has a funding mechanism in place to bridge that gap.

Grams said the city may finance at least a portion of that gap through its tax incremental financing district. The district was created in large part to extend utilities to the proposed subdivision but the TIF plan includes $1 million for this purpose.

“I don’t think it’ll be that much,” Grams said.

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