Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 20:41
With outside funds unavailable, Port mayor wants council to find way to install safety upgrade in lakefront park this year
Port Washington officials need to recognize that grant money won’t pay for a railing along the promenade at Coal Dock Park, Mayor Tom Mlada said.
“The bottom line is that we need to address it,” he said. “I think it’s a question the council will ultimately have to take up.
“I’d like to see it done in 2015.”
At the very least, Mlada said, he would like the city to come up with a plan of action so a railing could be installed next year.
“The first step is to get the right solution in place,” he said.
The Coal Dock Committee on Friday took up the issue but made no recommendation, primarily because there isn’t any money available to construct the railing, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, chairman of the committee, said.
“Right now, it’s about finances,” he said, noting the cost to install the railing along the 1,000-foot-long promenade is estimated at $200,000.
The high cost is due, in part, to the fact the railing would match the remainder of the city’s lakefront railings and be constructed out of materials that won’t rust and will minimize maintenance.
“What we had hoped for in grants is either gone or wasn’t there for this purpose,” Vanden Noven said.
The city has looked at diverting some grant money from other projects in the park to the railing, but that hasn’t been allowed, he said.
The reason the city didn’t initially install the railing is that it had expected large boats to moor along the promenade, and the railing would limit the ability of these ships to do that, Vanden Noven said.
The promenade was also made particularly wide — 18-1/2 feet — so people could keep youngsters away from the edge while still enjoying the lakefront views, he added.
But the expected large boat traffic hasn’t materialized, Vanden Noven said.
“If the boats aren’t coming in, the question (of a railing) comes down to cost,” he said.
Even if boats come in, the city could construct gates along the railing that would allow boats to moor in the area.
The railing is important, Mlada said, because the lack of one is keeping people away from the park — one of Port’s premier lakeside recreational spaces.
“It’s a bit of a limitation, especially for parents with young children,” he said. “There’s a collective feeling this should get done. Let’s figure out a way to get it done.
“I think people have generally been understanding, but you reach a point ... we’re two-plus years into this and it’s time to take action.”
Mlada said Vanden Noven was asked to look at options for the railing and updated cost figures for the Coal Dock Committee to consider in May.
The Parks and Recreation Board, which has consistently sought to have a railing installed in the park, will also be asked for a recommendation on the matter, Mlada said.
He then expects the Common Council to take up the issue.
There are a number of ways the city could finance the cost of the railing, Mlada said.
“There are options we could explore,” he said.
The city could include funding in a borrowing issue it is expected to approve next year, he said.
Or, if the city sells the lakefront parking lot adjacent to the north slip, it could use some of the proceeds to help pay for the railing, Mlada said.
The Parks and Recreation Board also recently suggested that the railing be broken into segments and sponsorships be sought for each leg.
Some money has already been raised from the community to offset the cost of the railing. The Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees dedicated the $6,000 it raised in its inaugural Land Regatta Run and Walk last year for the project, and the Port Washington Woman’s Club has also pledged $1,000 for the railing.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 20:09
Town of Port facility housing sex offender fuels complaints from neighbors who tell board they feel unsafe
More than a dozen residents living near Upper Forest Beach Road in the Town of Port Washington appealed to town officials Monday, saying they are concerned a community-based residential facility in their neighborhood could be a safety issue.
That’s because one of the residents of the Abundance of Life home at 4870 Upper Forest Beach Rd. is a registered sex offender, they said.
“I don’t feel safe in my home anymore,” said Nanci Johnson, 4838 Upper Forest Beach Rd. “My life has changed. I’m looking out my windows all the time.
“Who gave permission for this? No one can tell me.”
Neighbors also questioned what supervision is provided at the home and said that if a sex offender lives there, they should have been notified before he was placed there.
Groups visiting the nearby Forest Beach Migratory Preserve also ought to be warned, they said.
In addition to raising concerns about their safety, the residents said they are worried about the impact on their property values, with one man saying it will decrease them 10% to 14%.
Supr. Mike Didier said he was told the home is for people with cognitive disabilities. One of the residents is a convicted sex offender, he said, but he was told the man lived at the home before he was convicted.
One of the neighbors told officials there are two other residents at the home, a middle-aged man with lung issues and another man who needs assistance.
Town Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt said officials first learned that the house was being used as a CBRF last fall, when they were told it would be for hospice patients.
The town learned that purpose had changed a month or two ago, she said, when residents notified them.
Rules and regulations on these types of facilities are established by state and federal agencies, Town Chairman Jim Melichar said, and the town has little power over them.
These agencies aren’t required to notify the town when these facilities are established, officials added.
Didier suggested that since the house is being used as a business, neighbors should investigate whether it violates their subdivision covenant rules. If it does, he said, they could file a civil suit against the firm.
“Why doesn’t the Town of Port Washington have some control over this, and how do you get it?” one man asked, saying he had seen a television report about communities that regulate these types of uses.
Town officials said they would have their planner look into what sort of regulations and restrictions they can place on the placement of sex offenders and felons in the township.
An initial discussion was expected to be held during the Plan Commission’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, meeting.
But any action by the town will take time, Didier said, adding the Town of Port isn’t alone in dealing with this issue.
“This is happening across the country,” he said. “It’s a hot, emotional topic.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 21:48
Port officials say tests may be needed because land was site of factory
Port Washington officials who have fast-tracked a controversial plan to seek development proposals for a city-owned parcel of lakefront land will be asked next week to conduct an additional environmental assessment of the property.
If approved, it would delay the city’s quest for development proposals, although Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said he did not know how long the work would take.
Although the city has not received the results of an initial environmental assessment of the parking lot at the end of the north slip, that study will likely recommend the extra work, Tetzlaff said Tuesday.
For decades before it was converted to a parking lot, the property was home to industrial buildings — most notably, the Wisconsin Chair Co.
“We don’t know what’s there,” Tetzlaff said. “If I’m going to look to put a development there, I want to know what’s there.”
Typically, the assessment will involve doing soil borings to determine if contaminants are present, Tetzlaff said.
If they are, aldermen will have to decide whether to remediate the site, he said.
The condition of the site will influence the design of whatever building is placed there, Tetzlaff said. If a developer can create a lower level to house mechanical systems, it can minimize the building footprint and maximize public space on the lot, he said.
Even if the city moves ahead with the additional assessment, Tetzlaff said, the general timeline for development proposals remains.
After the request for proposals is issued, developers will have 75 days to respond, after which the city will have 30 days to vet the proposals, he said.
Officials had hoped to complete the process in early July.
The city’s decision to seek development proposals has drawn the ire of residents who believe the municipality should not sell valuable lakefront property but instead keep it public.
But officials note that the city owns miles of lakefront land. This site, they said, offers the community the opportunity to make property available for a project that could spur redevelopment throughout the downtown.
Developers Chris Long of Madison and Gertjan van den Broek of Port Washington have already approached the city with their plan to create a Paramount Blues-themed museum, restaurant, performance space and banquet hall on the property, noting the Wisconsin Chair Co. was the parent company of Paramount Records.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 20:31
Port alderman identifies seven parcels he believes city should consider selling
Port Washington Ald. Bill Driscoll told the Parks and Recreation Board earlier this month that he has identified seven park and open space parcels he believes the city could put up for sale.
The lands, he said, are underused and proceeds from the sales could be used to maintain the remaining parks and open spaces in the city.
“A lot of the parks are deteriorating,” Driscoll told the board March 12. “Where’s the money coming from to fix them up?
“Instead of having a whole lot of parks, maybe we’ve got to have fewer parks in great shape.”
Driscoll said he began his quest to get the city to sell unused and underused properties it owns after going through the last budget cycle as a member of the Finance and License Committee.
Tight budgets are affecting every department, he said.
“It doesn’t look real good,” he said, noting park equipment is costly to maintain. “It’s the same with our streets. The question is do we want to have a bunch of empty parks.”
It’s not just parks he is looking at, Driscoll said, but every parcel of land the city owns.
“It is a fiscal issue. It started as a fiscal thing for the parks,” he said.
Ald. Kevin Rudser, a member of the board, said a recent park study showed the city has a higher than average amount of parkland per person than most communities.
Board member Sue Kinas said the city needs to define what a park is, noting it isn’t always a parcel with play equipment. Open space is also important, she said.
“A lot of people like open space,” Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Imig said.
Imig said the parcels identified by Driscoll as properties that could be sold include:
• West Side Park at the corner of Grand Avenue and Park Street.
• Oakland Avenue Green, which was donated to the city by We Energies, on Oakland Avenue between Division Street and Coe Street.
• A 60-foot-wide former water tower site between Grand Avenue and Larabee Street that is maintained by the Parks Department.
• A landlocked parcel in the Lake Ridge Subdivision.
• A small parcel bordered by Jackson and Lake streets and the water filtration plant, maintained by the Water Department.
• A piece of city-owned property in the gully off Whitefish Road.
• Kaiser Park, a parcel along the ravine just north of Hales Trail.
Driscoll said he plans to meet with City Administrator Mark Grams to identify other city-owned parcels that could potentially be sold.
He will also meet with Parks Board members Patti Lemkuil and Ron Voigt to take a closer look at the city’s parklands before moving forward with his plan.
Some of the parcels may have deed restrictions limiting their use and ownership, Driscoll said, but that shouldn’t stop the city from considering their future.
“Personally, I believe they (deed restrictions) can be overcome,” he said.
Just because a parcel is looked at by the group doesn’t mean it will be sold, Driscoll said.
“If we decide it’s going to be green space forever, that’s fine,” he said. “At least we’ve look at it and decided.”