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Port Washington

Port poised to expand downtown TIF district PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 01 February 2017 19:45

Move would pave way for marina district, downtown projects with increased incentives for developers

Port Washington officials are preparing to amend the city’s downtown tax incremental financing district plan to include five additional properties and millions of dollars in development incentives not envisioned when the district was created almost seven years ago.

The proposed amendment, which will be the subject of a public hearing before the Plan Commission on Feb. 16, marks a renewed commitment to the district by city officials who consider it a necessary tool to ensure the downtown remains vital.

It’s also a recognition that many of the projects now under consideration for the downtown and lakefront were not envisioned when the district was created, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of palanning and development, said.

Among those projects are the Blues Factory entertainment complex and plans by Ansay Development to create a 44-unit luxury apartment building between Pier and Jackson streets just west of Lake Street and a six-story Marina Shores building for a restaurant, store and commercial operations on the NewPort Shores property.

“We really undershot what we would be able to attract in terms of private investment,” Mayor Tom Mlada said. “The incentives in place were not sufficient. Clearly we did not foresee a pretty significant development, for instance, on the NewPort Shores property.

“There has been a pronounced emphasis on redevelopment in downtown over the last four or five years.

The TIF plan amendment calls for adding five properties to the district — the Port Harbor Center strip mall along the north slip, NewPort Shores restaurant and several houses that would be razed for Ansay’s apartment building, Tetzlaff said.

It also updates the district’s costs and revenues, including infrastructure work, remediation of city-owned parking lots in the area, changes to the marina parking lot and increased development incentives.

The city has already exceeded the $750,000 in development incentives originally anticipated when the TIF district was formed, giving $1.75 million in loans to developer Gertjan van den Broek for the Port Harbour Lights retail and residential project downtown and agreeing to $1 million in incentives for van den Broek’s Blues Factory development.

Ansay has said the apartments and Marina Shores developments would require $3.5 million in incentives as well, and Tetzlaff said the city is also including some incentive money for the former grocery store in the Port Harbor Center.

“Nothing’s going to happen there unless there’s some inducement,” Tetzlaff said.

“Very few of these projects would happen without incentives,” he added, noting that land in downtown is more expensive than elsewhere and redevelopment is often pricier as well.

Development incentives are relatively new in Port Washington — Port Harbour Lights was the first project in Port to receive them — but they are a common tool used by communities statewide to spur redevelopment.

In the Village of Grafton, for example, incentives have been used for at least eight redevelopment projects that have increased the value of the downtown by more than $25 million, officials have said.

While incentives are included in the plan, they will only be awarded if the developments they support can repay the loans, officials said.

Tetzlaff noted that the city uses extremely conservative estimates when calculating these numbers to ensure taxpayers won’t be on the hook for development.

A TIF district uses increased property taxes within the area to pay for public improvements that benefit the district. Once those improvements are paid for, the district is dissolved.

The downtown TIF district has paid for a number of public improvements downtown already, including parking lot, alley and street improvements.

When the city’s original TIF district was retired in 2007, it had a surplus of several hundred thousand dollars and much of that money was used for property tax relief.

The city has been considering amendments to the downtown TIF district plan for several years, hiring Trilogy Consultants to help crunch the numbers.

After the public hearing, the plan requires approval by the Common Council and the Joint Review Board, which is made up of representatives of the various taxing districts in the TIF district  — the city, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College — as well as a citizen.

Although the city has talked about amending its downtown TIF plan for several years, it waited until now because it wanted to know what developments were planned, Tetzlaff said.

“We’re just including stuff that’s been proposed or that we know of,” he said.

One apartment plan OK’d, another panned PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 25 January 2017 21:43

Port Plan Commission approves complex for adults with autism but not plan for two-story building off Hwy. 33

The Port Washington Plan Commission last week was split in its thinking on a pair of apartment proposals.

Commission members approved a concept plan for a 69-unit apartment building on Port Washington’s west side that would include units and services for autistic adults.

The commission also approved a certified survey map and recommended the Common Council rezone the six-acre parcel at the intersection of Highways LL and 33 to accommodate the plan.

But commission members said they did not like a revised plan by Bielinski Homes for a senior apartment building on Highway 33, saying the building is too large for the site.

The commission was enthusiastic about the plan by Cardinal Capital Management to construct the apartment building and a nearby wellness center for autistic adults on the north portion of the former Highway LL ramp land.

Erich Schwenker, president of Cardinal Capital, told the commission that integrating people with disabilities into a complex that’s open to everyone is the preferred housing option today.

About 15 of the apartments are expected to be rented to people with autism, while students from Concordia University Wisconsin could rent as many as a quarter of the units, he said.

The area to the west of the apartments would be used for walking paths and other outdoor facilities, while a wellness center that provides services to people with autism is expected to be constructed on the southwest portion of the property.

The existing woods would be retained, helping screen the apartments from the neighbors to the west and north.

“The design really fits in well,” said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development. “Everything’s tucked in. They’re preserving the natural areas.”

But commission members were not enthused by revised plans for an apartment complex proposed by Bielinski Homes. Earlier, the developer had submitted plans for a three-story, 27-unit building on the roughly 1-1/2 acre parcel that neighbors opposed, saying it was too large for the land and, since it would be located atop a hill, would loom over their homes.

The Plan Commission had said it would prefer a two-story structure, even if there were more units, and the new plan calls for a two-story, 36-unit building, Tetzlaff said.

The Design Review Board did not like the plan, he said.

“It gobbles up the entire lot with the building and asphalt,” Tetzlaff said. 

Based on comments from the Design Review Board, Tetzlaff suggested a compromise that would move the two-story building on the site, downsizing it and adding green space on the north, nearest the neighboring properties.

That, he said, could make the plan more palatable to neighbors and the commission.

The compromise plan would also move the building farther from the gas metering station on the lot just west of the proposed apartments, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, a commission member, said.

“It whistles,” he said of the station. “You can smell the faint odor of the stuff they put in the gas.

“If I were living there, I’d prefer to be away from that.” 

Commission member Ron Voigt suggested yet another compromise, saying a stepped design with three, two and one stories would not only break up the facade but also provide a more interesting design.

Commission members agreed that the newest iteration of the plan is too dense for the site, although they said they realize more units are inevitable if the building is two stories instead of three. 

“I think the homeowners would definitely want to see them come back with something more along the lines of the (compromise) plan,” commission member Dan Becker said.

“It’s about the best use of the site,” Mayor Tom Mlada added.

Apartment complex plan gets thumbs up from Port panel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 18 January 2017 20:14

Sixty-nine-unit building would provide housing for adults with autism

A concept plan for a 69-unit apartment building on Port Washington’s west side that would include units and services for autistic adults met with approval from the city’s Design Review Board Tuesday.

The building, along with a nearby wellness center where services for people with autism would be provided, are proposed for the former Highway LL ramp land.

Cardinal Capital, which is purchasing the northern half of the ramp land from Ozaukee County, has done a number of projects for people with special needs through the years and was approached by the autistic community to develop a project for them, said  Tadhg Mc Inerney, who works in planning and architecture for the West Allis firm.  The company looked at properties in Cedarburg and Milwaukee before finding the Port Washington land, Mc Inerney said.

“That’s the greatest piece of land I’ve ever seen ... especially for this purpose,” he said.

About 12 of the units are expected to be built for autistic adults, with special soundproofing, cameras and electronics, Mc Inerney said. The rest of the units would be rented to the general public at market rates.

The area to the west of the apartments would be used for walking paths and other outdoor facilities, he said.

Mc Inerney said Cardinal is working with the Milwaukee Center for Independence, which will provide services for the autistic adults, and Concordia University Wisconsin  on the project.

Fire Chief Mark Mitchell, a member of the board, said that while he likes the concept, he is troubled by the building’s proximity to Highway LL.

“I’m concerned about the safety of the autistic residents,” Mitchell said. “It’s 35 mph there, and nobody goes 35.”

Board member Jorgen Hansen concurred, saying a buffer zone between the building and Highway LL may be needed.

“They’re still 40 feet from the curb,” City Planner Randy Tetzlaff noted.

Mc Inerney said the company will take a look at that matter before submitting final plans.

The board also weighed in on a revised plan for a senior housing apartment complex proposed by Bielinski Development on Highway 33.

Residents in the Hidden Hills subdivision objected to the original proposal for a three-story, 27-unit building on the land, saying they feared it would loom over their homes, eliminating their privacy and reducing property values.

The new plan calls for a two-story building with 36 units, Tetzlaff said.

“It’s a much larger footprint,” he said. “It gobbles up the site.”

Board members were concerned about that, saying the new plan is too large for the site.

“I think that (original plan) makes better use of the site than the new one,” Hansen said.

“This would be the biggest two-story apartment building we have,” Mitchell noted.

The Plan Commission will weigh in on both apartment plans when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19.

PW-S has a lot on the line in summer school debate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 11 January 2017 20:35

Because of its large program, district could benefit greatly, suffer dearly from state funding changes

Summer school funding is on the minds of school officials and state legislators, and the Port Washington-Saukville School District is poised to benefit greatly or suffer dearly if significant changes are made.

The district is supporting a Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) resolution that will be voted upon during the Wisconsin State School Board Convention in Milwaukee next week that would urge the Legislature to significantly increase state aid for summer school programs.

For the Port Washington-Saukville School District, which has one of the largest, longest-standing summer school programs in the state, the change would mean an additional $750,000 annually, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said. 

“The amount of money involved is substantial,” he said. “If this passes, our district would definitely be one of the largest winners.”

Under the state aid formula, districts use the number of minutes of summer school education provided every year to calculate full-time student equivalent enrollment figures. In the case of the Port-Saukville School District, the 1,500 students who attend summer school are the equivalent of 126 full-time students under the aid formula. Currently, districts can count 40% of those students — 50 in the case of the Port-Saukville School District — as full-time students for the purposes of state aid.

The WASB resolution calls for the aid formula to be changed so that 100% of the full-time equivalent students can be counted in enrollment figures.

Whether the call for such a change will gain any traction in the Legislature is uncertain, but at the very least the resolution may help ward off the opposite reaction from lawmakers intent on cutting funding for public education, officials said.

“Part of this resolution is a reaction to preliminary discussions among some legislators to eliminate all financial support for summer school programs,” Supt. Michael Weber said. “That would be devastating to summer school programs throughout the state.”

It would be particularly devastating to the Port Washington-Saukville School District, whose summer school enrollment is worth about $500,000 annually under the state revenue limit formula, Froemming said.

When asked if the elimination of state funding for summer school would doom the district’s long-standing program, Weber said, “I really don’t know.

“My guess is no, it would not, but we would have to take money away from something else important to maintain our summer school program.”

At stake is a six-week program that officials say has long been an important part of the public school education provided by the district. Remedial programs help elementary and middle school students stay on track and is one of the reasons Port Washington High School has a graduation rate of almost 100%, Weber said. 

The enrichment programs — everything from fishing and athletics to arts and engineering — help keep students engaged academically and socially over the long summer break, helping to reduce the so-called summer learning slide.

Froemming noted that the program also provides attractive jobs for both veteran educators and new teachers looking for experience and an entree into the district that they can parlay into full-time employment.

“A five-hour-a-day job for six weeks in summer is pretty attractive for a lot of teachers,” Froemming said. 

Among the other WASB resolutions supported by the district is one calling for the repeal of the school start date mandate law enacted in 1999 that prevents districts from beginning their school years before Sept. 1.  

One of the justifications for the law is that beginning classes earlier in the summer would deprive the tourism industry of seasonal workers during a peak tourism period. 

The WASB argues, however, that most students — those in kindergarten through eighth grade — are not part of the workforce, so earlier starts to the school year would not have a significant impact on the tourism industry.

Local school officials said they are not intent on making significant changes to the school start date but believe districts should have the freedom to draft a calendar that works best for the students they educate.

“I’ve not been a strong supporter of the Sept. 1 start date and I’ve not been a strong opponent of it,” Weber told the School Board Monday. “What I am opposed to is dictating to local communities and school districts what their calendars should look like.”

Incumbents face rare challenges on school ballot PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 04 January 2017 19:31

Port, Saukville residents launch bids to unseat two longtime board members

Two longtime Port Washington-Saukville School Board members face rare challenges in the April election.

Scott Fischer, a Saukville village trustee,  is running against Sara McCutcheon, who has represented the Village of Saukville on the School Board for 20 years.

“I just think it might be time for a change, and I want to see if I can contribute,” Fischer said.

In her two decades on the board, McCutcheon recalls running in only one contested election. She fended off a challenge from Jim Cryns in 2008.

McCutcheon, 51, owns and operates Silk Screen Specialists in Grafton.

Fischer, 48, is the director of facilities at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee.

Another longtime incumbent, Brian McCutcheon, is facing a challenge from Aaron Paulin, a 38-year-old social studies teacher at West Bend West High School who is making his third run in as many years for a seat representing the City of Port Washington.

McCutcheon, who is Sara McCutcheon’s brother-in-law, is retired. He’s 59.

Marchell Longstaff, who was first elected to the board in 2014, is running unopposed to retain her seat representing the Town of Port Washington.

Board members serve three-year terms.

Supt. Michael Weber said that prospective candidates have also expressed interest in a new at-large seat the district is in the process of creating, although they will have to wait until 2019 to get their names on the ballot.

The new seat would address the problem the school district has had finding candidates or even appointees to fill a seat representing a small, sparsely populated section of the district in the towns of Saukville and Grafton, which has been vacant for more than a year.

The board intends to change this seat to an at-large position that can be filled by a resident who lives anywhere in the district, not just in this small area.

Board bylaws currently call for the board to consist of five members from the City of Port Washington, two from the Village of Saukville and one each from the Town of Port Washington and the towns of Saukville and Grafton. The proposed change would only affect the Saukville-Grafton town seat.

Although board members are elected from and represent specific areas of the district, all voters can vote for all candidates. For example, a Village of Saukville resident can vote for a City of Port Washington School Board candidate.

The proposed change, seen by officials as a preferred alternative to reducing the number of board members to seven, is not, however, a quick fix, and is one that must be approved by voters.

The board must circulate a petition and collect the signatures of 500 district residents to have a resolution put on the April 2017 ballot.

If the measure is approved by voters, it will not take effect until the three-year term of the current town of Saukville-Grafton seat expires in April 2019.

A vacant Saukville-Grafton town seat was not always a problem. For 16 years it was occupied by Jim Eden, who served as board president for two of those years before resigning in March 2014.

The board appointed Paul Krechel in July of that year. Krechel ran unopposed in the April 2015 election but resigned in October of that year.

Despite the district’s efforts to find an appointee to fill the seat, as well as an April 2016 election that failed to attract a registered or even a write-in candidate, the seat has remained vacant since Krechel’s departure.

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