Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 18:24
City to have bluff property appraised as plans for nearby vineyard project progress
Port Washington is bracing for a lakefront building boom as officials begin the process to sell a prime piece of city-owned land off Highway C.
The Common Council on Tuesday agreed to get a formal appraisal of the value of a roughly 44-acre parcel east of Highway C — the first step in marketing the land, which the city has eyed as an ideal site for a subdivision.
City Administrator Mark Grams said two parties have approached the city about the property in recent months, prompting aldermen to seek the appraisal.
That move comes just weeks after the city approved the concept plan for Cedar Vineyard, which calls for 73 home sites, a vineyard and winery and a 100-acre preserve farther south on Highway C.
The city is expected to begin work on a tax-incremental financing district that would facilitate that development next month, Grams said.
“It’s really an exciting time,” Mayor Tom Mlada said.
Tuesday’s Common Council discussion revolved around the 44-acre site, which the city acquired as part of a sweeping agreement in which officials agreed to back the conversion of the We Energies power plant from coal to natural gas.
The city had sought cost estimates from two appraisers for an appraisal of the property, but only one offered a price of between $500 and $1,000.
The other, Peter Didier of Re/Max United, offered an estimated value of the bluff land of between $2 million and $2.5 million, Grams said.
Both appraisers noted that setting a value for the land would be difficult because there are few comparables in the area, he added.
In a letter to the city, Didier noted that the property has about 2,300 feet of lake frontage that would allow the development of 23 100-foot-wide lots, similar to those on Noridge Trail. Those lots, he said, were selling in the $300,000 range before the recession but now sell in the low $200,000 range.
The average sale price for a lot on the city land is likely to be $300,000, Didier said, noting the total value of the lots would then be $6.9 million.
After development costs are subtracted, he came up with his valuation, Grams said.
Ald. Bill Driscoll said he did not believe a formal appraisal was needed.
“I think what we’ve been given from Pete is as good as we’re going to get,” he said. “I can’t imagine we’re going to get anything better by paying for it.”
But Ald. Doug Biggs disagreed, saying a formal appraisal is necessary so the city can properly evaluate any offer for the land.
“I think it’s important we have a good idea of the value of the land before making a final sale decision,” he said.
The city can agree to sell the land for less than the appraised price if the proposed development offers other benefits to the community.
City Atty. Eric Eberhardt agreed an appraisal is needed, saying, “I don’t know how you can sell a car, a boat or a multi-million-dollar piece of property without knowing what it’s worth.
“Do it — that’s all I’m saying. It’s public property and you want to get it right. You don’t want to be surprised later.”
Aldermen agreed to get a formal appraisal, saying it is needed so any offers the city receives can be weighed against it.
When asked if any offers for the property are imminent, Grams said, “That might be a little strong. Is there interest in the property? Yes.”
Grams said the city has been approached by two parties — one in the last six months and the other in the last month — to discuss the parcel. The two have different concepts for the land that combine business and residential uses, he said.
The proposals would complement the Cedar Vineyard development, Grams said.
The Cedar Vineyard proposal is likely to spur more interest in the city’s land, Mlada said.
“It’s really outstanding land,” he said. “I think some of what we’re doing with Cedar Vineyard is setting the stage for it.
“You don’t want somebody to say, ‘How many units can we jam in there.’ I think we’re setting the standards. Developers know we’re looking for the right kind of development in terms of density. Connectivity to downtown is a long-term goal. It would be great to have some public access along the bluff and beach.”
The city hasn’t yet talked about how it wants to sell the land, whether to put it out for bids or seek a request for proposals from developers, Mlada added.
“We’re just in the exploring mode right now,” he said.
Any development on the city-owned land would likely add significantly to the tax base, but it probably wouldn’t be included in the TIF that’s expected to be created for the Cedar Vineyard development, officials said.
In a TIF district, increased taxes that result from new development are used to pay for infrastructure costs, such as the extension of sewer and water to the Cedar Vineyard development.
A preliminary analysis of the proposed TIF district is expected to be presented to the council when it meets Wednesday, Feb. 18, Grams said, with a formal report ready for action on March 3.
If the council accepts the report and moves ahead with the district, a TIF committee that includes representatives of the city, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College, as well as an at-large member, would be created, Grams said.
The TIF district would need to be approved by the committee before it is implemented, he said, adding that the process of creating a TIF district takes about three months.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 20:21
Joy Dreier steps down to recover, shocking volunteers who are working to keep Port organization running
Joy Dreier, who has served as administrator of the Port Washington Food Pantry for much of its existence, resigned from her post last week.
“It shocked a lot of people,” her husband Bob said of her sudden resignation, which he said was prompted by health concerns.
Joy Dreier was stricken with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) while visiting family in Florida two weeks ago, her husband said.
Just two days after she arrived in Naples, Mrs. Dreier woke up to find she had no strength, he said.
“She couldn’t stand up,” he said. “She had no feeling in her hands or feet, no strength, no nothing.”
Mrs. Dreier went to a clinic for tests, then was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with CIDP, her husband said.
“She’s doing really well,” he said Monday. “She feels stronger. She has feeling back in her hands. She’s walking with a walker.”
Her spirits, he said, are good.
“She’s so jovial on the phone,” Mr. Dreier said.
But, he said, it will take some time for his wife to fully recover, and for that reason she resigned from the Food Pantry.
“She said, ‘I still want to stay with the Food Pantry, but I won’t be able to do everything I have been,’” said her husband, who is the president of the Food Pantry Board of Directors.
Longtime volunteer Cathy Schowalter is taking over in her place until the board appoints a new director, Mr. Dreier said.
In the meantime, the staff is busy transferring Mrs. Dreier’s records for the pantry onto a computer, he said.
“Joy kept everything by hand on 4-by-6 cards,” he said. “She’s telling me where everything is.”
Whoever takes Mrs. Dreier’s place “will have big shoes to fill, or rather a big heart,” Schowalter said. “She’s an amazing administrator and truly a great example and inspiration to the many volunteers who make the Food Pantry run week by week.”
The clients of the pantry find themselves in difficult circumstances, she added, “and Mrs. Dreier makes sure everyone is treated with compassion and respect.”
Mrs. Dreier has been with the Food Pantry since 1982 and has become its public face, working to drum up support when needed and to draw attention to the problems of people in need in Ozaukee County.
While the pantry is only open on Tuesdays, Mrs. Dreier handled its business seven days a week, Schowalter said, doing everything from ordering supplies to appearing before community groups to raise awareness.
The Food Pantry has about 50 active volunteers and a waiting list of those who want to help, Mr. Dreier said, adding none of the staff is paid.
The organization, which is supported by 14 area churches, helps about 160 families a week, he said, although the number varies significantly depending on the time of year.
It could be March before a new administrator is named, Mr. Dreier said.
But Mrs. Dreier, who is out of the hospital and in a rehabilitation center, is expected to return to Port Washington on Friday night. The couple’s daughter Sandra Dreier flew to Florida on Wednesday and will accompany her mother home.
Her prospects for recovery are good, her husband said. Generally, if CIDP is caught within seven days, the prognosis is good, he said, and Mrs. Dreier was diagnosed in five days.
“Every day she’s getting better and better,” he said.
Image information: PORT WASHINGTON Food Pantry Administrator Joy Dreier packed boxes of food in 2008. Press file photo
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 20:15
Port CDA begins preparing document city will use to market property even as group continues to fight sale
The process of seeking development proposals for city-owned lakefront land took a slow step forward Monday as the Port Washington Community Development Authority debated what it would look for in a plan.
Members examined requests for proposals for development projects from several communities, trying to pick and choose items that are most important to them.
“You’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development. “But it’s important for you to tell people your expectations and how you will make your decision.”
But even as the city moved forward with a controversial plan to sell the parking lot at the end of the north slip, a petition circulated by Citizens for a Clearer View of the Harbor, which hopes to head off development of the public lakefront land, and signed by more than 400 people who don’t want the property sold, was presented by Pat Wilborn.
Wilborn asked officials if the fact that so many people don’t want to see the lot developed would be included in the request for proposals, saying a developer should be aware of the opposition before making a commitment.
He also asked how a development would fit in with the city’s vision for the lakefront, which he said has not been articulated, and asked how much money the city would ask for the land.
“Is it worth $100,000, $300,000, $600,000?” he asked. “Have you done an appraisal?”
That is one item the CDA considered when talking about what to include in the request for proposals, though no decision was made.
The city needs to decide whether it will list a sale price, a minimum price or simply let the developer make an offer, Tetzlaff said.
“A lot of communities give the property away because they want the development,” he added.
The city could also consider leasing the land over a long term, Tetzlaff said.
To develop a price, the city would seek an appraisal of the property, he said.
The city would also likely seek information on what assistance a developer might want from the community, Tetzlaff said.
Ald. Mike Ehrlich, a member of the CDA, said he would like to see the Main Street Design Committee’s plans for the area — which are still being developed — included in the packet, as well as the city’s development standards.
The city won’t just be looking for the high bidder when it sells the property, officials stressed.
“The highest bid isn’t necessarily what’s important,” Ehrlich said. “It’s the use and the return we will get.”
CDA member Bill Prince concurred, adding, “The emphasis is on getting it right.”
Other information sought in development proposals often includes background on the developer, including his experience, as well as financial and marketing proposals, Tetzlaff said.
CDA member Jason Wittek suggested the city also seek a design schematic, saying it will help officials judge how a plan will fit with the downtown.
The city needs to include such things as a site description, photos and maps of the area, what’s permitted in the zoning code and a statement about what it wants to see done with the parking lot, Tetzlaff said.
That statement would include the city’s desire that any development become a destination for residents and tourists, he said.
It should also include the fact that the city wants the development to maintain access to the harborwalk, to be relatively open and to maintain some open areas on the water sideof the parcel while allowing a connection to the shopping center to the west, Tetzlaff said.
Mayor Tom Mlada said a long-term business model should be submitted with the proposal to help officials judge the viability of the plan.
“We don’t want to have an empty building in five years,” he said. “It has to fit with Port Washington. It should be unique, so it can demonstrate it will pull people into downtown.”
Mlada said the city also needs to look for a plan that will be implemented quickly.
That’s important, he said, because city officials want the development to be “catalytic.”
“If we move that down the line five years, we’ve missed that opportunity,” he said.
CDA members were asked to list what items they want included in a request for proposals before the group’s February meeting. At that meeting, those lists will be reviewed and used to compile a draft request for proposals that will be considered by the CDA in March.
It will then be considered by the Common Council before going out to potential developers in April.
CDA members agreed that developers would likely have at least 90 days to submit proposals, which could then be reviewed by the CDA in July.
The Plan Commission could review at the plan that same month, with the Common Council considering it after that time.
The city reserves the right to reject any and all proposals, officials noted.
“That may well happen,” Tetzlaff said, noting the city could then opt to seek new proposals or come up with some other concept for the property.
If a proposal is accepted by the city, a developer’s agreement would need to be drafted before the sale is completed, Tetzlaff said.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 21:18
Port officials to get first look at proposal that includes subdivision, vineyard, 100-acre protected nature area
A mixed-use development that includes a vineyard, residential subdivision and a large nature preserve on the former VK Development land on Port Washington’s south side will be presented to the city’s Plan Commission at its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday, Jan. 15.
The plan is also expected to be presented to the Common Council when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20.
“It’s really exciting,” Mayor Tom Mlada said. “The concept this developer has really hits on everything the city thought was important — the right density, public access to the lakefront, bluff stabilization and ensuring the most environmentally sensitive areas are protected.
“It’s a very unique piece of property, and this is a unique proposal.”
City officials would not go into the specifics of the plan, saying they were waiting to receive the final concept plan from the developer, Highview Group Ltd. of Illinois.
But they did say the proposal was a far cry from that proposed by Brookfield developer Vincent Kuttemperoor, who annexed the land to the city in 2000 and proposed a massive residential and commercial development with a hotel and golf course.
Initially, Kuttemperoor said construction would begin within a year, but he delayed work and the housing crisis hit before the first shovel of dirt was turned. Kuttemperoor lost most of his Port land to foreclosure.
Waukesha State Bank advertised the 206-acre parcel in the Wall Street Journal for $18 million in 2013, describing it as “pristine vacant land.”
Although the city has talked to a number of developers interested in the parcel, Highview Group’s plan seems to best meet the city’s needs, said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development.
“It hits on everything the city was looking for as opposed to plans put forth by other parties (who have looked at the land),” he said. “We had some who wanted to buy it for a very dense development. The Nature Conservancy wanted to buy it all for a preserve.”
The city’s goal was a low-density development that would connect with the rest of community, particularly the downtown, and create needed tax base while also protecting environmentally sensitive areas and providing public access, he said.
The proposal for what is being called Cedar Vineyard includes a residential component and a commercial development that will center around a vineyard, Mlada said. The vineyard, which will likely straddle both sides of Highway C, has the potential to become a major tourist destination in the city, he said.
“They said the soils in that area are outstanding for the vineyard,” Mlada noted.
But the plan will also include a major preservation initiative that will involve not just the developer and the city but also the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and Ozaukee County, Mlada said.
Shawn Graff, executive director of the Land Trust, said the group has been working on the proposal with the city and county for about a year.
“Basically, this deal gives us a shot at purchasing most of the environmentally important parts of this property,” he said. The plan calls for the Land Trust to acquire most of the shoreland and two identified natural areas on the property — a total of about 100 contiguous acres — then deed it to the county, which would maintain it as a nature preserve, Graff said.
“The developer recognizes that there is a need for open space on this property,” he said. “They see open space as a benefit to them and their development plan. And there are certain areas that can’t be developed anyway because of requirements like bluff setbacks.”
The deal is similar to the one used in acquiring Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve in the Town of Grafton, which is just a stone’s throw away from this property, Graff noted.
“Our hope, although it may be 20 years in the future, is to connect this new property with Lion’s Den,” he said. “You can imagine the opportunity to preserve and open up lakefront land to the public.”
Key to the Land Trust’s deal is the group receiving a stewardship grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Graff said the group is working on its application, which is due at the DNR next month.
A preliminary indication on whether the Land Trust will receive the grant is expected in October or November, Graff said, adding the earliest funds would be available would be next February.
A financial contribution from Ozaukee County, which gave $300,000 for the purchase of Lion’s Den, would also be needed, Graff said.
The Town of Grafton also provided $100,000 to buy Lion’s Den, and Port City Administrator Mark Grams said a city contribution is something officials would consider.
One key to the plan is a tax-incremental financing district that would help pay for the extension of sewer and water services to the property, city officials said.
The proposal for Cedar Vineyard comes less than two months after city officials authorized a study to determine how much value a development must bring to the city to justify creation of a south-side TIF district.
The results of that study aren’t expected for another month or so, Grams said.
Mlada said he is excited about the proposal, saying it represents a tremendous opportunity for the city and county.
“This is a viable option for us to consider and discuss,” he said. “The partnership with the developer, the city, county and Land Trust is critical to making it happen.
“This is a great example of what can happen when you get everyone together around the table.”