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Port Washington

Council backs plan for bluff soil borings PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 28 August 2013 18:31

Port officials reaffirm decision to conduct tests at Upper Lake Park in effort to combat erosion problem

    Port Washington officials last week reiterated their intention to conduct soil borings on the Upper Lake Park bluff in a continuing attempt to find a way to stabilize the hillside.

    But the decision to spend $17,117 to hire Wisconsin Testing Labs was not without controversy.

    The city’s two newest aldermen, who were not in office when the testing was initially approved last year, questioned the decision.

    Ald. Kevin Rudser said he agreed with the project last year, but after attending a conference on bluff stabilization, he changed his mind.

    “I’m not sure it’s worth spending the money,” he said. “The lake is going to take what the lake is going to take.”

    Ald. Bill Driscoll concurred, saying he has done a significant amount of research into the issue.

    “What I’ve found is a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t work,” he said.

    But other officials said the borings will provide the city with information needed to make a final decision on a bluff stabilization plan.

    “I think this is something we need to do,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “We have to do this to find out where our problems are.

    “At the very least, we will get more information to help us decide where to go from here.”

    Ald. Mike Ehrlich agreed, saying, “This is the first step to find out how we stabilize the bluff. This will give us the information we need to make a decision.”

    The council approved the borings last summer after learning about a wick system that could be used to draw water from the bluff.

    The Common Council agreed to hire Giles Engineering — which submitted the lower of two bids — to do the work at a cost of $14,880 but delayed the project until this year because of budget concerns.

    In the meantime, the city received a $7,440 Wisconsin Coastal Management grant to pay for half the cost.

    But officials said Giles Engineering never provided the necessary proof of insurance to the city, so they approached Wisconsin Testing Labs to do the work.

    The company will conduct two soil borings to a depth of about 110 feet and install piezometers to determine the levels of groundwater in the bluff. The results would be analyzed by the firm, which would also make recommendations on various stabilization measures, such as installing drain wicks and cutting back the bluff.

    The slumping bluff has plagued the city and beach-goers for decades. In the 1980s and ’90s, it wasn’t uncommon for large portions of the bluff to collapse.

    In April 1993, a huge mudslide moved tons of earth down the side of the bluff and across the beach, leaving a mound of clay-like earth roughly 12 feet high.

    Bluff stabilization has been a popular topic for years. In 2001, the city commissioned a bluff study by JJR, a firm that specializes in waterfront projects.

    The controversial plan proposed by the group called for cutting back the bluff significantly, as well as constructing breakwaters and revetments to protect the base of the bluff at a cost of $4.3 million.

    The plan was doomed not just because of the high pricetag but also because many people feared it would require trimming the size of Upper Lake Park too much and destroy the beach below.

It’s official: Don’t feed waterfowl in Port, or else PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 18:19

Council OKs law calling for fines of at least $100 for violations on city property

    It’s now illegal to feed ducks, geese and migratory birds on City of Port Washington property, and anyone receiving a ticket for it will be fined between $100 and $500.

    The Common Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance outlawing the feeding of the birds, but the discussion had less to do with the merits of the prohibition and more to do with the fine.

    Ald. Dave Larson initially proposed a fine of between $25 and $500, saying the side range would give police officers and the municipal judge “room to work.”

    But Ald. Paul Neumyer, a retired police officer who two weeks ago warned that imposing too high a fine might discourage officers from issuing tickets, suggested a fine starting at $100.

    “I don’t think $100 is out of line,” he said.

    Officers can issue a warning to someone before writing a ticket, Neumyer said, adding that if circumstances are right they could even issue two warnings.

    But Ald. Mike Ehrlich said $100 is a steep fine for an activity traditionally enjoyed by tourists and local residents alike.

    “Although I understand the importance  of it, boy, that’s a lot of money to start off,” Ehrlich said.

    He suggested a $50 to $500 fine, echoing Neumyer’s original concern.

    “Are we going to have officers not wanting to enforce this?” Ehrlich asked.

    City Attorney Eric Eberhardt noted that whatever fine the Common Council sets would only be the start, noting that court costs and surcharges are added to the fine to determine the amount a violator pays.

    Mayor Tom Mlada suggested the city post signs, particularly at the marina and lakefront parks, that not only warn people they shouldn’t feed the birds but also tell them why they shouldn’t.

    That might serve as a better deterrent to feeding the birds than the ordinance, Ald. Bill Driscoll said.

    Not only do the birds leave a mess, it’s a mess that can cause a health hazard for humans and other birds, he noted.

    “People feeding the ducks don’t want them to die,” said Driscoll.

    “If someone reads that and still feeds the ducks and gulls, I have no problem fining them,” Mlada said.

    Aldermen adopted the ordinance with a fine ranging from $100 to $500. If the fine is not paid, the judge can jail violators for as long as 30 days, they agreed.

    No matter what the fine, aldermen noted that police officers are likely to issue tickets only after warning someone.

    “I don’t see an officer hiding behind a boat and waiting for the first person to come along with a bag of corn to issue a ticket,” Neumyer said.

Rock the Harbor fest scrambles to find $30,000 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 18:23

Organizers of Aug. 30 event say they may need Main Street funds to help cover expenses

    With 2-1/2 weeks before Rock the Harbor opens on the streets of downtown Port Washington, organizers are working to raise roughly $30,000 needed to cover festival expenses,
Port Washington Main Street board members were told Monday.

    That amount will be offset, at least partially, by additional sponsorships, ticket sales and festival revenue, such as the sale of beer and other beverages at the festival tents, but
anything that isn’t covered will be shouldered by Main Street, despite repeated promises by festival organizers that the event would not be financed by the organization.

    “The ideal situation is not to (need Main Street funding),”    Cathy Wilger, a festival organizer and member of the Main Street board, said Tuesday. “The bottom line is we need to
raise money. But in the end, if we come up short, we may have to get some Main Street funding.

    “Rock the Harbor is a Main Street event. They are not two different entities.”

    Contracts for the festival were signed by Main Street, Wilger said, noting all expenses of more than $1,000 are approved by the executive committee.

    The festival has paid all its bills so far, she stressed, and it will go on as planned.

    “We have paid every bill to this date,” Wilger said, adding organizers continue to seek sponsorships and donations for the festival.

    Main Street Executive Director Sara Grover said the organization is working with festival organizers to minimize any shortfall in revenue. However, she said, the impact could be
significant to the organization.

    “Could this be detrimental to Main Street? Yes,” she said.

    From its inception last year, Rock the Harbor — a Friday, Aug. 30, street festival in downtown Port Washington being held in conjunction with Harley Davidson’s 110th anniversary
celebration in Milwaukee — was touted as a stand-alone event that would bring a crowd of thousands to downtown Port.

    “We’re one of the biggest (community) venues that weekend,” Wilger said, noting there will be as many as 50 vendors on the grounds, which will fill Franklin Street and stretch
along Washington Street to the lake. “When Harley riders come, they like to ride and see the area. They don’t just stay in Milwaukee.”

    A number of Harley clubs have said they plan to come to the Port event, she said.

    But City Administrator Mark Grams pointed out that Harley’s anniversary celebration on the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee will host Aerosmith on Aug. 30, and there are other
large events that night.

    The festival will also be competing with events held locally, he said.

    “I give Cathy and Amy (Gannon) credit for what they’ve done,” Grams said. “But this isn’t a case of if you have it, they’ll come.”

    The festival expenses include the cost of tents, insurance, security and entertainment.

    Organizers signed country singer Darryl Worley, who has had nearly 20 hit singles on the charts, to headline the festival. Seven other musical acts will perform from 3 to 11 p.m. on
the festival’s three stages.

    The festival is free, but organizers hope to sell 250 premium-seating tickets that entitle holders to a prime spot in front of the stage and their own beverage tent and restrooms.

    About 20 of the $40 tickets have been sold, Wilger said, but sales are picking up.

    Fundraising, particularly sponsorships, has been a challenge not just for Rock the Harbor but every event, she said.

    “There isn’t a single person I’ve talked to this year in connection with events who hasn’t struggled,” Wilger said. “It’s not just Rock the Harbor.
  “Are there huge sponsors? No. There are a lot of people who have donated. It’s not that they’re donating thousands of dollars. It’s what people and businesses can afford.”

    Board member Scott Schweizer said the board should provide $10,000 for Rock the Harbor just as it does for other festivals, such as Maritime Heritage Festival.

    “Why wouldn’t we support this as well?” he asked.

    Main Street board members on Monday considered a variety of ways to cut expenses, including scaling back the event.

    Cutting back the festival is counterproductive, Schweizer said, noting that it needs to have things for people to do or they will leave and spending their money elsewhere.

    The event won’t be cut back, Wilger said Tuesday.

    “We don’t think that’s a viable option,” she said. “What we need to do now is promote the event and get people there. Cutting back the event doesn’t help that.”

    Schweizer said Tuesday he’s not concerned about the potential shortfall, saying he believes things will pick up as the festival draws closer.

    “I think we’re going to make it,” he said.

Port law banning bird feeding advances PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 17:42

Council gets first glance at ordinance that would prohibit feeding of waterfowl, migratory species on city property

    Port Washington aldermen took the first step in outlawing the feeding of birds on city property Tuesday.

    They reviewed a proposed ordinance that would prohibit anyone from feeding waterfowl and migratory birds, and are expected to vote on the law when they meet Tuesday, Aug. 20.

    Although feeding the ducks, geese and gulls that gather at the lakefront has been a pasttime for local residents and tourists for years, the birds have left their mark on the area, prompting the prohibition.

    Not only do the birds leave a mess, it’s a mess that can cause a health hazard, officials said.

    “I don’t think anybody dislikes the birds or waterfowl. It’s what they leave behind that’s problematic,” City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said.

    The birds are already fouling Coal Dock Park, which hasn’t even opened to the public yet, said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development.

    “We’re hoping that once we have people out there, they’ll leave,” he said.

    The mess the birds leave was the reason the Harbor Commission initially recommended the prohibition, officials said, noting they leave their mark on the docks and walkways.

    Although the city has posted a sign near the marina asking people not to feed the birds, it hasn’t stopped them, officials said, noting people can often be seen feeding them in front of the sign.

    While the problem would be bad enough if it was limited to one season of the year, that isn’t the case.

    When people feed the birds, they tend to stick around instead of migrating, Eberhardt noted.

    “The problem with at least some of them is that when you feed them, they no longer migrate,” he said. “By enacting this, you’re forcing them to live as nature intended.”

    The proposed ordinance does not specify the fine to be levied against violators. Eberhardt said the Common Council will have to determine that before approving the law.

    Typically, municipal fines vary from $5 to $500, he said. He checked on other communities, he said, and there is quite a range of fines.

    Some communities go a step further, he said, requiring people who feed the birds to do community service.

    “Guess what that is?” Eberhardt asked. “Cleaning up after the birds.”

    Ald. Dave Larson, a member of the Harbor Committee, which recommended the ordinance, said offenders should face significant penalties.

    “We should lean to the expensive side,” he said. “With what we’ve got at stake with the coal dock and the marina, we need to be stern about this.”

    But Ald. Paul Neumyer, a retired police officer, said hefty fines will cause officers to think twice before writing tickets.

    “It’s up to the copper if he’s going to write the ticket. If I have to write an extremely expensive ticket, I’m not writing it,” Neumyer said. “I understand the importance of this, but you need to be careful.”

    He suggested the city get input from Police Chief Kevin Hingiss before setting the fines.

    Ald. Bill Driscoll suggested the city install signs that not only tell people that feeding the birds is illegal, but also explain why.

    “If they know feeding the ducks is going to kill them, they’ll stop feeding the ducks,” he said, noting diseases are spread through the bird droppings.

    The proposed ordinance would only apply to people feeding birds on city property, not on private property, Eberhardt emphasized.

    “This would not affect the ability of private property owners from feeding birds to their hearts’ content,” he said.

City agrees to negotiate incentives for developer PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 17:51

Port council will consider loan to subsidize downtown redevelopment project

    Port Washington developer Gertjan van den Broek on Monday asked the Common Council to finance as much as 20% of his $6 to $7 million project to renovate the former M&I Bank and Harry’s Restaurant buildings in downtown and create a multi-million-dollar retail and luxury residential development.

    After a closed session that lasted more than an hour, aldermen agreed that the idea is worth exploring. They voted to apply for a $250,000 State Trust Fund loan to help finance the renovations to the former bank building — the first phase of van den Broek’s project.

    Financing for the second phase of the project will be discussed later, officials said.

    However, aldermen stressed that their action Monday does not commit the city to the loan, something they will only do if they can successfully negotiate terms with van den Broek.

    Mayor Tom Mlada said Tuesday those terms will likely revolve around ways to mitigate any risk for taxpayers.

    “We need to make sure we’ve got protections in place for the taxpayers,” he said.

    The city will likely find out if it would receive a Trust Fund Loan in about a month, City Administrator Mark Grams said. A final decision on the phase one incentives would come after that.

    The city is considering a Trust Fund Loan rather than conventional municipal financing because it is a quicker, simpler process, Grams said. The interest rate would likely be a little higher than the city would otherwise get, but the cost of obtaining the funds is less.

    Widely used in other communities, developer incentives are typically considered to be an investment by the community, which gets a return through the increased taxes on the project.

    In Port’s case, they were approved as part of the city’s downtown tax incremental financing district several years ago as a way to help promote large-scale projects.

    If approved, van den Broek’s Harbour Lights Condominium project would be the first time Port used incentives to help fund a private project.

    Ald. Mike Ehrlich said Tuesday that the benefits to downtown make this project one to consider for the incentive program.        “I think it’s worth exploring the options,” he said. “I think it’s a good project. It’s significant and could jump start other investments downtown.

    “We want to do everything we can within reason to work with the developer. But clearly the council won’t just jump into something without reassurances. We have to be careful, because at the end of the day, we have to answer to the taxpayers. There’s a lot of negotiating to do.”

    Ald. Paul Neumyer said he’s not sure whether development incentives are the way to go, but he’s willing to consider them.

    “I still have a lot of unanswered questions if it’s in the best interest of the taxpayers of the City of Port Washington,” he said. “We’re not committed to anything yet.”

    There is a lot of potential good that could result from the project, Mlada said, and that’s one reason the council should consider the incentives.

    “There’s a lot to like about it,” he said. “Long-term, you could be talking about a return of a sizeable increment (increase in the tax base).”

    Even the strongest developer can fail, Mlada said, citing the case of Brookfield developer Vincent Kuttemperoor, whose plans to build a sprawling luxury development on the city’s south side fell victim to the economic slowdown. Banks foreclosed on the hundreds of acres Kuttemperoor owned and are now trying to sell them.

    Van den Broek, representing Renew Port Holdings 1 LLC, plans to renovate the two buildings and constructing a new structure between them. The buildings would house five commercial spaces and 13 residential units that feature rooftop terraces, balconies and underground parking accessed from a lake-side municipal parking lot.

    The units range in price from $239,000 to $895,000 for two 2,750-square-foot penthouses that feature 18-foot ceilings and  private rooftop gardens, van den Broek said.

    A small park would also be created along Franklin Street in front of the new building.

    Feasibility and market studies were used to refine the concept, van den Broek said, and led him to increase the size of the units, decrease the size of the lakeside decks and emphasize soundproofing between the units.

    There is a demand for high-quality residential units in the city, van den Broek said, and for high-quality residential units along the lake throughout the region.

    “The project is viable on paper,” he told aldermen. “The feasibility is there. It works best as a public-private partnership.”

    Van den Broek asked the council to help fund each of the two phases of his project.

    He requested $250,000 be available in September to help finance the first phase — renovation of the former M&I Bank building. That work could begin this fall and be completed by spring.

    Van den Broek did not have a dollar figure for the subsidy needed for the second phase, saying that would depend on the project budget.

    The total incentive, including the funding for phase one, would be 15% to 20% of the project cost, he said. The remainder of the financing would come from banks and other sources.

    The city funding for phase two would be contingent on a number of items, including Renew Port Holdings’ obtaining financing for the entire project, Plan commission approval and the completion of phase one, van den Broek said.

    Van den Broek called the city funding critical to the project.

    “It would show a very strong commitment for the next steps of the project,” he said, and “take the project from paper to reality.

    “The condo market is a tough market. Port Washington is also considered a tough market. This project would stand a better chance of success with TIF funding.”

    The city’s funding would show a level of investment and commitment that could draw other investors to the project, he added.

    An analysis by the city shows that the increased downtown tax base and the additional taxes generated by it would not only pay for the funds he’s requesting but offer a net return
for the city, van den Broek said.

    In addition to adding $6 million to the downtown tax base, he said, the development would add 10,000 square feet of commercial space and bring people to the central shopping district.

    “We truly believe this mixed use development downtown, in this particular location, is going to be a catalyst for downtown development,” van den Broek said.

    Retail uses follow residential development, he said, and this will draw the residents needed to bring more shops downtown.

    If the city only approves the $250,000 to fund the renovations to the former bank, van den Broek said, he would move ahead with that work, creating both residential and retail space.

    “Obviously we want it to be part of the bigger project, but I certainly don’t intend for that building to sit vacant,” he said, adding he already has several potential tenants for the commercial space in the former bank.


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