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.”
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 20:11
Judge finds probable cause in case against actor charged in Port bar stabbing
Dustin Diamond’s lawyer made an issue Monday of the fact police know of no one who saw the actor known for his role as Screech in the 1990s TV show “Saved by the Bell” stab a 24-year-old man during a Christmas night bar fight at Grand Avenue Saloon in Port Washington, but Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy wasn’t buying it.
Malloy ruled during a preliminary hearing that there is probable cause to support the criminal charges against Diamond, 37, of Port Washington— one felony count of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and misdemeanor counts of carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct-use of a dangerous weapon. The judge ordered Diamond to stand trial.
“Is there a single witness, a single piece of video, a single photo showing (Diamond) lunging out, touching anyone with a weapon?” Diamond’s attorney, Thomas Alberti, asked Port Washington police officer Ryan Hurda, who investigated the bar fight.
“No. Nothing definitive,” Hurda testified.
But Malloy put the pieces together.
A bartender saw Diamond with a knife and, in fact, Diamond admitted to police that he had a knife and brandished it at the bar.
In addition, Diamond was seen scuffling with Port Washington resident Casey Smet, who suffered a knife wound to the right side of his chest near his armpit, Hurda said.
“It didn’t happen by itself,” Malloy said.
Hurda, who was called to the bar around 11:15 p.m., testified that by the time he arrived Diamond, his 27-year-old fiance Amanda Schutz and Smet were gone.
He said bartender Mark Mueller told him he saw Diamond holding a knife and told him to put it down. Diamond refused and eventually left the bar with Schutz.
Security video from the tavern shows Schutz get up from the bar where she and Diamond were seated, walk over to a group of people and confront a woman, Hurda said.
Schutz, who was apparently upset that the woman was taking photos of her and Diamond, told police she shoved the woman, who retaliated by punching her, and a scuffle ensued, according to the criminal complaint.
When Diamond attempted to intervene, he was pushed “forcefully” by Smet, Hurda said.
Smet’s brother Craig said he pulled his brother away from Diamond when he heard the “snap of a knife,” Hurda said.
“The fight is pretty much over by that point,” the officer testified. “That’s when Mark Mueller observes the knife in Dustin Diamond’s hand.”
Smet said he was attempting to apologize to Diamond for an earlier confrontation between his girlfriend and Schutz when Diamond came toward him. Smet said he pushed Diamond, then his brother pulled him away, Hurda said.
Smet said Diamond swung at him but he didn’t realize Diamond had a knife or that he had been stabbed until later. Smet was eventually treated by members of an ambulance crew at his house.
“There was a fair amount of blood on his (Smet’s) sweater and white T-shirt,” Hurda said.
Diamond told police that he brandished his knife “to deter the individuals who he believed were endangering this fiance, Amanda Schutz,” and when he was pushed by Smet, he made a “swooping movement with his arm,” Hurda said.
According to the criminal complaint, Diamond said he did not intentionally stab Smet but chaos broke out, people were grabbing him and he swung his arms to break free.
During his cross examination of Hurda, who was the only witness to testify during the preliminary hearing, Alberti took issue with the initial description of Diamond’s knife as a switchblade.
Hurda said it was not a switchblade but rather a folding knife “opened by a slight push of the blade.”
After binding Diamond over for trial, Malloy disclosed that a witness in the case, Mueller, is the brother-in-law of Ozaukee County Clerk of Courts Mary Lou Mueller and the ex-husband of Deputy Clerk of Courts Connie Mueller. But, the judge said, that does not constitute a conflict of interest for him and he does not intend to recuse himself from the case.
Alberti agreed, but said he would discuss the matter with his client.
If convicted of the felony endangering charge, Diamond could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and five years of extended supervision. He is free on $10,000 bail.
Diamond is expected to enter a plea to the charges on Thursday, Jan. 22.
Schutz is charged with one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct in connection with the bar fight and is scheduled to make her initial court appearance on Wednesday, Jan. 14.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 30 December 2014 20:16
Residents will ‘ratchet up’ petition drive in effort to persuade Port council not to sell lakefront parking lot
Residents who hope to persuade the Port Washington Common Council not to sell a city-owned lakefront parking lot for development plan to step up their petition drive next week.
Pat Wilborn, who is organizing the drive, said the group decided to take a break during the holidays but will “ratchet it back up next week.”
“During the holidays people aren’t thinking about this,” Wilborn said. “Once we get over the holidays, we’re going to start up in earnest.”
The group will publish the petition in next week’s edition of Ozaukee Press for people to sign and submit, he said.
“What we need is something that will get the petition outside the downtown district. That is the objective here,” Wilborn said, noting the petition is available to residents at a number of restaurants and shops downtown.
The group, which Wilborn said is organizing under the name Citizens for a Clearer View of the Harbor, has been vocal in its opposition to a recent Common Council decision to declare a parking lot adjacent to the north end of the north slip surplus and seek development proposals for the property.
Aldermen have said they will consider selling the property for private development that will create a year-round destination for tourists and residents, such as a brew pub.
So far, Wilborn’s group has garnered “well over 400 signatures” on the petition, which urges aldermen “not to pursue the private development of this land and to consider a partnership with a local community group to develop this land as green space that would be available to all citizens and visitors of Port Washington.”
The Greater Port Washington Kiwanis Club has proposed creating a park on the property. A public meeting to garner ideas for the park and volunteers to work on the project will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, at the Niederkorn Library.
Wilborn said Citizens for a Clearer View of the Harbor plans to seek a meeting with Mayor Tom Mlada to discuss the property and its potential future use.
“We want to work through this so we eliminate the potential for hurt feelings on either side,” Wilborn said.
The group is interested in more than just plans for the parking lot, he added.
“The group could have a long-term role ... to be more in touch with what’s happening with the Plan Commission and the city’s planning process,” he said, particularly as it pertains to the waterfront.
“If we had been aware of this (plan) sooner, I think we could have headed this whole thing off.”
Wilborn said the group hopes to persuade city officials to concentrate its development efforts to the downtown along Franklin and Main streets and Grand Avenue.
On the lakefront, he said, the group would prefer to see one or two-story structures built closer to Jackson Street, reserving the areas closer to the lake for single-story buildings and leaving the waterfront free of development.
“If Chicago can do it, Port Washington can certainly figure out how to do it,” Wilborn said.