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.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 20:14
Club wants land the city is intent on selling to remain public and is asking for residents to join the cause
Even as Port Washington officials continue their quest to solicit proposals to develop city-owned lakefront land along the north slip, members of the Greater Port Washington Kiwanis Club are soliciting ideas for a park they would like to create on the same parcel.
The club will hold a public meeting in the community room at the Niederkorn Library from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, to solicit ideas for the park.
“The Kiwanis Club wants to get a number of people together who are interested in creating a functional, attractive green space there,” club secretary John Sigwart said Monday. “That means so many things to people. We want people to think out of the box and come up with ideas.”
The meeting will also help the club develop a core of volunteers to drive the effort to create Kiwanis Park, Sigwart said.
Earlier this month, just before the Common Council voted to declare the property at the end of the north slip surplus land — paving the way for its possible sale — the club made a bid to create Kiwanis Park on the parcel.
Almost a dozen people at the meeting asked aldermen not to put the land up for sale, saying lakefront property is a precious asset that should be retained by the community, not sold.
A petition asking the city to consider retaining the property as green space has already garnered hundreds of signatures, and Pat Wilborn, who is coordinating the drive, said he hopes that total will reach 1,000 signatures in the coming weeks.
That, said Wilborn, may get the attention of aldermen who have so far not been receptive to the group’s concerns.
But Sigwart said the Kiwanis Club is not involved in the petition drive, adding the group has for years been hoping to create a Kiwanis Park in the city.
“We want to work cooperatively with the city,” he said.
The land along the north slip provides a perfect opportunity for the club and the city, he said.
Its location makes it an ideal place to develop a spot where transient boaters, marina tenants, their guests, residents and tourists could relax with a picnic lunch, Sigwart said.
The property is about halfway between Upper Lake Park and the South Beach, making it a natural resting spot, he said, and it is along the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, so bikers would also likely stop there.
“What I like about Kiwanis Park there is its availability to so many people,” Sigwart said.
A multi-level seating area could be created that would give people better access to the water while not hindering views from surrounding properties, he said.
“There are a lot of opportunities,” Sigwart said. “We just need to identify them.”
This isn’t the first time the Kiwanis Club has looked at the land at the end of the north slip for a park, Sigwart noted.
When the club was seeking a location for Possibility Playground, it was the last site crossed off the list before Upper Lake Park was selected for the play area, Sigwart said.
The development of Kiwanis Park could be done much like Possibility Playground, Sigwart added.
The club would take ideas from the Jan. 22 meeting and incorporate them in a park plan created by a designer hired by the Kiwanis Foundation, he said.
That plan would be created in conjunction with representatives of the marina and the Parks and Recreation Department, Sigwart said.
“If the city thinks it might be a good idea, we could move ahead and start to raise money to create the park,” he said.
Funds to actually develop the park would likely be raised throughout the community, Sigwart said, not just through the club — just as occurred with Possibility Playground.
“It would have to be a larger community effort, but it would be one spurred by the Kiwanis Club,” he said.
He suggested the city and Kiwanis Club jointly hire an appraiser to determine the value of the city-owned property.
“I don’t think anybody has any idea now what it’s worth,” he said, adding the appraisal could be used to determine how much a developer should pay for the land and what its value as a park could be.
Creating a park on the land could make the private property across Washington Street more valuable for development while retaining public lakefront land, Sigwart said.
“I like the idea of the retail element being north of Washington Street,” he said. “You could even go three or four stories there and I don’t think anyone would be offended.”
And while city officials are looking at the possibility of creating a destination attraction on the city-owned land, Sigwart said downtown Port will have a destination next year that can serve as a bridge between downtown and the lakefront — the Port Exploreum museum being developed by the Historical Society.
“I think that’s going to be the destination everyone is looking for,” Sigwart said.
Sigwart said that there are plenty of opportunities for the club and the city to walk away from the Kiwanis Park proposal if it isn’t feasible.
If there isn’t enough interest or ideas generated at the Jan. 22 meeting, “Kiwanis could walk away,” he said.
“If the concept plan catches on, great. If it doesn’t, you walk away.”
But, he said, it’s something that ought to be considered.