Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 19:40
Crowd of residents, business owners gives Port planners ideas on how to develop six city sites for future use
More than 85 people turned out Monday night to help Port Washington planners create a new vision for six sites in downtown.
Their goal, said Mayor Tom Mlada, was to give a fresh look to the sites and come up with concepts for what they want and don’t want on these properties to create a vision that will lead development now and into the future.
“We can either take the opportunity now or let it slip through our fingers,” Mlada said. “We can direct the growth or we can react to it.
“Other communities around us are defined. Port Washington is still defining itself.”
Developers who have looked at various sites in the downtown have estimated that new developments could add $20 million to $25 million, he added.
Whatever development may result from the process will likely be done over time, Mlada said.
“I think you’re looking at a phased-type approach,” he said, noting it may take some time before some of the property owners are ready to sell or redevelop their land.
“I think there’s a possibility for some of these things to happen short-term, but I think it will take some time for it all to happen.”
Development of one or more of the properties could spur additional development, Mlada added, given the proximity of several sites.
“These could be truly catalytic,” he said.
Mlada noted that the sites examined by the group Monday were culled from about 10 redevelopment sites examined by the city’s Community Development Authority.
The crowd, broken into small groups, considered four development sites — a large site encompassing the Jadair Inc. property at 235 W. Grand Ave. east to Wisconsin Street; the north end of the Port Harbor Center at 222 E. Main St.; property occupied by Victor’s Pier Street Shanty at 301 E. Pier St. and a parking lot to the east; and the Portabello Pizza property at 218 E. Washington St.
They also looked at two public open spaces — the parking lot at the north end of the north slip marina and Main Street from Milwaukee Street to the lake.
The sites offer a variety of development points, representatives from Community Design Solutions, the city’s downtown planning consultant, said.
The Jadair site has a densely wooded area, creek access and limited views of Lake Michigan in a part of downtown seldom noticed by residents, said Amber Piacentine of CDS, while the former grocery store at the shopping center, located steps from the marina “is an awesome location. The fact it’s been vacant so long is kind of baffling.”
The other two development properties are also located near the lakefront, she noted.
The parking lot could become an entry to the marina and a focal point on the lakefront, Piacentine said, while Main Street could be closed to traffic and be converted to a destination with enhanced markets and events year-round.
The groups came up with a number of potential uses for each property, CDS’s Ryan Shortridge said, offering a quick look at options mentioned by several groups after the brainstorming session.
For example, the Jadair site was often referred to as a multi-use property with residential uses and the potential for artists lofts or a performing arts center, he said.
The shopping center has potential as a micro-brewery or banquet hall, perhaps with residences above, he said, adding several groups suggested the building be divided to offer lakefront views and access.
A banquet hall or permanent public market were among the suggestions for the Victor’s property, Shortridge said, adding it has the potential to become “an iconic site,” while the pizza property was frequently mentioned as a place where residences or a drive-through coffee shop could be created.
The north slip parking lot could be beautified and enhanced with a playground, water features like a splash pad and a bike rental facility, he said.
CDS will analyze the ideas suggested by the group Monday, then create a concept plan for the areas, Mlada said.
The group is expected to bring its ideas to the CDA as early as Sept. 15, then present them to the Common Council the following day, he said.
The city is considering holding a public meeting prior to the council meeting so residents can look at the results and comment on them, Mlada added.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 18:51
Port firefighters will request $13,500 in budget for architects to analyze space needs for second station
The Port Washington Fire Department will seek $13,500 in next year’s city budget to conduct a feasibility study and space needs analysis for a second firehouse.
The Police and Fire Commission, which tabled the matter last month after receiving bids for the study from both Bray Architects and 5 Bugles Design, said it wants to keep the process moving ahead, even though there is no money for the study in this year’s budget.
Members recommended approving a $13,500 bid from Bray Architects, which has offices in Sheboygan and Milwaukee.
The city also received a $18,300 bid for the study from 5 Bugles Design of Eau Claire.
In addition to the fact Bray submitted the lower bid, commission members noted that the firm had approached the city seeking the work. Bray also offered to begin the study now and not bill the city until next year, Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said.
Bray was also highly recommended by the Port-Saukville School District, he said. The firm is conducting a facilities study for the school district.
The firm is also experienced in municipal building projects, officials said.
“We don’t want someone designing this who has never built a fire station before,” Commission Chairman Rick Nelson said. “I don’t want to be the test case.”
Commission members said they also like the fact the firm is located close to the city, noting it would be easier to meet with the company if needed.
By recommending Bray’s bid, the commission in effect authorized Mitchell to include the study in the fire department’s 2015 budget.
Some members questioned how likely it is the city will allocate the funds in the budget.
“I know the mayor is supportive,” Nelson said. “And the townspeople, I haven’t heard anyone question it. What I’ve mostly heard is ‘I can’t believe you haven’t done this already.’”
Officials have discussed the concept of building a joint fire station with Ozaukee County that would not only meet the city’s needs but also those identified by the county, Nelson said.
Potential locations for the new station could include several parcels owned by the county, Nelson said, chief among them land adjacent to the Ozaukee County Justice Center and the neighboring soccer fields.
The former auto dealership across the street from the Justice Center, although privately owned, is another possibility, he said.
However, Nelson said, it will be up to Bray to evaluate the sites.
“We’ll leave it up to them to come up with recommendations,” he said.
Although the city has talked about building a second fire station for years, the idea has gained traction recently.
Fire officials point to cramped conditions at the firehouse, inefficiencies and the fact the building has no facilities for women or paramedics.
Pointing to the fact that Ozaukee County also has space needs, particularly in the emergency government and sheriff’s departments, commission members have proposed building a joint facility.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 20:11
Port Board OKs details of project intended to improve both Highland Drive and county bike trail
The Town of Port Washington on Monday agreed to a plan to improve the Ozaukee Interurban Trail bridge on Highland Drive at an estimated cost of $295,000.
Although expensive, this was the least costly of three options presented to the town by its engineering firm, Ayres Associates.
The other options would require more extensive work and were estimated to cost as much as $325,000.
“This is the cheapest option and it also achieves the safety you want,” Kris Anderson of Ayres told the board.
The plan would eliminate the bridge on Highland Drive north of Town Hall, lowering the grade of the road by 3-1/2 feet to improve sight lines for both motorists and bicyclists.
Town Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt questioned whether the reduction in grade was enough to improve safety, noting motorists “fly” through the area at 55 mph or more.
Anderson said it will bring the road into accordance with state requirements.
“There will still be a hill there,” she said. “But it will be a gentler hill.”
Another alternative is for the town to reduce the speed limit, Anderson said.
Town Supr. Jim Rychtik noted the plan will improve safety, widen the road but have the least impact on surrounding properties.
“I think that makes a lot more sense,” he said.
“The lower you go, the wider the road has to be. I trust Ayres when they say 3-1/2 feet is enough. It’s dangerous because it’s narrow and you can’t see. The road is deteriorating. And with the box culvert the way it is, something has to be done.”
Town Supr. Mike Didier said, “I don’t know why you have to do anything but the cheapest option.”
The board will now have Ayres finalize plans for the work, then obtain cost estimates from the Ozaukee County Highway Department.
If the estimate is deemed higher than desired, the town can still opt to bid the project, officials said.
Who does the work will determine when the project is done, they added.
Ozaukee County would likely do the work in conjunction with improvements to the bike trail, which it is expected to do this fall.
If a private contractor is hired, the town will likely seek bids this fall and have the work done in spring.
Depending on cost, the town could opt to delay paving the road for a season, Rychtik said. That would allow the new road time to settle and give the town more time to come up with the money.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 20:05
Panel favors lifting cap, dealing with controversial issue on case-by-case basis
How tall is too tall for a downtown Port Washington building is a question that’s been debated for decades.
Last week, the Plan Commission recommended that the Common Council eliminate the current 61-foot maximum height restriction for downtown buildings.
The city shouldn’t set an arbitrary height restriction, members said, but instead consider each project on its own merits.
“It would be unlimited, in theory,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, a member of the commission, said.
The city has learned a lot from its history in terms of dealing with tall buildings, commission members said, adding that officials will be guided not only by that experience but also public opinion.
“If you suggest a 95-foot-tall building, you’re going to be run out of town,” said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development.
Tetzlaff ran through a history of the height limitations, beginning in the 1970s, when the maximum downtown building height was increased from 35 feet to 85 feet.
There was a significant amount of controversy when the city approved the Lighthouse Condominiums on Lake Street, he said.
That building was allowed because it met the 85 foot limit and was on the outskirts of the downtown, where taller buildings were considered acceptable.
But due to the backlash from that project, the city repealed the overlay district that allowed it, Tetzlaff said, essentially allowing only 35-foot-tall structures.
But that was considered too restrictive as well, and eventually the city allowed developers to seek a special exception to the regulations that would allow a building to be as tall as 61 feet — the average height of the Harbor Square development on the southeast corner of Grand Avenue and Wisconsin Street.
Last year, the city approved a special exception for the proposed Harbour Lights development on Franklin Street, which will be about 50 feet high.
“Ever since, I’ve had people ask why (restrict it to) 61 feet,” Tetzlaff said.
If the city is scrutinizing projects while considering the special exception, he said, officials should be able to consider projects taller than 61 feet.
“If you’re going throught the process for a special exception, is there anything so special about 61 feet?” he asked. “We might want to just analyze the benefits of the project.
“What if it is a great design and it’s 64 feet? Our hands are tied.”
Commission member Bud Sova, who has been on the commission through several bouts of debate on the question of building heights, said a 1993 survey of city residents — taken after the Lighthouse condos were built — revealed that tall buildings were taboo.
Part of residents’ frustration was that people were told the condo building would not rise above the top of the bluff, but that promise was broken, Tetzlaff said.
“I can guarantee we don’t want to call (the building height limit) 85 feet,” Sova said. “That would block a lot of sightlines. It would be quite bad.”
The issue of building heights goes back much further, he added, noting that there was a controversy years earlier when an elevator shaft was erected atop what is today the Holiday Inn Harborview.
That said, tall buildings can be attractive and tasteful, Sova said, adding there are checks and balances in place to ensure these structures are done well.
“It can be done. It can be done tastefully,” he said.
The primary limitation, he said, is public opinion.
“Moving forward, this council and this commission learned a lot,” Tetzlaff said.