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Port Washington


Commission backs ‘green’ subdivision PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 18:44

Port officials give conceptual approval to proposal for energy-efficient housing development on city’s southeast side


The Port Washington Plan Commission last week gave conceptual approval to developer Mike Speas’ plan to create a “green” subdivision on the city’s southeast side.

“I think it’s a great project,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, a member of the commission, said. Other members echoed his sentiment.  

Although there are a smattering of individual energy-efficient houses being built in the area, City Planner Randy Tetzlaff said this is one of the first subdivisions to be proposed.

“It’s a manageable number,” Tetzlaff said of the proposed nine zero-energy ready houses to be built on about eight acres of land along South Division Street  that’s currently owned by We Energies. “The timing is appropriate, and the market, I think, is right.”

Speas told the commission he doesn’t know how rapidly the houses will sell, but added he’s committed to the concept.

The Terraces at Mineral Springs would have two parts, with the eco-friendly portion being built on nine lots created on five acres just south of Western Avenue and east of Modern Equipment.

“The idea is to create homes that can produce as much energy as they consume,” Speas said. “It’s a unique product.”

The lots would be 65 feet wide but deep, he said, and the houses built on them would reflect architectural details used elsewhere in the neighborhood, including gables that face the road, steep roofs, front porches and garages built behind the home.

“The idea is to take what makes Port Washington unique, the Port Washington look, and to create the look in a very energy efficient shell,” Speas said. “We want them to blend into the neighborhood. We want to be proud of the way these look.”

Stringent design guidelines would ensure that these homes would harmonize with others on the street, he said, and restrict such things as planting trees that would block solar panels.

A design review committee would ensure the guidelines are followed, Speas added.

One of the lots would contain an existing house that would be renovated with an eye toward energy efficiency, Speas said.

Each of the new houses would have features such as geothermal heating and cooling, a highly efficient building envelope and large windows and living spaces oriented to the south for passive solar heat.

The roofs would have the conduit and cables needed to support solar panels, but the panels would not be included in the basic house, Speas said.

Without the panels, he said, the houses will be about halfway to zero energy use. But once the panels are added, they will create the energy needed to operate the homes.

The houses would also have walk-out basements and lofts that are unfinished, as well as spaces for detached garages and the potential for carriage houses or apartments above or next to the garages.

The basic house price would be about $200,000, Speas said.

City Administrator Mark Grams questioned the lack of a garage.

“I imaging many people will prefer to have a garage built initially,” Speas said, but it wouldn’t be required. The goal is to build an energy-efficient home.

“I’d say don’t compromise on the energy efficiency of the house. Build that right, and then build the garage as you can afford it,” he said.

The second portion of the project would be a more traditional development on a three-acre portion of the property just north of Western Avenue, Speas said. Three large lots would be created, with houses built on the west end of these lots, tucked into the woods
and away from the transmission lines that cross the property, Speas said.

“I kind of pictured custom homes would be built there,” he said.
   
 
City of Port residents face higher tax bills PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 23:25

Property owners can expect hike in overall bill, but final amount won’t be known until school credit is determined

Port Washington residents who own a house valued at $200,000 will pay $118 more in property taxes this year, providing the state school tax credit remains the same as last year, City Administrator Mark Grams said.

The city does not yet know the amount of the school tax credit, which is determined by the state, he said. That number is the only figure used in calculating the tax rate that the city doesn’t yet know, Grams said.

If the credit remains $1.74 per $1,000 valuation — the same as last year — the net tax rate would be $18.76 per $1,000, Grams said, so the owner of a $200,000 house would pay $3,751 in property taxes this year as opposed to $3,633 last year.

Of the government entities levying property taxes, the city is the only one whose tax rate is decreasing, from $6.04 last year to $6.03 per $1,000 valuation, said Ald. Tom Hudson, chairman of the city’s Finance and License Committee.

Grams said city residents will pay $10.17 per $1,000 in school taxes, an increase of 54 cents. The $2.18 tax rate for Milwaukee Area Technical College reflects an increase of four cents, and the Ozaukee County tax rate of $1.92 is an increase of two cents.

The state tax rate remains stable at 19 cents per $1,000, he said.   

“We’re trying to keep as many city services as we can,” Hudson said, including the TransPort shared-ride taxi run by the city.

The $8.5 million budget adopted by the Common Council on Tuesday does that, he said.

The budget is .78% less than last year’s spending plan, and the $4.88 million levy reflects an increase of .85%, Grams said.

The city’s valuation increased about $8 million, or a little more than 1%, he added.

No residents commented on the budget during the annual budget hearing, which was held Tuesday.

However, several officials expressed some concern over the fact the city is combining a clerical position at City Hall with the police aide’s position.

“I’m worried about shorting ourselves at City Hall,” Ald. Paul Neumyer said. At the police department, he said, he does not want the worker to handle such duties as directing traffic or issuing parking tickets but instead to handle clerical duties.

The combined position will be allotted to the police department for about two-thirds of the time. The remaining one-third of the time will be spent at City Hall.

The shared, full-time position was a way to avoid any layoffs, Grams said.

He noted that he and City Treasurer Mary Bley determined they could get by with one less full-time employee at City Hall. Megan Dahm, the police aide, recently resigned, leaving that post open.

“I thought this (shared position) was a good way to meet our budget and still allow everyone to keep their jobs,” Grams said, estimating the city will save between $50,000 and $60,000 with the change.
 

 
Beach stairs ready, and for half the cost PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 19:29

Lakefront steps to Port Washington’s north beach completed on schedule with $50,000 savings

The staircase from Port Washington’s Upper Lake Park to the north beach was completed and opened Tuesday, on time and well under budget.

In fact, the 116-step staircase was built for about $50,000, roughly half the $100,000 estimate, Street Commissioner Dave Ewig said.

“It’s nice to come in at half the amount expected,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.

The steps were a joint city-Ozaukee County project. Port engineering technician Ross Kroeger did the topographic work, and County Highway Commissioner Bob Dreblow designed the staircase. It was built by city street department and Ozaukee County highway department employees.

The budget estimate was developed by Dreblow and based on the county’s previous experience building a beach staircase at Lion’s Den Gorge in the Town of Grafton, Vanden Noven said.

That estimate inadvertently included work done at Lion’s Den but not needed for the Upper Lake Park steps, he said.

“This project ultimately was a lot less involved as a whole than Lion’s Den was,” Vanden Noven said, and supplies were less than expected as well.

“I thought lumber was going to cost twice as much as it did,” he said.

“This project was almost the opposite of Murphy’s Law, everything that could have gone right did. The only exception was the cold, rainy weather we had during construction.”

Despite the fact they had some rain days and the county workers were furloughed for a day or two,  the steps were done on time.

“I think the stairs may be used more heavily than we expected,” Vanden Noven said. “If you’re able to walk the 116 steps, it’s really inviting to check them out. It does add a new view of the shoreline that you don’t get anywhere else.

“It’s worth the climb.”

What of the money that was saved on the project?

“We’re waiting for it to snow,” Vanden Noven said. About $15,000 of the unexpended money was set aside to supplement the city’s snow and ice removal budget, something City Administrator Mark Grams said may be needed if the city experiences a snowy November and December.

The remaining $35,000 was used to fill cracks on the city streets, a project that was completed last week.

 
‘Green’ subdivision plan gets warm reception PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 04 November 2009 19:57

Developer’s proposal for energy-efficient residences on Port’s south side given high marks by design board 

Port Washington developer Mike Speas on Tuesday proposed a “green” subdivision on the city’s south side, with homes that would incorporate such features as geothermal heating and cooling, air-tight and highly insulated structures and efficient lighting and appliances — a plan that was enthusiastically greeted by the city’s Design Review Board.

“I think the concept’s fantastic,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell, a member of the board, said.

"I love it,” added board member Brenda Fritsch. “I love the character. I love the boldness, the scale. I love the zero-energy ready homes. I think it’s great.”

The board recommended the Plan Commission approve a concept plan for the proposed Terraces at Mineral Springs, which would be built on about eight acres of land along South Division Street  that’s currently owned by We Energies.

Speas said he’s been looking at the property for about three years, considering ways to make development work there.

“The city doesn’t need another standard subdivision with standard lots,” he said. “There are hundreds of those in the city.

“Green is the niche. That’s what people want. It’s just a whole new approach to building.”

The proposed subdivision is made up of two parts, Speas said.

A  three-acre portion of the property just north of Western Avenue would be a traditional development. Three large lots would be created, with houses built on the west end of these lots, away from the transmission lines that cross the property, he said.

“The transmission lines really dominate the site,” Speas said. Because of the lines and the extensive right of way, the houses will be set back into the wooded area on the west side of the lots.

“You’re not going to see them really from the road,” Speas said.

The other portion of the development — nine lots created south of Western Avenue and just east of Modern Equipment — is where the zero-energy ready houses would be built, Speas said.

“The idea is to create homes that can produce as much energy as they consume,” he said. “It’s not a new idea. There are homes like this being built around Wisconsin, but not around here.

“We’re looking at sustainability, at a great development.”

The houses, he said, would be on 65-foot-wide lots. Stringent design guidelines would ensure that these homes would harmonize with others on the street and restrict such things as planting trees that would block solar panels.

“The idea is to have a traditional urban development,” Speas said, but one that incorporates green measures sought today.

Like other houses in the area, these homes would be 1-1/2 stories, with gables facing the street and steeply sloped roofs that face north and south.

Speas noted that the houses would have similar shapes but with different embellishments to differentiate them. The design, he said, would be similar to that of the house he built at 120 W. Dodge St.

 Each house would have features such as geothermal heating and cooling, a highly efficient building envelope and large windows and living spaces oriented to the south for passive solar heat.

The roofs would have the conduit and cables needed to support solar panels, Speas said.

The houses would also have walk-out basements and lofts that are unfinished, as well as spaces for detached garages and the potential for carriage houses or apartments above or next to the garages.

“We’re spending a ton of money on the base envelope,” Speas explained. “We want these to be affordable, so the idea is to be flexible. Maybe people can’t afford to do it all at once, but over time they can add the solar panels, finish the basement and the loft.”

A basic house is expected to sell for about $200,000, he said.

“The city needs homes in that kind of price range,” Mitchell noted.

Without the solar panels, Speas said, the houses will be about halfway to zero energy use. But once the panels are added, they will create the energy needed to operate them.

“If you buy a house for $200,000 and you have no utility bills, that makes a huge difference,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, chairman of the board, said.

The houses would also have rain gardens, rain barrels and shared driveways to minimize the amount of impermeable pavement, Speas said.

The concept plan will be reviewed by the Plan Commission on Thursday, Nov. 19.

 
Delinquent county taxpayers up 13.5% PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 18:46

Sluggish economy suspected as major reason more than 800 landowners have not paid 2008 tax bills

In what is likely a sign of the tough economic times, the number of property tax delinquencies in Ozaukee County has risen 13.5% over the last year, Treasurer Karen Makoutz said Tuesday.

As of Sept. 1, the owners of 872 parcels had not paid their 2008 taxes, compared to 768 last year, Makoutz said.

“How many of these are full tax charges or cases where they owe their second tax installment or just a portion of that second installment, I don’t know,” she said.

“The economy has to be blamed for it, I think, with people losing their jobs and ability to pay.
   
“Everyone’s circumstances change. Everyone’s circumstances are different.”

The delinquencies total $2,346,152, compared to $1,944,028 last year, Makoutz said.

Those numbers will go down — and probably have already — as people make payments, Makoutz noted.

“In a couple days, this number will look way different,” she said. “It goes down every month as people make payments.”

The county works with property owners to set up a payment plan so they can pay off the delinquency, penalties and interest.

The penalties and interest total 1.5% per month until the delinquency is paid in full, she said.

“Work down that balance, that’s what we’re trying to encourage,” Makoutz said. “We try to help them as much as we can.”

Declaring a tax bill delinquent is the first step toward the county foreclosing on a property, Makoutz said.

The county is preparing to file for foreclosures on 35 properties Thursday, Oct. 1, she said, down from last year when it initiated 45 foreclosures.

The county is only allowed to file for when taxes are delinquent for two years, nine months, Makoutz said. That means the properties being foreclosed on now are delinquent on all or part of their 2006 taxes.

While most of the 35 property owners are delinquent on their 2006, 2007 and 2008 taxes, that’s not true of all the landowners, she said.

“We are working with some who have paid their 2007 and 2008 taxes but owe part of their 2006 taxes,” Makoutz said, noting the amounts owed by these property owners range from $26, plus penalties and interest, to thousands of dollars.

She writes to these property owners virtually every month trying to settle their accounts, Makoutz added.

“My goal is to get them on a payment plan and not to foreclose,” she said.

Some property owners are on the foreclosure list every year but settle their accounts before the year-long process is completed, Makoutz noted.

“I can think of seven right now who have been on that list every year,” she said.

Virtually every property owner is likely to pay before the foreclosure process is completed, Makoutz said.

“In the last dozen years, Ozaukee County has foreclosed on only one single property,” she said, the 62-acre Shady Lane property in the Town of Fredonia formerly owned by Steven and Chieko Magritz, who owed more than $27,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties.

Last year, two parcels were in foreclosure until virtually the end of the process, Makoutz said. In one case, the individual paid the back taxes, penalties and interest, while in the other case the bank paid.

“We work hard to work with the individual so we get our tax money and the individual retains the property,” Makoutz said. “My goal is never to take the property but to get the cash.”

 
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