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City tables one-way Main St. plan PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 06 January 2010 19:28

Port aldermen want to make sure intergovernmental cooperation is a two-way street before OK’ing county plan

Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday tabled action sought by Ozaukee County that would have made West Main Street outside the Administration Center a one-way street.

Aldermen said they will take action on the measure when they are convinced the county will be receptive to a city proposal to make changes to the intersection of Lakeshore Road and the southern extension of Wisconsin Street next year.

City Administrator Mark Grams said initial discussions have led city officials to believe the county is not eager to embrace their proposal.

“You may want to use this (Main Street proposal) as a bargaining chip,” Grams said. “Have them give a little more consideration to the intersection we want to see there.”

Aldermen were quick to agree with his proposal.

“This is troubling after we made an effort to help them out,” Ald. Paul Neumyer said, noting the county is seeking the change to Main Street to increase parking near the Administration Center.

We’re willing to work with them on this street,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich said. “Why wouldn’t they be willing to work with us? I don’t think what we’re asking is unreasonable.”

The city’s bargaining chip is a county request to convert the 100 block of West Main Street into a one-way street heading east and place angle parking on both sides of the street.

This will alleviate parking shortages experienced by the county, especially during special programs, such as immunization clinics, some University of Wisconsin Extension programs and even the annual county budget hearing, county officials said.

The proposal, which was recommended by the city’s Traffic Safety Committee, would add eight parking places to the 32 currently provided on Main Street between Wisconsin and Milwaukee streets, officials said.

The changes sought by the city involve recreating its southern gateway when Wisconsin Street is extended to the south through the We Energies property next year. The extended Wisconsin Street will largely follow the existing construction road on the utility land, intersecting Lakeshore Road near Sunset Road.

To accommodate this change, the city has proposed creating a right turn lane on Lakeshore Road that will help channel traffic onto the new Wisconsin Street. Traffic heading into Port on Division Street or turning onto Sunset Road would have to switch lanes to make those movements.

Slowing traffic on Lakeshore Road, also known as County Highway C, near Sunset Road is key to the proposal. The plan is intended to direct traffic heading to downtown and lakefront along the new Wisconsin Street instead of through a residential neighborhood, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.

“The biggest thing is slowing the traffic so they can see the directional sign and make the turn,” he said.

But to do those things, the county needs to change two of its ordinances — one to reduce the speed limit near the intersection of Lakeshore Road and the southern extension of Wisconsin Street from 40 mph to perhaps 25 mph, and the other to allow directional signs at the crossing, said Vanden Noven, who is slated to discuss the issue with the county Public Works Committee later this month.

Although no one has flat-out rejected the city’s proposal, Vanden Noven said, he’s been warned that county officials are typically reluctant to reduce the speeds on county highways and county ordinances prohibit directional signs.

The county does not seem to have an issue with the proposed layout of the intersection, Vanden Noven added.

Ald. Tom Hudson questioned why the county wouldn’t allow the signs, noting that less than a mile south of the new intersection, Ozaukee County has placed signs directing motorists to Lions Den Gorge.

“It sure seems inconsistent to me,” he said. “I don’t see any fundamental difference. Certainly the marina is a public use of the lakefront.”

Ald. Dan Becker, who is also a county supervisor, said the city and county should be willing to work together on the issue.

“I’ll personally look into it,” he said.

Vanden Noven said he believes the city and county can come to an agreement.

“I’m hopeful they’ll think one ordinance change deserves another,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic about our chances.

“I’m optimistic because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m cautious because when we broached the subject last spring it was rejected, and when I requested it again in November, it took over one month to get a response.”

Because the city delayed action on the two ordinances needed to change parking on West Main Street, aldermen will have to begin the process of altering the city ordinances all over again, Grams said. A first review of the ordinance is expected to be conducted by the Common Council on Jan. 19.

But aldermen on Tuesday did take one step toward adding long-term parking near the Administration Center. They approved an ordinance that would remove the two-hour parking limit on Milwaukee Street north of the alley behind the Administration Center, allowing long-term parking in seven or eight spots there.

 
Historic firehouse joins National Register PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 30 December 2009 18:41

Pier St. building that now houses Port Senior Center chosen for honor that will help ensure its preservation

Port Washington’s historic firehouse, which is currently home to the city’s senior center, was named to the National Register of Historic Places last month.

“It is truly a significant building with its tower,” said Port Washington Historical Society President Geri Zehren. “We’re just glad to see the building recognized for what it is — a building of historic significance and beauty.

“It’s an interesting building, and it needs to be preserved.”

City officials concurred, with administrator Mark Grams saying, “We always considered it a historic site. I think it’s one downtown building that’s been very well maintained and is worthy of this honor. It’s a unique building.”

The Port Washington Fire Engine House at 102 E. Pier St. was designed by Milwaukee architect John Topzant and built in 1929 with tan brick walls, a Spanish tile roof, copper gutters and downspouts and the distinctive bell-tower-like hose drying tower.

Between 1929 and 1938, a matching addition was attached to the rear of the structure.

The distinctive Mediterranean Revival-style building served as the city’s fire station until 1975, when it was converted to a senior center.

The building is one of only two in the city designed in the Mediterranean style, officials have noted.

The so-called engine house property, which is owned by the city, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places Nov. 5. It was added to the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places in April after being nominated by the Historical Society and the Port Washington Maritime Heritage Experience.

Placement on the National Register qualifies the property for grants and rehabilitation income tax credits, but does not prohibit modifications to it. The city can make structural alterations as long as a certificate of appropriateness is obtained, officials said.

If the city were to sell the building, it  would be required to attach a preservation covenant to the structure. That covenant would require additional reviews be followed if renovations were to be made or the structure razed.

It’s important to take steps to ensure historic buildings like the engine house, Zehren said.

“Port hasn’t always been good about that,” she said. “It calls for vigilance at all times.”

As an example, she cited the former grist mill on South Milwaukee Street as an example of a historic building that was razed in recent years.

She also noted the efforts of Shirley Schanen Gruen and others to preserve the king post truss bridge at Fisherman’s Park.

“Without them, would that bridge have been saved?” Zehren asked.

The Historical Society is in the process of raising the $500 needed to purchase a brass plaque for the structure denoting its entry on the National Register, Zehren said.


PORT WASHINGTON’S former firehouse, which is now home to its senior center, was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Bill Schanen IV

 

 
City may ditch coal dock roundabout plan PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 18:15

Public complaints about proposal prompt Port officials to explore other options for South Wisconsin Street project

A plan to install a roundabout on South Wisconsin Street at the entrance to the coal dock next year is being reconsidered by Port Washington officials, who are also looking at ways to recreate the city’s southern gateway next year.

“The roundabout wasn’t really warmly received,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven told officials recently.

“An alley comes right onto it, as does a driveway and the Interurban Trail. People asked if bikes would have to go through the roundabout if riders wanted to go north on Wisconsin Street.

“I think we’re going to go to plan B or C or whatever we can dream up.”

If approved, the proposed roundabout would be the city’s second. The other will be built at the crossing of highways 33 and LL when Highway 33 is reconstructed in 2011.

The Wisconsin Street roundabout was intended to be a gateway feature for the coal dock park development, Vanden Noven said, but there are other ways to accomplish that goal without a traffic circle.

Those include using pavers or decorative pavement or bump outs at the park entrance, he told the Board of Public Works earlier this month.  Creating a pedestrian island in the crosswalk leading to the coal dock entrance or installing a decorative archway or columns at the coal dock entrance are also being considered.

“The idea behind the gateway feature is to identify this as a specific place. We want it to be something people like, not something they think is a pain to drive through,” Vanden Noven added.

The comments were made during a recent public informational meeting on proposed road improvements for Division, Chestnut and Wisconsin streets and in written comments submitted after the session, Vanden Noven said.

People at that meeting also stressed the need for the city to divert traffic from Division and Chestnut streets and onto the new South Wisconsin Street when it is built through the current We Energies property next year.

Diverting traffic is essential to changing these streets from arterials to roads that service neighborhoods, they said.

The southern extension of Wisconsin Street will largely follow the existing construction road through the utility’s property. Traffic heading into the city will be funneled onto the street at Highway C and Sunset Road.

The Common Council last week authorized Vanden Noven to meet with county officials to seek changes to Highway C to accommodate the new intersection.

The proposed changes, which were reviewed by the Board of Public Works earlier this month, would include lowering the speed limit from 40 mph to perhaps 25 mph south of the interchange and creating a right turn lane to channel traffic onto the new Wisconsin Street. Traffic heading into Port on Division Street or turning onto Sunset Road would have to switch lanes to make those movements.

“People want us to make sure we do everything we can to channel traffic onto the new Wisconsin Street,” Vanden Noven said. “We’re projecting at least three-quarters if not 90% of traffic will use this street. Most traffic is going to want to take the Wisconsin Street route because their destination is going to be downtown.”

Board members debated how much to propose lowering the speed limit, something Vanden Noven said will need to be determined with additional study.

But board Chairman Tom Veale also suggested the best way to channel traffic onto Wisconsin Street might be to construct a roundabout at the intersection.

“They’re really expensive,” Vanden Noven said, primarily because they require more land than a traditional crossing. “This we can do within the existing footprint.”

 Vanden Noven said that during initial talks, the county was not overly receptive to the proposed reconfiguration of the crossing. He has not discussed lowering the speed limit with the county, he added.

 “I think this is a reasonable plan,” board member Mike Ehrlich said. “I’m all for this concept.”

 
City officials favor one-way Main St. plan PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 18:40

Port council to vote next month on county’s proposal to expand parking for center

Port Washington aldermen said Tuesday they want to cooperate with county officials by making West Main Street a one-way street in front of the county Administration Center.

The street proposal, which was introduced to the Common Council Tuesday and will be voted on next month, calls for making the one-block section of Main Street between Milwaukee and Wisconsin streets one-way heading east. That will allow for angle parking on both sides of the street and provide eight additional parking places.

There was no opposition to the plan from aldermen, but two downtown businessmen have raised concerns about the impact on traffic.

Joe Zankl, owner of the Port Hotel & Inn, which is across the street from what would become the one-way road, said he fears a one-way street will make it more difficult for motorists to navigate downtown Port Washington.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me. Nobody likes one-way streets,” Zankl, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting, said earlier. “We should be encouraging people to come to downtown, not making more difficult.”

Patrick Poole, owner of Poole Funeral Home, which is on the corner of Main and Wisconsin streets, has also expressed concerns.

But Ald. Dan Becker, who is also an Ozaukee County supervisor, said the city should cooperate with the county by granting its request for the one-way street.

“The county is a good partner with the city,” he said. “It’s a reasonable request. We’re going to increase parking and that will benefit the funeral home and Port Hotel.”

The county has recently increased its parking space by creating a lot where the old jail once stood on the west side of the Administration Center. County officials, however, said there is still a need for more parking, especially during special events like vaccination clinics held by the Public Health Department and University of Wisconsin Extension programs.

County Administrator Tom Meaux reminded city officials Tuesday that the county sacrificed parking spaces for aesthetics when it constructed its new lot.

“We could have reduced the green space and created more parking, but we opted for more green space. God, do we have green space,” he said. “We have been a good partner with the city.”

City Administrator Mark Grams said the county’s request, which was backed by the city’s Traffic Safety Committee, also benefits the city.

“I’m sure you’ve heard from people about the need for more parking downtown,” he told aldermen. “This would provide for that at no cost to the city.”

The only question aldermen raised was whether the one-way street should run east as planned or west.

Ald. Jim Vollmar said making West Main Street a west-bound road would make sense because the entrance to the road and access to the additional parking would be closer to and easier to access from the heart of downtown. If it become an east-bound street, motorists would have to drive west on Grand Avenue and go around the block to access the street.

But both city and county official said the street should be east-bound so traffic turns right from Main Street onto Wisconsin Street, then onto Grand Avenue at an intersection controlled by traffic signals. If the street were west-bound, traffic would have to make a left turn on Milwaukee Street and onto Grand Avenue at an intersection not controlled by traffic signals. 


MANY OF THE parking places in the Ozaukee County Administration Center parking lot and on West Main Street in Port Washington were full Tuesday afternoon. The county has asked city officials to make West Main Street one way heading east so additional street parking can be created. Photo by Bill Schanen IV

 

 
PW-S board backs talks to buy Simplicity land PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Thursday, 10 December 2009 18:11

District to begin negotiating purchase of 44 acres in Town of Port Washington that could be used for school

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday jumped at the opportunity to negotiate the purchase of the Simplicity proving grounds, one of the few sites in the district that administrators say is suited for a school.

The board voted unanimously to have Supt. Michael Weber and Director of Business Services Jim Froemming negotiate with Briggs & Stratton Corp. for the purchase of the 44-acre parcel off Highway LL in the Town of Port Washington.

Weber said he hopes to present a proposed purchase agreement to the board in February.

The school district and Briggs & Stratton have yet to discuss a price, but the district recently received a fair market value estimate of $852,000 for the property — $528,000 for the land and $342,000 for a 10,800-square-foot manufacturing facility on the site.

The district has several financing options, the most attractive of which is an interest-free loan through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package, Weber said. The district has applied for the loan and received indications it is a promising candidate for the program, he said.

The district is also in a position to pay cash for the property from its fund equity account, Weber said.

Although there is no immediate need for what would be the sixth school building in the district, administrators said the Simplicity proving grounds, acquired by the Milwaukee-based Briggs & Stratton in 2004 as part of its Simplicity purchase, represents an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

“Green space is so precious right now,” Weber told the board’s Building and Grounds Committee last month. “Let’s not miss the opportunity we have now.”

Current market conditions also make it a good time to buy property even if the district doesn’t need to use it for a decade or longer, officials said. According to Froemming, the fair market value of the property has decreased $150,000 since 2007.

Although the district owns 50 acres of undeveloped land in the City of Port Washington just north of Highway 33, the Simplicity property is a better site for a school because it is essentially flat, located between Port Washington and Saukville and has good access off Highway LL, Weber said.

The Simplicity site is small for a new high school, which requires at least 70 acres to accommodate a building, parking lots and athletic fields, but it is adjacent to undeveloped land the district could try to purchase.

The rolling property the district currently owns has limited access, is surrounded by subdivisions, and is generally considered an investment rather than a potential school site.

“I believe this is a nice piece of property for residential development,” Weber said. “As the market continues its upward swing, I think we’ll have people knocking on our door (to purchase it).”

The proving grounds, where lawn tractors and snowthrowers have been tested for decades, was identified as a potential school site by a district think tank created to study future school facility needs.

Froemming contacted Briggs & Stratton in November 2008 to express interest in the property, and received an indication that the company was interested in selling the land.

The Simplicity proving grounds represents the last vestige of a company founded in Port Washington that for decades made high-quality lawn tractors and snowthrowers here.

In October 2008, just four years after purchasing Simplicity Manufacturing, Briggs & Stratton closed the Port Washington factory on South Spring Street and moved operations out of state. The factory has since been sold and is being used primarily for storage.

Briggs & Stratton continues to use the proving grounds, and school officials have suggested the company could continue to use the property, perhaps through a lease or similar agreement, after the district purchases it.

 
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