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Port Washington

City clears way for major Harbor Club expansion PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 January 2018 19:42

Port Plan Commission OKs revised concept plan for senior living facility, council takes first look at rezoning

    Plans for a major expansion of the Harbor Club senior living facility on Port Washington’s north side took a leap this week.
    The Common Council on Tuesday took its first look at rezoning needed to accommodate the expansion, and the Plan Commission last week gave concept approval to the plan.
    It’s the second time the proposed expansion was heard by the commission, which previously expressed major concerns about the proximity of a planned three-story, 66-unit building to existing houses along Holden Street.
    The new plan moves that building farther east, so it is 60 feet or more away from the neighboring houses.
    It also took what had been envisioned as a rectangular retaining pond on the southwest side of the property and created two undulating ponds. A bridge and gazebo are envisioned to be built between the two sometime in the future.
    Across from the ponds are sites for future independent senior housing units, although the design of these has not been determined.
    The plan also reserves two spaces for future memory care units.
    “I think this solves a lot of things,” commission member Brenda Fritsch said. “I think you’re creating a much more inviting space. It keeps that feeling and sense of independence.”
    Commission member Tony Matera concurred, saying, “You really created a lot of privacy for the residents on Holden Street.”
    Noting that the design places the new building closer to the existing facility than previously planned, Ald. Mike Ehrlich, an architect and commission member, said, “It’s a little bit tighter campus so it encourages interaction between the buildings.”
    The plan will create a formal entrance to the current campus near the Harbor Club, extending and enhancing the driveway on the west side of the property to the south and adding landscaping.
    The expanded driveway, which will include a new parking area near the Harbor Club, will lead to the new senior apartment building, which will have underground parking.
    Pam Schlenvogt, executive director of the Harbor Campus, said there has been “a lot of excitement and buzz” in the community about the expanded facility,  noting she has a waiting list of people interested in the new building.
    “This is really going to keep our seniors living in the community where they’ve lived, where they’ve raised their family,” she said.
    The Common Council is expected to take final action on the rezoning request when it meets on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
    In other action, the Plan Commission last week approved a special exception that will allow Drews Hardware to erect a monument sign in front of its store.
    The new sign will replace the current pylon sign, which is in disrepair.
    Pylon signs are no longer allowed in the city under the sign code, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, noted.
    “When this (new sign) came over my desk, I was really excited,” he said, noting it is significantly more attractive than the current sign.
    “I think it’s a home run,” Matera said.
    The special exception was needed to reduce the setback for the sign — which will be at the south entrance to the store’s parking lot — from 10 feet to 4 feet. The sign will not encroach on the sidewalk, commission members noted.

Port wheel tax plan prompts more questions than feedback PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 18:39

Those who expressed opinions at meeting were split on merits of proposal

    There were more questions than opinions expressed about the City of Port Washington’s proposed $20 annual wheel tax during an informational meeting on the topic Tuesday.
    About 25 people attended the session, where Mayor Tom Mlada presented his plan for a tax that he said would be an important tool to help finance road repairs in the city.
    The $20 fee would raise about $200,000, Mlada said, which would not supplant but supplement the city’s spending on roadwork.
    “I think $20 is reasonable,” one woman said. “If we’re sure we’re getting the money back for our community, that’s OK. I see some pretty crappy roads. I think you probably are being proactive at this point.”
    But, she asked, “why do things have to get this bad before you do something?”
    But Amy Otis-Wilborn said she does not believe the wheel tax is the right answer, especially as developments are adding roads to the community.
    “Twenty dollars just seems like nothing,” she said. “It seems like we’re solving very little.”
    Mlada acknowledged that the city is behind in its road repairs, noting that using a  10-point scale, 16 of the city’s 50 miles of roads rate a three or four.
    The city is borrowing about $800,000 annually for road repairs, but to catch up it would need to spend $2 million, he said.
    While the wheel tax would not completely fill the gap, it would help, he added.
    Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said the $200,000 could be used to resurface two-thirds of a mile of road or resurface and replace the curb and gutter along one-third mile of road or reconstruct two blocks of streets.
    Mlada said he suggested a $20 wheel tax because it’s the average charged by the 23 municipalities in the state that have the tax and it’s affordable for people.
    “Even at $40, it wouldn’t be a silver bullet,” he said. “We know the $200,000 will have an impact.”
    Some people have suggested that the city put the wheel tax proposal to a referendum vote, but Mlada said that’s not appropriate.
    “I think there’s a place for a referendum,” he said, such as the $49.4 million school referendum held by the school district in 2015 “This, to me, is not one of them.
    “In my opinion, we elect these seven gentlemen (aldermen) to represent us. We don’t have to take every issue to referendum.”
    The city can’t budget for the road repairs because there isn’t enough room under state levy limits, Mlada said, and it can’t cut $2 million annually for road repairs because there isn’t room in the budget.
    Eliminating the library, senior center and parks and recreation programs entirely would only save the city $1.2 million, he said, adding the entire street department budget is only about $2.1 million.
    And imposing a local sales tax, as suggested by some people, isn’t allowed by the state, Mlada added.
    The city is working to increase its tax base by promoting development, which will help it meet state levy limit laws while still  allowing it to find funds for roadwork and other needs, Mlada said.
    One man asked whether the city is likely to increase the wheel tax once it’s in place, and Mlada told him the council could set a sunset date or a date when it should be reviewed.
    Kendel Feilen asked whether the city had considered setting a maximum fee per household. That, he said, could make it “more palatable” for residents.
    Officials said they would check on this, adding that the Department of Transportation, which would collect the tax when drivers renew their vehicle license plates, probably would not allow this.
    Dan Micha suggested that since interest rates are so low, the city should borrow $2 million to fix the streets and repay it using the wheel tax proceeds. If the city does impose the tax, it should review it annually with an eye to abolishing it when the need has diminished.
    The Common Council is expected to discuss the proposed wheel tax when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Port election heats up with two vying for mayor PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 19:35

Commission member Marty Becker faces political newcomer Adele Richert in race to succeed Mlada

    The Port Washington Common Council will have a new look come April, with voters choosing between two first-time candidates to replace Tom Mlada as mayor.
    Marty Becker, 69, of 669 W. Pierre La., and Adele Richert, 74, of 304 S. Webster St., will face off in the April 3 election.
    While neither candidate has sought political office before, government isn’t new to Becker, a longtime member of the city’s Police and Fire Commission.
    If elected, one thing Becker said he would push for is a study to determine the need for a second fire station, something long requested by the fire department but put on the back burner by the Common Council.
    “The study to see if and when we need a second station is really important,” Becker said, noting the the current station has a number of limitations that need to be addressed.
    While he’s familiar with the police and fire departments, Becker said, “the rest of it is a learning curve.”
    Richert, who is retired, is a longtime California resident who moved to Port Washington about two years ago to be near her son, who lives in Brown Deer.
    “I fell in love with the city. I love its history,” she said. “I hope we don’t lose that with some of the developments being planned, particularly around the marina.”
    Development, she said, needs to be “measured, responsible, safe for the environment, and it needs to maintain the historic ambience the city has.”
    Richert added that she wants to get residents more involved in what the city does, and she plans to hold listening sessions.
    The city’s current focus on development has been among Mlada’s achievements, although some of those developments, particularly those proposed around the marina, are controversial.
    Becker , who also said he wants to hear from residents regarding the issues, said he likes the idea of the Blues Factory, just not the proposed location in the north slip marina parking lot.
    “I think it is a prime piece of property that I’m not sure why we’re selling. I’m not sure the Blues Factory couldn’t be put somewhere else,” Becker said.
    Becker, a pharmacist, said he’s running to give back to the city that’s given so much to he and his family and to give people a choice for mayor.
    “I’ve been in town for 40 years, and this city has been very good to me,” he said. “This city needs someone who’s dedicated to the city.”
    The mayor’s job is a “very unappreciated one,” Becker said, noting the mayor doesn’t cast a ballot but instead directs the tone of government.
    While Mlada has in many ways turned the mayor’s job into a full-time one, Becker said he believes it should remain a part-time post.    
    The mayor’s seat is only one of the seats on the April 3 ballot.
    Running unopposed for aldermanic seats in the election will be incumbents Paul Neumyer and Dan Benning, who represent the city’s 2nd and 4th districts, respectively, and newcomer Patrick Tearney, who is running unopposed for the 6th District seat being vacated by longtime incumbent Dave Larson.
    Larson, who filed noncandidacy papers, said he made his decision “after much deliberations and thought and discussion with my wife.”
    Tearney, 65, of 334 S. Eva St., is a retired newspaper reporter. He’s attended a number of Common Council meetings and has become familiar with the issues facing the city.
    “Downtown development is something everyone is concerned with,” Tearney said, adding it’s something he would talk to residents about. “But a lot of it has been approved already.”
    Tearney said he is also concerned with the number of closed-session meetings the council has held in regard to developments.
    “I think open government is important,” he said. “I’m hoping to be as open as possible with people.”

Another cool reception for Harbor Campus plans PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 19:07

Echoing concerns of design board, Port commission tables vote on proposed expansion of senior living facility

    Revised plans for the Harbor Campus in Port Washington met a cool reception at the Plan Commission last week, with members echoing some of the concerns that the city’s Design Review Board had expressed earlier in the week.
    Plan Commission members said they would like to see a new independent living apartment building on the site built farther away from houses on Holden Street, suggesting several ways this could potentially occur.
    They also suggested that something be done to improve the existing Harbor Campus buildings, noting the previous plan for the campus would have made significant changes to the structures.
    “What I really liked about the original plan is along Walters Street, it really created a nice entry,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich, an architect and member of the commission, said.
    Commission member Tony Matera agreed, saying many people were excited to see something planned for the existing senior apartment building.
    “Is there any option to update that older building?” he asked. “To put lipstick on the pig?”
    But Amy Schoenemann of Tarantino & Co. told the commission that the owners have opted to spend their money on the interior of the structure instead, saying they have spent $1.2 million on mechanical improvements and expect to spend another $1 million in spring on major interior renovations.
    “We’d rather invest our money inside the building,” Schoenemann said.
    There will be some improvements to the existing campus as the owners raze a garage and some accessory structures and reconfigure the driveway to create a boulevard entrance to what will become the grand entrance near the existing Harbor Club entry, she said.
    That new entrance, Schoenemann said, will give the site the feeling of a campus.
    The previous plan, which called for sweeping changes to the existing campus and the creation of a grand entrance off Walters Street, had to be scrapped due to budgetary concerns, Schoenemann said.
    Because it’s not economically feasible to remove the existing boiler building — the centerpiece of the previous plan — she said the owners have elected to make interior improvements to the building, a former hospital turned senior living facility, and expand the campus.
    Now, the plan is to create a master entrance near the Harbor Club, Schoenemann said, extending and enhancing the driveway on the west side of the property to the south and adding landscaping.
    The expanded driveway, which will include a new parking area near the Harbor Club, will lead to a new three-story, 66-unit independent senior living apartment building with underground parking.
    The plans also include an expansion of the existing memory care unit, and several smaller multi-family, independent-living buildings on the southeast side of the property.
    Plans for those independent-living buildings have not been finalized, Schoenemann said.
    The new senior apartment building will be 35 feet from the Holden Street homes, Schoenemann said, more than the 20 feet required by code.
    But commission members said they would like to see the building pulled farther to the east, especially since balconies on the upper floors of the building will overlook the existing houses.
    Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, a member of the commission, suggested the property owners may be able to vacate an easement and move the entire building to the south and east a bit.
    Member Brenda Fritsch, an architect, also suggested that the building could be designed with fewer floors on the west end overlooking the neighbors, lessening the impact, and more floors added in the center and east ends of the structure.
    “I think the internal investment is much needed,” Fritsch added.
    Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, also suggested the commission hold off on recommending any rezoning for the south end of the site until plans for that are finalized.
    Because of the many questions about the plan, commission members decided to hold off on approving the concept plan and making any rezoning recommendations.
    But because this could delay work on the campus, they agreed to hold a special meeting on Jan. 11, since a rezoning recommendation could then be considered by the Common Council and approved by early February.
    The Design Review Board, which had also expressed concerns about the revised plans, will meet on Jan. 9 to revisit the proposal.
    “If we can get a concept plan that we’re a little more comfortable with, I don’t think you’re going to have a problem with rezoning,” Ehrlich said, noting there is a need for additional senior housing in the community.

Residents in an uproar over sidewalk plan for Port PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 December 2017 19:11

Homeowners tell officials walkways they would have to pay for aren’t needed

    Residents of Port Washington’s north bluff area took their campaign not to have sidewalks installed along their streets next year to both the Board of Public Works and Common Council.
    Sidewalks are unnecessary, won’t improve safety and will cost people money they could put to better use, the residents told officials.
    And because there aren’t sidewalks along neighboring streets, the walkways wouldn’t lead anywhere, they said.
    “We’re a bit puzzled by that,” said Pat Kuehl, 1105 Crestview Dr. “What would be the point of doing sidewalk on Crestview if you don’t do it on the other streets?”
    Tom Osowski, 1114 Crestview Dr., asked officials for a timeline so residents would know when their neighbors would also have sidewalks installed along their property.
    But Bret Hoffmann, 408 Sunrise Dr., disagreed.
    “I don’t want a timeline because I don’t want sidewalks,” he said. “I do not think it’s appropriate. I do not live in an urban environment. I do not live on a thoroughfare. It is a very sleepy area.”
    The idea of installing sidewalks whenever streets are rebuilt is “another failure of governmental policy,” Hoffmann added, especially since neighbors don’t want them.
    Dan Stacey, 925 Crestview Dr., said sidewalks would encroach on his home and allow neighbors to invade his privacy.
    The city would have to take down mature trees in the area to make room for the walkways, he said, adding, “I have a lot better things to spend $2,500 on than concrete squares on my property.”
    The neighborhood has a “country feeling, or a North Shore neighborhood feeling” that would be destroyed by sidewalks, Osowski said.
    He presented officials with a petition he took throughout his neighborhood showing that of the 28 houses affected on Crestview Drive and Brentwood Court, 22 households opposed having sidewalks installed.
    Only two households were in favor of sidewalks, he said, and one was split, with the husband and wife differing in their opinions.
    Kuehl suggested the city install streetlights instead of sidewalks.
    “How charming would that be?” she asked.
    Osowski suggested that a bike lane might be a better amenity than a sidewalk, even though he said there isn’t much pedestrian or bike traffic.
    Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said he has heard from several people who are in favor of sidewalks, “but they are certainly in the minority.”
    Several aldermen agreed that it would make more sense to install sidewalks that connect throughout the area, but they noted that not all the streets are being rebuilt at one time.
    “Do we do it in pieces or do you just prep the streets for sidewalks and do the neighborhood as a whole?” Ald. Mike Ehrlich asked. “I thought that is a good comment and one worth discussing.”
    No matter what, he said, the streets should be designed and built as though sidewalks were being installed to ensure they could be added in the future if they aren’t today.
    Ald. John Sigwart agreed, saying, “It seems to me when we put in sidewalks they should connect to something.”
    “It certainly can’t be ignored that it would be more beneficial if they did connect,” Vanden Noven said. “But I think sidewalks on Crestview have merit on their own.”
    And, he said, while many residents throughout the city have asked officials to install sidewalk along Holden Street connecting to Upper Lake Park, that may be more difficult if the city doesn’t install walkways elsewhere.
    “If the council were just to kick the can down the road, people on Hales Trail are going to say, ‘You didn’t put them in the surrounding neighborhood,’” Vanden Noven said.
    Gasper also suggested the city pay for the walkways because they are amenities for all residents, saying, “It may be unfair for the people who paid for sidewalk last year, but it is the public right of way.”  
    The city charges property owners for sidewalks when they are initially installed, but covers the cost of future repairs and replacement.
    For now, the design of the streets will be done with the idea that sidewalks will be installed, in accordance with city policy, Vanden Noven said.
    Aldermen can easily amend the contract for the street work to eliminate the walkway installation through mid-February, he said, although a decision could be delayed past that point.

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