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Developer poised to buy land for subdivision PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 18:42

Firm’s purchase of 227 acres on Port’s south side for Cedar Vineyard project expected to be done by end of year

Tom Swarthout, president of the Highview Group, said Tuesday he will complete the purchase of 227 acres on Port Washington’s far southeast side for the proposed Cedar Vineyard development by the new year.

“We’ll be closing before the end of the year,” Swarthout said. “It’s all coming together. We’re just wrapping up the final details.”

Swarthout said the engineering for the subdivision is virtually completed, his contractor has given him preliminary budget numbers that fall into line with his estimates and his financing is in place.

The Highview Group is purchasing 227 acres off Highway C, land once slated for  a high-intensity subdivision by the VK Development. The developer plans to create 82 half-acre lots on the land, with a vineyard planned along Highway C and a winery created on the west side of Highway C south of Stonecroft Drive.

A 101-acre nature preserve will also be created that encompasses Cedar Gorge and roughly 150 feet of land along the Lake Michigan bluff. This property will be acquired by the Highview Group and within minutes sold to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, which has received grants to cover the $2 million purchase price.

“It’s a very unique project,” Land Trust Executive Director Tom Stolp said. “It’s an exciting project, unique in terms of the land that will be preserved, and we’re really excited to be part of this.”

The project will be a significant acquisition of sensitive land as well as the bluff, Stolp said, and will be the largest conservation development the Land Trust has been involved with.

Stolp said Swarthout met with the Land Trust recently to update them on the status of the project.

“It’s all on a good timeline,” he said. “Everything’s on track.”

While Swarthout had originally hoped to buy the land and begin work on the subdivision by now, he said that a variety of issues have slowed the development.

Many are paperwork issues, Swarthout said, as well as work lining up financing.

“There’s certainly a higher bar today in lending than there was 10 years ago,” he said. “Vacant land is very challenging to get funding for. Lending institutions were really burned in the downturn, so they’re really cautious.”

There’s also been a significant amount of coordination between the partners in the project, including the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Ozaukee County, the City of Port, investors and lenders, Swarthout said.

“Everything has to close at once to qualify for the grant money, and that creates angst with some of the lawyers,” he said. 

Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada said developers often project a quicker timeline than is practical.

“I think it’s about getting things done, and getting them done right,” Mlada said. “And that takes time.”

He noted that the Port Harbour Lights condominium development in downtown took close to three years before work on the project began — “and that was a project just between the developer and the city. This project has many more moving parts.”

It’s been frustrating to drive by the site without being able to put a shovel in the ground yet, Swarthout admitted.

But he said that plans are in place to begin work on utilities for the site “right after the first of the year.”

“We’re trying to get a jump start on the spring,” Swarthout said. “You’re going to see a lot of action over the next several months.”

By late spring or early summer, he said, construction will start on several model homes in the subdivision. 

“We think it’s important to set a standard for the subdivision,” Swarthout said. “We expect these homes not to be big, ostentatious houses. 

“We don’t necessarily want big. We want right-sized houses. Something that’s classic. I think everyone should have the freedom to build their own home, but you want individual homes that fit the perspective of the site, especially when they back up to the lake or gorge.”

Architectural guidelines and covenants for the subdivision are already in place, Swarthout noted.

Prospective homeowners have already reserved 14 lots in the subdivision, he said.

“I think there have been at least 10 reservations that are almost a year old,” he said. “We’re excited they see the value in the project and are willing to wait for it.”

Swarthout said that work on the winery and vineyard will also begin in earnest next year. That work, he added, is determining much of the timeline for the project.

“We have to order our vines by the end of December,” he said. “And we have to be able to plant by no later than the end of June — that’s what’s driving the schedule.”

The first vines will be planted on the north end of the subdivision, he said, and to accomplish this, an extensive drainage system will be put in place.

That’s because grapevines like drainage, and the soil on the property is largely hard-packed clay — good for building houses, but in need of work to grow grapes, Swarthout said.
It will be a while before wine is available from the grapes grown on the property, he added.

“It takes three years to get fruit and two years in the barrel,” Swarthout said. 

But the winery, which will be built using pieces of several old barns the company has acquired, will be built on the property next year, he said.

The winery and vineyard will be run by Steve and Maria Johnson, who own Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery in Kewaunee and Door 44 Winery in Sturgeon Bay.

Senior housing project sparks protests PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Tuesday, 22 November 2016 21:14

Plan to build three-story apartment building on Port’s west side has subdivision residents voicing concerns

About 30 people crowded into Port Washington City Hall last week to protest a senior living apartment building proposed to be built off Highway 33 on the city’s west side.

The residents of the Hidden Hills Subdivision said they feared the three-story apartment building would loom over their houses, eliminating privacy and creating a loss in property values.

City says yes to budget with 4% tax rate increase PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 20:06

Port council approves 2017 spending plan that includes initiatives on firehouse, senior center after quiet public hearing

While the City of Port Washington’s 2017 budget contains funding for some initiatives sought for years, such as a feasibility study for a new or expanded firehouse, and the possibility of purchasing a home for its senior center, no residents commented on the spending plan during Tuesday’s public hearing.

Aldermen unanimously approved the proposed $9.3 million 2017 general fund budget and corresponding $3,085,000 levy.

The city will also levy $2.1 million for its debt service.

Board tries to make most of another $20,000 in school budget PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 09 November 2016 21:29

Correction to energy credit will shave penny off tax rate for Port-Saukville residents

It turns out that the Port Washington-Saukville School District left money on the table when the board approved the 2016-17 budget on Oct. 24.

A review of the budget by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s School Financial Services found an error related to a credit the district receives for its energy efficiency initiative worth an additional $20,000.

So what’s $20,000 worth to taxpayers in a budget that requires a $15.9 million tax levy? 

Senior center surprise: City may buy existing site PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 19:08

Frustrated by stalled search for new facility, Port council wants to purchase renovated church it now leases

In an abrupt about-face, Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday said they are willing to consider buying the senior center building at 403 W. Foster St. in order to ensure the program has a home even after the lease runs out in July.

Officials said the purchase of the building could cost between $400,000 and $600,000 and, depending on negotiations, could take place by the end of the year.

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