Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 20:28
Officials fine-tuning TIF plan for Cedar Vineyard project that also needs $1 million from county to create park
Port Washington officials said Tuesday that a tax incremental financing district needed for the proposed Cedar Vineyard subdivision on the city’s far south side is expected to be approved in June.
And Ozaukee County officials are expected to move quickly after that — perhaps the following day, depending on the timing — to vote on a funding resolution that would allocate as much as $1 million to help purchase more than a mile of shoreland and an environmentally sensitive area of the subdivision to create a public park.
The project had appeared to be on a fast track after it was proposed in January, but city and county officials said that there are practical considerations that have slowed the process down.
City officials are still working to determine cost estimates for the TIF district, particularly the price of extending sewer and water service to the subdivision, and considering the borders of the district.
“At one point, there was a rush to this,” said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development. “We’re not trying to stall it at all. It’s just not ready.”
And county officials, who originally said the funding resolution could come to a vote in April, now say they won’t act on the matter until the TIF district is established.
County Administrator Tom Meaux said a cost-sharing agreement will be part of the TIF plan, and that needs to be in place before the vote.
“It’s integral to the deal,” he said.
County Supr. Dan Becker, who is also a City of Port Washington alderman, said the reason for timing is two-fold.
It will demonstrate the city’s commitment to the project, Becker said.
“Everything will be done at the city level, and then the county can vote on its portion of the project,” he said.
It will also allow the county to make sure as many supervisors as possible are on hand to vote, Becker said, noting a two-third vote of the members elect, or 18, supervisors, must approve the funding resolution.
“If you’re not at the meeting, it’s like a no vote,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re voting at a meeting where hopefully we can have 100% attendance.”
It was difficult to schedule an earlier session for the vote, Becker said, because a number of supervisors were on vacation over the Easter holiday.
When the county took its initial vote on funding the 101-acre nature preserve, which includes not only the environmentally sensitive Cedar Gorge but also land along the bluff and beach, 18 supervisors co-sponsored the resolution, Becker noted.
“There is potential to get a few more favorable votes,” he said.
The Cedar Vineyard project has much to offer both the city and county, officials said.
The project calls for 73 home sites, a 100-acre nature conservancy, a vineyard and winery on the former VK Development property. Most of the property lies on the east side of Highway C, with the winery and a small portion of the homes on a parcel west of the highway.
“It’s a great revenue generator,” Becker said. “It’s a low-density, high-end development that will go easy on municipal services. It’s going to be great for tourism, and we’re protecting all that public space.”
Initial plans called for the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, in partnership with the county, to purchase the preserve and deed it to the county.
A state stewardship grant was expected to pay much of the cost, but since Gov. Scott Walker’s budget has thrown this into question, the city and county are being asked to contribute to the purchase.
The county’s $1 million contribution will likely be further reduced by some funding from the stewardship fund, Becker said, as well as a pledge from developer Thomas Swarthout, president of The Highview Group, to pay a total of $325,000 in impact fees.
Becker and Meaux said they are confident the county and city will each support the purchase of the preserve.
“I think it’s going to be something we’ll all be proud of when it’s done,” Meaux said.
The return goes beyond the public property to economics, Becker added.
“This is going to give us a large return on investment,” he said. For example, the county currently receives less than $500 in property taxes from the Cedar Vineyard property, an amount estimated to increase to between $60,000 and $70,000 when it is developed.
And the city, he said, will gain even more in property taxes.
City officials, who at one point said they would consider financing the county’s share of the preserve through the TIF district if the County Board didn’t approve the funding, have backed off from that stance.
“It has got to be a partnership,” Tetzlaff said. “It’s going to be a county park.”
City Administrator Mark Grams said, “It’s still an option, but it all comes down to finances.”
City officials are continuing work on the TIF project plan, which will include the city’s $1 million share of the cost of buying the preserve.
Tetzlaff said the city is being careful to ensure the TIF district isn’t a burden on taxpayers. However, he said, it is necessary to provide the utilities needed for the subdivision.
“It’s just an enormous cost to get the sewer and water done,” he said, noting initial estimates were between $5 million and $6 million.
Officials are looking at where to best place a small lift station on the south side of the development to minimize the costs, Tetzlaff said.
The city is also looking at the boundaries of the district, he said, noting the city’s TIF consultant recommended incorporating some industrial park land into the district.
The city has negotiated an agreement with Anchor Bank that would allow the city to connect the Cedar Vineyard property to land in the industrial park, Tetzlaff said.
“We have some opportunities in the industrial park,” he said, noting Construction Forms has talked about expanding in the future and Allen Edmonds owns some property it may want to develop.
Tetzlaff said the Plan Commission is expected to hold a public hearing on the TIF project plan and vote on it as soon as its May 21 meeting.
If it’s not ready for that session, he said, a special meeting could be held in early June.
That would allow the Common Council to act on the plan in June, Tetzlaff said.
After the council approves the plan, it will go to the Joint Review Board — which consists of representatives of the city, county, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College Board, as well as one citizen member — for approval.
After that, the plan will go to the Department of Revenue for certification, Tetzlaff said.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 20:41
With outside funds unavailable, Port mayor wants council to find way to install safety upgrade in lakefront park this year
Port Washington officials need to recognize that grant money won’t pay for a railing along the promenade at Coal Dock Park, Mayor Tom Mlada said.
“The bottom line is that we need to address it,” he said. “I think it’s a question the council will ultimately have to take up.
“I’d like to see it done in 2015.”
At the very least, Mlada said, he would like the city to come up with a plan of action so a railing could be installed next year.
“The first step is to get the right solution in place,” he said.
The Coal Dock Committee on Friday took up the issue but made no recommendation, primarily because there isn’t any money available to construct the railing, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, chairman of the committee, said.
“Right now, it’s about finances,” he said, noting the cost to install the railing along the 1,000-foot-long promenade is estimated at $200,000.
The high cost is due, in part, to the fact the railing would match the remainder of the city’s lakefront railings and be constructed out of materials that won’t rust and will minimize maintenance.
“What we had hoped for in grants is either gone or wasn’t there for this purpose,” Vanden Noven said.
The city has looked at diverting some grant money from other projects in the park to the railing, but that hasn’t been allowed, he said.
The reason the city didn’t initially install the railing is that it had expected large boats to moor along the promenade, and the railing would limit the ability of these ships to do that, Vanden Noven said.
The promenade was also made particularly wide — 18-1/2 feet — so people could keep youngsters away from the edge while still enjoying the lakefront views, he added.
But the expected large boat traffic hasn’t materialized, Vanden Noven said.
“If the boats aren’t coming in, the question (of a railing) comes down to cost,” he said.
Even if boats come in, the city could construct gates along the railing that would allow boats to moor in the area.
The railing is important, Mlada said, because the lack of one is keeping people away from the park — one of Port’s premier lakeside recreational spaces.
“It’s a bit of a limitation, especially for parents with young children,” he said. “There’s a collective feeling this should get done. Let’s figure out a way to get it done.
“I think people have generally been understanding, but you reach a point ... we’re two-plus years into this and it’s time to take action.”
Mlada said Vanden Noven was asked to look at options for the railing and updated cost figures for the Coal Dock Committee to consider in May.
The Parks and Recreation Board, which has consistently sought to have a railing installed in the park, will also be asked for a recommendation on the matter, Mlada said.
He then expects the Common Council to take up the issue.
There are a number of ways the city could finance the cost of the railing, Mlada said.
“There are options we could explore,” he said.
The city could include funding in a borrowing issue it is expected to approve next year, he said.
Or, if the city sells the lakefront parking lot adjacent to the north slip, it could use some of the proceeds to help pay for the railing, Mlada said.
The Parks and Recreation Board also recently suggested that the railing be broken into segments and sponsorships be sought for each leg.
Some money has already been raised from the community to offset the cost of the railing. The Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees dedicated the $6,000 it raised in its inaugural Land Regatta Run and Walk last year for the project, and the Port Washington Woman’s Club has also pledged $1,000 for the railing.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 20:09
Town of Port facility housing sex offender fuels complaints from neighbors who tell board they feel unsafe
More than a dozen residents living near Upper Forest Beach Road in the Town of Port Washington appealed to town officials Monday, saying they are concerned a community-based residential facility in their neighborhood could be a safety issue.
That’s because one of the residents of the Abundance of Life home at 4870 Upper Forest Beach Rd. is a registered sex offender, they said.
“I don’t feel safe in my home anymore,” said Nanci Johnson, 4838 Upper Forest Beach Rd. “My life has changed. I’m looking out my windows all the time.
“Who gave permission for this? No one can tell me.”
Neighbors also questioned what supervision is provided at the home and said that if a sex offender lives there, they should have been notified before he was placed there.
Groups visiting the nearby Forest Beach Migratory Preserve also ought to be warned, they said.
In addition to raising concerns about their safety, the residents said they are worried about the impact on their property values, with one man saying it will decrease them 10% to 14%.
Supr. Mike Didier said he was told the home is for people with cognitive disabilities. One of the residents is a convicted sex offender, he said, but he was told the man lived at the home before he was convicted.
One of the neighbors told officials there are two other residents at the home, a middle-aged man with lung issues and another man who needs assistance.
Town Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt said officials first learned that the house was being used as a CBRF last fall, when they were told it would be for hospice patients.
The town learned that purpose had changed a month or two ago, she said, when residents notified them.
Rules and regulations on these types of facilities are established by state and federal agencies, Town Chairman Jim Melichar said, and the town has little power over them.
These agencies aren’t required to notify the town when these facilities are established, officials added.
Didier suggested that since the house is being used as a business, neighbors should investigate whether it violates their subdivision covenant rules. If it does, he said, they could file a civil suit against the firm.
“Why doesn’t the Town of Port Washington have some control over this, and how do you get it?” one man asked, saying he had seen a television report about communities that regulate these types of uses.
Town officials said they would have their planner look into what sort of regulations and restrictions they can place on the placement of sex offenders and felons in the township.
An initial discussion was expected to be held during the Plan Commission’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, meeting.
But any action by the town will take time, Didier said, adding the Town of Port isn’t alone in dealing with this issue.
“This is happening across the country,” he said. “It’s a hot, emotional topic.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 21:48
Port officials say tests may be needed because land was site of factory
Port Washington officials who have fast-tracked a controversial plan to seek development proposals for a city-owned parcel of lakefront land will be asked next week to conduct an additional environmental assessment of the property.
If approved, it would delay the city’s quest for development proposals, although Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said he did not know how long the work would take.
Although the city has not received the results of an initial environmental assessment of the parking lot at the end of the north slip, that study will likely recommend the extra work, Tetzlaff said Tuesday.
For decades before it was converted to a parking lot, the property was home to industrial buildings — most notably, the Wisconsin Chair Co.
“We don’t know what’s there,” Tetzlaff said. “If I’m going to look to put a development there, I want to know what’s there.”
Typically, the assessment will involve doing soil borings to determine if contaminants are present, Tetzlaff said.
If they are, aldermen will have to decide whether to remediate the site, he said.
The condition of the site will influence the design of whatever building is placed there, Tetzlaff said. If a developer can create a lower level to house mechanical systems, it can minimize the building footprint and maximize public space on the lot, he said.
Even if the city moves ahead with the additional assessment, Tetzlaff said, the general timeline for development proposals remains.
After the request for proposals is issued, developers will have 75 days to respond, after which the city will have 30 days to vet the proposals, he said.
Officials had hoped to complete the process in early July.
The city’s decision to seek development proposals has drawn the ire of residents who believe the municipality should not sell valuable lakefront property but instead keep it public.
But officials note that the city owns miles of lakefront land. This site, they said, offers the community the opportunity to make property available for a project that could spur redevelopment throughout the downtown.
Developers Chris Long of Madison and Gertjan van den Broek of Port Washington have already approached the city with their plan to create a Paramount Blues-themed museum, restaurant, performance space and banquet hall on the property, noting the Wisconsin Chair Co. was the parent company of Paramount Records.