Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 17:08
Concerns with aesthetics, environmental hazards prompt Port board to explore ways to tighten regulations
Concerned with aesthetics and potential environmental hazards, Town of Port Washington officials last week began considering ways to beef up its junked vehicle regulations.
“We’ve had some complaints recently,” Town Chairman Jim Melichar told the Plan Commission April 11.
“There’s a farm on Highway H where they’re collecting tractors. They must have 200 along the fenceline. Some people think it’s a nuisance.”
Other members of the commission cited areas along Highway LL and Highway KK where abandoned vehicles can be seen littering the countryside.
While the town code prohibits the storing of junked vehicles, truck bodies, trailers, tractors and appliances for more than 30 days, it exempts farms from that regulation.
“That isn’t right,” Supr. Jim Rychtik, a member of the commission, said. “I’m zoned agriculture. I’m growing corn and raising pigs, so I can park cars? I shouldn’t be exempt.”
Today, farmers have some of the cleanest properties in the township, he noted.
Melichar said his concern springs not so much from aesthetics but from the potential for contamination if oil or gas from these junk vehicles drips onto the land and contaminates the soil and groundwater.
“I know this is going to bite us someday,” he said.
Plan Commission member Dave Murphy suggested the town get rid of the exemption.
“If they have a car they’re just too lazy to get rid of, is that right?” he asked.
But Supr. Mike Didier, a member of the commission, warned that it may not be easy to enforce the regulations.
“If we start to enforce this, are we poking a hornet’s nest?” he asked. “The first guy you drag in here is going to come in with a list as long as his arms of properties with junked cars.”
Rychtik said that isn’t the right reason not to do anything.
“I don’t think we’re saying we’re going to go on a witch hunt,” he said. “But we need a better ordinance so we can enforce it.”
“If we don’t say you can’t do it, you can’t enforce it,” commission member Randy Noll said.
Building Inspector Rick Fellenz noted some people use old vehicles as art. If the town makes an exception for this, he said, everyone will claim their abandoned vehicles are art.
Although the commission seemed reluctant to take action, Melichar said he expects the Town Board will refer the matter back to the panel for a recommendation.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 18:49
New design to link marina with downtown Port gets favorable review at meeting
A plan to reconfigure the parking lot behind the 100 block of Franklin Street was presented to a group of about two dozen downtown Port Washington business and property owners Monday and, unlike a previous concept, this proposal seemed to be accepted by virtually everyone.
The plan, created by the Main Street Design Committee, is intended to make the lot a safe, inviting area for pedestrians and motorists and to link the downtown with the city’s lakefront.
Main Street Executive Director Sara Grover said that in a survey done several years ago, marina users said there was one big barrier between them and Franklin Street merchants.
“That barrier was this concrete parking lot,” she said. “We need to change that.”
Only two spaces would be lost with the plan, which would incorporate two-way traffic throughout the lot, create a sidewalk on the west side of the lot behind Duluth Trading Co. and Schooner Pub and add a raised crosswalk leading from the alley next to Schooner Pub to the harborwalk.
The parking lot plans would dovetail with plans to improve the alley next to Schooner, turning it into a pedestrian way, officials said.
It would also incorporate landscaping around the edges and on the interior to camouflage dumpsters and transformers. Much of the landscaping would be bushes that would not block views of the lake.
But Elizabeth O’Connell suggested that the city plant large shade trees, trimming the lower branches to retain lake views but creating a canopy that would shade the lot and create an inviting landscape.
“If you want to provide any sense of the lake and greenery, you have got to put something up higher,” she said.
But Karen Poull, who with her husband Mark owns Schooner Pub, disagreed, saying it would block too many views. The lake view is what people want to see, she said.
The cul-de-sac on the east end of Main Street would be shortened, creating a sitting area with a feature — perhaps a fountain — in the center.
Architect Mike Ehrlich, a member of the Design Committee, said the group is continuing to look at ways to link the lot and lakefront with the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.
Electrical lines would be buried and the parking meters removed, likely replaced by a new kiosk system.
The plan will be reviewed by the city’s Plan Commission when it meets Thursday, April 18, and later by the Common Council.
If approved, it will then be sent out for engineering work and bids, Main Street Executive Director Sara Grover said.
The plan needs to be approved quickly, Grover said, because We Energies expects to bury the utility lines before the peak summer tourist season.
The rest of the plan would be implemented in fall, she said.
Funding for the project would be handled by the city’s tax incremental financing district.
Grover said the plan has already inspired some other downtown property owners to look at ways to clean up and improve their parking lots — most notably, the lot between Port Washington State Bank and the Port Harbor Center, where a survey is being done to determine ownership and a consideration made to burying the power lines.
Grover also updated the group on parking studies being conducted by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and Boston-based Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.
The SEWRPC study is being done for the city, while Main Street and the city’s Business Improvement District commissioned the Nelson/Nygaard study.
Grover said the two agencies will work together to maximize the results of their studies, with work expected to begin by the end of April.
Nelson/Nygaard will hold a project kick-off meeting in late April, then meet with business and property owners to determine their needs, how they accommodate parking now and to hear of any future plans that might affect downtown parking.
The firm will also develop a survey to be filled out by downtown customers and visitors when they visit shops, Grover said. The survey will ask, among other things, whether people are aware of parking options.
At the same time, SEWRPC will collect parking data, such as traffic flow, and the number of cars in downtown lots on a daily basis. The agency will also look at how existing on and off-street parking is used.
Nelson/Nygaard will then analyze its data and that collected by SEWRPC and make recommendations to Main Street and the city. SEWRPC will review these and create an implementation plan, Grover said, noting this should be completed by late fall.
Image Information: A RENDERING SHOWS the changes that are proposed for the parking lot between the north slip marina and the 100 block of Franklin Street in Port Washington. The design is intended to be pedestrian and driver friendly while providing an enhanced view of the lakefront.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 17:27
Town of Port Washington voters on Tuesday gave a stamp of approval to the current Town Board, choosing the incumbent supervisors over two former Plan Commission members.
Supervisors Mike Didier and Jim Rychtik garnered 257 and 225 votes, respectively, in Tuesday’s balloting while challengers John Fieber and Terry Anewenter received 103 and 95 votes.
Town Chairman Jim Melichar, Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt and Treasurer Mary Sampont were unopposed in their bids for a new term.
Melichar received 328 votes, Schlenvogt 322 and Sampont 311.
The resounding victory by the incumbent officials can be seen as an endorsement of the board’s decisions over the past two years, Didier said.
“I guess we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he said. “I think it (the vote) has to do with the fact everything is getting done effectively and efficiently and the town taxes haven’t gone up.”
City voters elect two new aldermen
Two new aldermen will take office in the City of Port Washington, where write-in candidate Kevin Rudser received about 50 votes to fill the Common Council’s vacant 5th District seat.
The Board of Canvass was expected on Wednesday to determine the exact number of votes Rudser received, City Administrator Mark Grams said, although there is no doubt he won the election. Only a couple other names were written on, each garnering a vote or two, he said.
Ald. Joe Dean did not seek re-election for the 5th District seat.
Bill Driscoll will be the city’s 3rd District alderman, replacing outgoing Ald. Jim Vollmar. He received 214 votes Tuesday.
Incumbent aldermen Mike Ehrlich and Dan Becker were unchallenged. Ehrlich received 264 votes and Becker 242.
Three incumbents were also returned to the Port Washington-Saukville School Board.
Jim Eden, who represents the Town of Grafton, received 1,918 votes. Jim Olsen and Kelly O’Connell-Perket, who represent the City of Port Washington, received 1,702 and 1,621 votes, respectively.
All three incumbents were unopposed.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 18:04
Didier, Rychtik being challenged by Anewenter, Fieber in race for two supervisory seats on Port board
Town of Port Washington residents have a full slate of candidates from which to select town supervisors Tuesday.
Incumbents Mike Didier and Jim Rychtik, who are completing their first term in office, are being challenged for their seats by Terry Anewenter and John Fieber, both former Plan Commission members.
Running unopposed on Tuesday’s ballot are Town Chairman Jim Melichar, Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt and Treasurer Mary Sampont.
All of the candidates said they believe the town’s decision to privatize much of its road work — including snowplowing, ditch cutting, some road construction and maintenance projects — rather than contract with Ozaukee County has proven to be a good one.
Anewenter said, “You can’t argue with the results this year. If it’s truly saving money, you can’t argue with it.”
“I was nervous initially,” Didier said of the town’s decision to privatize snowplowing. “But it’s working well. We’ve had a lot of positive responses and only a few negatives.
“At a minimum, we’re getting the same amount of services for less money.”
“The private contractor seems to be a little more responsive,” Fieber said. “In general, I think things have improved.”
Rychtik added, “I think we’ve gotten what we expected. I’m proud it’s worked so well. In general, people seem happy.”
Rychtik, 42, of 4855 Hwy. B., said the board has made inroads during the past two years but there’s still work to be done.
“I think we’ve been a productive board,” he said. “I think most people who have come before us have probably left happy.
“We’ve worked to make government more transparent.”
Rychtik, owner of Rychtik Construction, said the board is working to get more public input on projects it considers, pointing to the recent public hearing on Green Bay Road.
“Too often, what’s lost in government is officials listening to the people,” he said. “We want to listen to our residents.”
Rychtik, who said officials need to be open to development, suggested the town form a steering committee of residents to take a look at plans for the Knellsville area.
“That way, when things start to happen we’re going to be ready,” he said.
Fieber, a retired executive vice president at Kuttner North America, said he would like the town to look at ways to reinvigorate the Knellsville Business Park concept it championed several years ago.
“We finished that up and the economy took a nose dive,” he said. “I’d like to review that whole plan. Five years later, is there something we can do better? Looking at it optimistically, how can we market the area? Let’s see what’s available to us.”
When the economy picks up, he said, the freeway interchange is going to be a logical place for development to occur.
Fieber said he would also like to see if the town can do more to upgrade its roads — a topic he said he’s brought up numerous times.
Didier, 39, of 4627 Hwy. KW, said he’s spent the last two years learning how things work.
“Now that I’m in the swing of things, I’m ready to tackle two more years,” he said. “The past two years weren’t what I expected.”
He thought budget issues would be the most difficult, Didier said, and land-use issues would be easier. The opposite proved to be true.
“The land-use balance is challenging,” said Didier, who is a real estate agent. “People do have the right to do things with their property, but many times that conflicts with the town’s land-use plan. We have to walk a delicate line. It takes a lot of thought.
“Budgeting is easy. If you don’t have the money, you don’t spend it.”
The town’s decisions to privatize roadwork and take over the garbage and recycling operations have all helped the bottom line, Didier noted.
The town isn’t facing any major issues right now, he said, allowing officials to focus instead on day-to-day matters.
Fieber, 64, of 3200 Northwoods Rd., said a seat on the Town Board would allow him to do more for the town than he could on the Plan Commission, particularly when it comes to setting policy and procedures.
“With my engineering background and business experience, I think I can offer some help with planning and looking at the long-term picture,” he said. “That’s one of my strengths.”
Anewenter, 58, of 3693 Hwy. KK, said he wants to see the board reflect divergent viewpoints, adding it should become a more approachable body that works to help residents.
Anewenter, a farmer who served on the Plan Commission for several years in the 1990s, described himself as a conservative candidate who will look out for town finances, saying he believes the Town Board spends too much money.
“In these times, I think you have to watch your money,” he said, adding he would not accept the $5,000 annual salary that comes with the position if elected.
He pointed to a recent board decision to contribute $750 to fund the Ozaukee County Economic Development Corporation as an example, saying he believes the town could attract just as much development on its own.
The estimated $200,000 cost to remove the Highland Road overpass at the Ozaukee Interurban Trail is too much, he added.
And, he said, the $39,000 salary paid to Schlenvogt, a part-time clerk, is “outrageous.”
“It should be a source of great embarrassment,” Anewenter said, noting teachers in the Milwaukee Public School System likely make a similar amount for a full-time job. “We’re a small town.”