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Port Washington

School Board likes what it sees in surprise offer for land PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 28 September 2016 18:20

Proceeds from sale of 54 acres could finance Port High athletic field project

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board has shelved plans to market 54.5 acres of farmland on the city’s west side because it has received an unsolicited offer to purchase the property that is too good to ignore. 

After meeting in closed session Monday, the board voted to counter the offer, which Supt. Michael Weber characterized as attractive. 

The district’s counteroffer will address  language and contingencies, not the purchase price, which the board believes is fair, said Weber, who declined to name the prospective buyer or comment further on the offer because negotiations are ongoing.

“The board is ready to accept the monetary offer pending some language it wants reworked,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to wrap this up pretty quickly now.”

Weber said he expects the board to vote on a final offer at its Oct. 10 meeting.

The district has not released a recent appraisal of the property, but given the land’s location, it is thought to be a valuable site for residential development. Located north  of Grand Avenue and east of Highway LL, it is flanked by subdivisions on three sides — Spinnaker West to the south, The Woods at White Pine to the west and Lake Ridge to the east — and bordered by farmland to the north.

Proceeds from the sale of the land — conceivably worth somewhere in the mid to high six figures — will likely be used to make improvements to Port Washington High School’s outdoor athletic complex, Weber said.

“This is very exciting,” he said. “I think everybody will be quite happy. We’re putting property back on the tax rolls and providing an ideal site for homes that will bring families into the community and children into our schools.”

In May, a year after the approval of a $49.4 million referendum that reflects the board’s commitment to renovating and expanding its current schools rather than building new ones, officials decided it was time to sell the land the district has owned for 47 years.

The district purchased the property, which is comprised of two parcels, in January 1969 from Elmer and Myrtle Bley for $149,944.

Since then it has been seen as a site of a future school, but as the city developed around it and the needs of schools changed, it became a less desirable school site. And with the approval of a referendum that provides $46.5 million to modernize the high school and $3.8 million to expand Dunwiddie Elementary School, officials said it was time put the property on the market.

The board requested proposals from real estate brokers and received two, but plans to list the property changed and the timeline for the sale of the property accelerated after the district received the unsolicited offer — prompted, Weber said, by Ozaukee Press articles on the district’s decision to sell the land.

The pending sale comes at a good time for the district because while the referendum is financing building improvements, it does not include money for outdoor high school athletic facilities. 

Officials envision a fairly sweeping project that would include the replacement of the grass football field with artificial turf, new lighting and sound systems and a press box. The project could be expanded to include artificial turf and other improvements to the baseball diamonds and track and field facilities. 

The land sale proceeds, which have not yet been formally earmarked for the project, would add to what the PWSSD Foundation Inc. is working to raise for the improvements. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that while independent of the district is working closely with it to raise individual and corporate donations for school improvements.

City says yes to mixed use of bluff land PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 19:59

Divided Port council approves changing master plan to allow multiple types of development on 44-acre site

Port Washington aldermen voted 5-2 Tuesday to allow a mixed-use development on 44 acres of city-owned bluff land south of the We Energies plant.

Aldermen Mike Ehrlich, Bill Driscoll, Kevin Rudser, Doug Biggs and Dan Becker voted in favor of changing the city’s 2035 master plan, saying it will maximize the use of the land and accompanying tax base.

The change would allow the property to be used for a development like the one proposed last year by Ansay Development, which wanted to build a corporate headquarters, including a boutique hotel, there.

Aldermen Dave Larson and Paul Neumyer voted against the change, saying they want to see a residential development on the property that will support, not compete, with the downtown.

“Any kind of mixed use could have restaurants, a hotel, that pulls people out of our downtown,” Larson said. “I don’t think that’s the right approach. I think the best use of that land is residential, low-density residential.

“It’s important we do this right.”

The land has been designated for low-density residential use since 2010, he noted. 

But other aldermen disagreed, saying a mixed-use development doesn’t necessarily mean a blend of housing and retail uses. It could be defined as a mixture of different types of housing, they said.

“I think this gives us the most flexibility,” Biggs said. 

But Larson said that changing the use now will lead developers to only submit mixed-use plans for the land.

“All we’re going to see are mixed-use proposals,” he said. “We’re not going to see any residential developments.”

Biggs said the same argument could be made if the master plan wasn’t changed. The only proposals the city might then receive would be for residential, not mixed use, developments.

When the city seeks developers for the property, it could make it clear that aldermen are willing to change the plan for the right project, Larson said.

“We have the same flexibility then,” he said.

Ehrlich, an architect, said developers may be reluctant to invest the tens of thousands of dollars needed to create a mixed-use plan for the land without an assurance that the city would allow it.

“By changing the plan, you’re showing them we’re open to it,” he said.

The lack of a change “didn’t scare away Ansay,” Larson said.

Biggs noted that whatever is done, the city should seek project proposals not just locally but nationally.

“This is a special piece of land,” he said. City officials have been working on a request for proposals for the land that will be presented to the council for approval next month, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

What’s the best plan for city’s bluff land? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 20:15

Officials debate whether to allow mixed-use development on 44-acre site earmarked for residential 

The proper uses for a 44-acre parcel of bluff land owned by the City of Port Washington was debated last week as aldermen were asked to consider an amendment to the community’s 2035 master plan.

The amendment would allow a mixed-use development on the property, such as the one proposed by Ansay Development or a neighborhood plan that includes retail and residential uses.

But Ald. Dave Larson spoke against the amendment, saying it would allow commercial and retail uses he doesn’t want to see outside the downtown.

“I am generally not in favor of anything but residential on that property,” he said. “I’m very leery about redirecting any commercial uses outside our downtown. We’ve worked so hard to redevelop downtown, and I don’t want to take anything away from that.”

Approving any other use should only be done if the “right project” comes along, Larson said.

“Why would we want to change it (the uses) unless we know what it’s going to be?” he asked, noting the master plan could be amended if and when the right project comes along.

A mixed-use development typically means a combination of residential and commercial uses, but it could also mean a mix of residential uses, such as low, medium and high-density housing, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

The Plan Commission and Community Development Authority strongly recommended the city change the land use to allow mixed use developments, Tetzlaff added.

“That doesn’t mean we just rubber stamp it,” Larson said.

The Plan Commission is expected to further discuss the proposal to change the master plan when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15.

A public hearing on the issue will be held during the Common Council’s Tuesday, Sept. 20, meeting, and aldermen could vote on the matter that night.

Ald. Doug Biggs argued that the mixed-use development allows the city to consider many different types of projects, including those that are residential.

“This gives us flexibility,” he said. “This could end up being entirely residential.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich said that expanding the potential uses on the site would open the doors for another developer to consider the site, noting that right now it is only intended for low-density residential uses.

“It could hamper other submissions,” Ald. Kevin Rudser said.

But Larson said developers know the system and realize the city can amend the permitted land use if it likes a project.

“It just adds a layer of complexity for a developer that can only make it more difficult,” Biggs said. 

Ald. Bill Driscoll said, “I think it’s important we don’t do anything that could possibility limit any ideas. We’re not smart enough to know what grandiose ideas might come to us.”

But Larson said developers are smart enough to know the city would work with them if they like a proposal.

If the city decides against allowing a mixed use for the land, developers might take that to mean that the city only wants a residential use, Ald. Dan Becker said.

“Some developers might say they had a kick at the cat and kept it residential,” Becker said, adding a mixed-use development could draw more people to the community and result in a higher tax base.

Ehrlich suggested that if the city doesn’t change the land use now, it could include a clause in its request for proposals saying officials would consider amending the master plan for the right project.

Mayor Tom Mlada suggested the city talk to developers to see how they would interpret that kind of clause and whether they believe it would keep someone from proposing a project.

“That’s an incredible piece of property and we want to maximize the impact,” he said.The city acquired the undeveloped land from We Energies more than a decade ago as part of a deal in which the community agreed to support the utility’s conversion of its coal-fired plant to a natural gas-fueled facility.

Eyed through the years as a prime residential site, officials held onto the property as the real estate market ebbed and surged but decided last year to look into the potential of selling it.

In December, Ansay proposed buying the land and developing a corporate campus there, and the city negotiated exclusively with the firm until July. 

Officials again received a proposal from the firm last month, but decided they would seek proposals from other developers as well.

Grants give Exploreum new ways to teach students PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 19:46

The Port Exploreum is developing a curriculum for students visiting the museum in downtown Port Washington, thanks to grants from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the Jane Bradley Pettit Brookby Foundation.

The grants, which total $53,000, will be used for the Lake Michigan Learning Lab project, which is aimed at students in grades six through nine, said Bill Moren, who is heading development of the Exploreum’s educational programs.

The project will include a curriculum for students to follow before they visit the museum, as well as materials to consider after their visit.

It will also include using the Lake Michigan table at the museum. Students will be given scenarios, then asked to make various decisions in response, and the impact on a variety of settings — urban, suburban, industrial and agricultural — will be discussed.

“We want to show students what goes into the watershed and how to make the best decisions to cut down on pollution and the like,” Moren said. “These are the people who will make these decisions in the future.”

The project fits with the Exploreum’s freshwater mission, he said.

“The lake has been the driving force in Port Washington’s history,” Moren said. “The preservation of the lake is equally important. We need to make sure the lake remains healthy.”

The learning lab program will train about 40 teachers, Moren said, adding that the Exploreum has hired an educational consultant to develop materials for the teachers to use.

The goal is to get at least 1,000 students through the program, said Wayne Chrusciel, executive director of the Port Washington Historical Society, which operates the Exploreum.

The museum hopes to offer school tours every Tuesday, when it is closed to other visitors, he said.

“We’re trying different ways to get school districts and students involved,” Chrusciel said, noting the Port Washington-Saukville School District has played an active role in creating the curriculum and working with the Exploreum.

The program can be expanded to include learning experiences in partnership with such organizations as Riveredge Nature Center in the Town of Saukville and such agencies as the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Moren said.

“This is an experiential learning experience,” he said. “We want to link the activities to reinforce the lessons they learn. It makes it more powerful.”

Clock ticking on latest Blues Factory deadline PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 20:43

Port council to discuss pending sale of marina parking lot, competing lakefront development plans

The Port Washington Common Council will have two building projects that could determine the future of the lakefront on its agenda next Tuesday — the controversial proposal for Blues Factory development on the north marina parking lot and two residential projects proposed for the car-trailer parking lot across the street.

One of those residential proposals has expanded into a sweeping neighborhood plan that would also incorporate a park on the Blues Factory site if negotiations for the entertainment complex fall through. 

City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday that the council will discuss the Blues Factory proposal in closed session and is likely to extend the deadline to create a developer’s agreement and complete the sale.

The council, which agreed in May to sell the north slip parking lot to developer Christopher Long, originally set the deadline for a developer’s agreement in June and said the sale should be completed by Aug. 31. Those deadlines were later extended to Sept. 6. 

Grams said the delay has been largely due to financing and some infrastructure issues that could affect the development.

“We’re still working with them on the financial end of things and on the developer’s agreement,” Grams said.

Ald. Dan Becker, president of the council, acknowledged there is a possibility of extending the deadline again.

“Things are in motion,” he said. “It’s been quite a long process, and we’re willing to continue to work with the developer. We do want to see a resolution sooner rather than later, but we’re willing to give it some more time.”

That’s based on the path the city and Long have traveled so far, he said, and the project itself.

“It’s a project all the aldermen are behind and believe in, so we’re willing to give it a little extra time,” Becker said.

The Blues Factory proposal has proven controversial, with some residents saying the city should not sell publicly owned lakefront land. Officials, on the other hand, have said the proposal would create a year-round destination that will draw people to the lakefront and downtown. 

On Monday, Ald. Mike Ehrlich told the Community Development Authority that the council will get “an overall picture of what needs to be done yet” during the closed session.

But CDA member Erica Roller asked how long the city will take to make a final decision in the matter.

“At what point do you say we’ve wasted enough time to get the Blues Factory here?” she asked. “When is enough enough?”

Ehrlich said, “I don’t think we’ve ever set a hard date (for that decision),” adding both sides have been working diligently on the deal.

Jason Wittek, an advisory member of the CDA, said that the time frame set by the council “isn’t very long” in terms of a real estate deal.

Ehrlich noted that Long’s original time schedule called for the deal to be sealed in spring so the Blues Factory could be completed by spring 2017, for the 100th anniversary of Paramount Records.

He said that if a deal is reached, he believes construction is likely to begin in spring and be completed in 2018.

A final resolution to the Blues Factory is likely to come sometime this fall, Becker said.

The Common Council is also expected to discuss in open session two proposals for residential developments on the city-owned car-trailer parking lot across from the Blues Factory site.

Ansay Development initially proposed creating a 44-apartment building on both the former Victor’s property and the adjoining city-owned car-trailer parking lot, while architect Stephen Smith, who wants to build 11 townhouse condominium units just on the parking lot property.

That discussion is complicated by a plan Ansay, along with businessmen John Weinrich and Charlie Puckett, brought to the Common Council two weeks ago that modified his plan and expanded it to encompass a four-block area.

“He wants us to look at it as a package,” Grams said.

That sweeping “marina district” plan moves the apartment building one block north, and replaces it on the Victor’s and car-trailer lot with 20 row houses. 

Ansay also proposed purchasing the north slip parking lot if the Blues Factory plan falls through and creating a privately owned park there. A small building would also be built on the site.

His plan also calls for the NewPort Shores property at the east end of Jackson Street to be recreated into an entertainment complex.

Tuesday’s discussion will be the first public discussion of the two original development proposals, and of the larger neighborhood plan Ansay introduced.

Grams noted that officials are working to define the financial implications of each plan, noting that while Smith is not seeking development incentives for his project, Ansay is.

Aldermen need to look not just at the incentives but also the payback and how much financing is available in the tax incremental financing district, Becker said.

“I would say a decision on that is probably a little way off,” he said, particularly because it will take time to analyze all the TIF implications. 

At Monday’s CDA meeting, resident John Sigwart suggested the city create a comprehensive plan for the lakefront area, saying it could help officials get a better handle on the best use of this valuable land.

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