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Port Washington


Port officials tackle limit on downtown building heights PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 20:05

Panel favors lifting cap, dealing with controversial issue on case-by-case basis

    How tall is too tall for a downtown Port Washington building is a question that’s been debated for decades.

    Last week, the Plan Commission recommended that the Common Council eliminate the current 61-foot maximum height restriction for downtown buildings.

    The city shouldn’t set an arbitrary height restriction, members said, but instead consider each project on its own merits.

    “It would be unlimited, in theory,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, a member of the commission, said.

    The city has learned a lot from its history in terms of dealing with tall buildings, commission members said, adding that officials will be guided not only by that experience but also public opinion.

    “If you suggest a 95-foot-tall building, you’re going to be run out of town,” said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development.

    Tetzlaff ran through a history of the height limitations, beginning in the 1970s, when the maximum downtown building height was increased from 35 feet to 85 feet.

    There was a significant amount of controversy when the city approved the Lighthouse Condominiums on Lake Street, he said.

    That building was allowed because it met the 85 foot limit and was on the outskirts of the downtown, where taller buildings were considered acceptable.

    But due to the backlash from that project, the city repealed the overlay district that allowed it, Tetzlaff said, essentially allowing only 35-foot-tall structures.

    But that was considered too restrictive as well, and eventually the city allowed developers to seek a special exception to the regulations that would allow a building to be as tall as 61 feet — the average height of the Harbor Square development on the southeast corner of Grand Avenue and Wisconsin Street.

    Last year, the city approved a special exception for the proposed Harbour Lights development on Franklin Street, which will be about 50 feet high.

    “Ever since, I’ve had people ask why (restrict it to) 61 feet,” Tetzlaff said.

    If the city is scrutinizing projects while considering the special exception, he said, officials should be able to consider projects taller than 61 feet.

    “If you’re going throught the process for a special exception, is there anything so special about 61 feet?” he asked. “We might want to just analyze the benefits of the project.

    “What if it is a great design and it’s 64 feet? Our hands are tied.”

    Commission member Bud Sova, who has been on the commission through several bouts of debate on the question of building heights, said a 1993 survey of city residents — taken after the Lighthouse condos were built — revealed that tall buildings were taboo.

    Part of residents’ frustration was that people were told the condo building would not rise above the top of the bluff, but that promise was broken, Tetzlaff said.

    “I can guarantee we don’t want to call (the building height limit) 85 feet,” Sova said. “That would block a lot of sightlines. It would be quite bad.”

    The issue of building heights goes back much further, he added, noting that there was a controversy years earlier when an elevator shaft was erected atop what is today the Holiday Inn Harborview.

    That said, tall buildings can be attractive and tasteful, Sova said, adding there are checks and balances in place to ensure these structures are done well.

    “It can be done. It can be done tastefully,” he said.

    The primary limitation, he said, is public opinion.

    “Moving forward, this council and this commission learned a lot,” Tetzlaff said.

   

 
Breakwater repair crews due in Port Saturday PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 17:51

Army Corps of Engineers scheduled to begin work that will include use of six vessels to haul, place stone

    A crew from the Army Corps of Engineers is expected to arrive in Port Washington Saturday to begin repairs to the breakwater.

    Jim Bonetti of the Corps of Engineers said last week that six vessels — a crane barge, two tugs and three flat scows — will be in Port for the project. They will dock along Coal Dock Park when crews aren’t working.

    The tugs will shuttle stone from Manitowoc to Port Washington for the work, he said.

    Crews plan to place 1,700 individual stones along the east end of the breakwater to shore it up, Bonetti said — a total of 12,000 tons of rock.

    Each stone weighs between six tons and eight tons, he noted.

    Crews will work eight days, then have six days off, Bonetti added.

    There will be times when the breakwater is barricaded and people will be prohibited from walking on it, Bonetti said.

    “We don’t mind people watching what we’re doing. It’s your money at work,” he said, but crews want to keep spectators safe while the work is being done.

    On weekends, he said, crews will work on the east end of the breakwater so tourists and residents can use as much of the structure as possible.

    The project is estimated to last until Aug. 27, he said. While most of that time will be spent working on the north breakwater, which leads to the lighthouse, if there is time, crews will also do some work on the south breakwater, Bonetti said.

    “It’s very exciting and fulfilling, after all our work, to have them come in and get going,” Port Mayor Tom Mlada said. “It’s not going to all be done in one season, but once you start to see work getting done, I think it will be a boon to the city.”

    Bonetti, who spoke at a public information meeting about the breakwater, said that he and other officials from the Army Corps were shocked at the rate of deterioration last year when they inspected the structure.

    “This is probably the worst harbor in terms of the rate of deterioration,” he said. “We do see aggressive deterioration.”

    That’s due to not only the wave action that occurs day and night, but also to the freeze-thaw cycle that breaks apart stone and concrete, Bonetti said.

    As surprised as he was by the condition of the breakwater, Bonetti said, he was equally surprised by how quickly the Corps found funding to stabilize the structure.

    Generally, it takes three to five years for funding to be approved, he said.

    The $950,000 allocated for the project isn’t a huge amount of money, he warned.

    “That sounds like a lot of money, but in marine construction it’s not,” Bonetti said.

    That’s one reason the armor stone will only be placed on the lake side of the breakwater, officials have said.

    Mlada said that one of the biggest misconceptions about the breakwater project is that people believe a new breakwater is being built.

    That, he said, would cost $16 million.

    “We’re not going to get a new breakwater. We’re going to get some work done immediately,” Mlada said.

    Brian Hinrichs of Foth Infrastructure and Environment, the city’s consultant, said the city has applied for several grants — a $566,000 stewardship grant from the Department of Natural Resources; a $500,000 grant from the Department of Transportation’s Recreational Boating Fund and $500,000 from the Department of Administration’s community development block grant program.

    The city should know on Aug. 6 if it will receive the recreational boating grant, Hinrichs said. It will likely receive word on the other grants sometime in August.

    The city will also apply for other grants to help finance the work, which will include widening the path for pedestrians and adding handrails — at least on the west end — making the breakwater handicapped accessible and building a fishing platform.

    While work needs to be done on the east end of the breakwater as well, there isn’t a lot of grant money available for that purpose, Hinrichs said.

    “That’s phase three,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to have the impression everything will be fixed in 2014 and 2015.”

    Mlada said the city is working hard to obtain the needed funds to fully repair and improve the breakwater, and it plans to leverage the Army Corps funding to get grants from state and local agencies to do this.

    “Our goal is to use no city money,” he said.

    Mlada said he’s heard many people say the city has raised all the money it needs — and that’s another misconception.

    “We need to continue working on this,” he said.


 
New leaders on board in PW-S School District PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 17:19

Solorzano hired to be assistant principal, dean at Port Washington High School

  The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday hired a suburban Milwaukee administrator to be an assistant principal and dean of students at Port Washington High School.

    Daniel Solorzano will replace Dave Bernander, who is stepping down as assistant principal, and  join a Port High administrative team that includes Principal Eric Burke and Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Thad Gabrielse.

    Solorzano has been an assistant principal at West Allis Central High School for two years. Prior to that he taught Spanish at New Berlin Eisenhower Middle/High School and Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, Supt. Michael Weber said.

    As dean of students at Port High, Solorzano will be primarily responsible for attendance and discipline. He will also oversee non-athletic extracurricular activities.

    “Dan is a very likable person who connects well with students,” Weber said. “He has high expectations for students, and because students respect him, they respond well.”

    Solorzano graduated from Homestead High School in Mequon and earned bachelor’s degrees in Spanish, political science and international relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his master of education degree at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.

    He has coached varsity football and wrestling at Homestead, Pius and New Berlin Eisenhower high schools.

    “Dan was a football player and wrestler at Homestead, and one of his goals has been to get back into the North Shore Conference,” Weber said. “He’s pretty excited about being able to do that by coming here.”

    Solorzano, who lives in Mequon, will be paid $78,600 a year, Weber said.

 
Town balks at call for tougher fireworks regulations PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 17:23

Port officials give cold shoulder to fire chief’s request for insurance requirement when issuing permits

    Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell on Tuesday asked the Town of Port Washington board to require anyone obtaining a fireworks permit to provide an insurance waiver, saying the power behind some private fireworks shows is substantial.

    Mitchell spoke in particular of a private show put on July 4 in the town, where he said the fireworks shot off didn’t look like the explosives that are offered at stands but instead appeared to be more professional pyrotechnics.

    But town officials disagreed, saying that such a requirement would keep people from seeking the permits.

    Town Supr. Mike Didier called the idea of an insurance requirement a “poison pill.”

    “In my opinion, fireworks are as American as apple pie,” he said. “The people applying for permits are trying to be law-abiding citizens. If we require insurance, we’re just going to have people shooting them off illegally.”

    In the Town of Cedarburg, where insurance is required for a fireworks permit, no one has sought the permit, Didier said, while the Town of Port issues at least four permits a year.

    Most people are shooting off the fireworks they buy at stands, not professional-grade pyrotechnics, Didier added.

    But Phil Bruno, who works for a fireworks company and serves as the Port fire department’s fireworks consultant, said even the fireworks sold at stands are more powerful than in the past, Bruno said.

    “It’s the equivalent of a stick of dynamite,” he said. “The liability is tremendous.”

    Most communities require insurance, Bruno added.

    “I think you’re opening yourself up to a lot of liability if you don’t follow a couple steps that are really easy,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it (permits) than just signing a piece of paper and saying, ‘Have fun.’”

    Town Chairman Jim Melichar said that when the town fashioned its fireworks permit requirements, there was a debate over whether it was even needed.

    The Wisconsin Towns Association has said that if someone takes out a fireworks permit, the township is held harmless, Didier added.

    However, he said, the town should amend its fireworks permit application because it does not ask the type and number of fireworks being shot off as required by the state.

    In other town news, the board approved a contract with Ayres and Associates to design changes to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail bridge on Highland Road and prepare bidding documents for the work.

    The project would eliminate the bridge on Highland Drive north of Town Hall, lowering the grade of the road by five to six feet  and making it safer for both motorists and bicyclists.

    The project would also address drainage concerns and ensure an adequate shoulder on the road.

    Ayres and Associates will be paid a maximum $15,000 for the work.



 
Fire Department makes its case for second station PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 18:01

Tour of cramped quarters leaves aldermen sold on need for more space but wary of potential costs

    The Port Washington Fire Department began its campaign to sell the idea of a new fire station Tuesday when it hosted aldermen for a dinner and tour of the firehouse.

    And after a tour of the fire station, which holds 17 vehicles packed almost door-to-door, aldermen said they understand the need for a second facility.


    “Is it old? Yes. Is it cramped? Definitely,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “But it’s all going to come down to money.”


    That sentiment was shared by Ald. Paul Neumyer, who noted that the need for a new firehouse has to be balanced with other priorities.


    “Everything in our city is aging — our sewer lines, our roads, our buildings,” he said. “They do need more room, but it always comes down to how do we fund it. We’re well aware of the need. Now we need to figure out where we’re going with our budget.”


    The city also needs to find out if Ozaukee County is interested in building a shared facility, he said.


    “If we could do something with the county on Highway LL, I think that would be ideal for both of us,” Ald. Kevin Rudser said.


    Police and Fire Commission Chairman Rick Nelson said the city will meet with Ozaukee County officials on July 7 to discuss a shared facility, perhaps on county land.


    There are three main properties under consideration, he said. They are the former Highway LL ramp north of Highway 33, a portion of the property just north of the Justice Center  — both county owned — and the former Flaherty auto dealership on Highway 32, which is privately owned.


    “At first blush, it’s probably not very practical, but it’s worth looking at,” Nelson said of the Flaherty property.


    The former ramp land, he said, is ideally located, but the county is concerned about giving that up because of its commercial value. And much of the Justice Center land is currently used for soccer fields, although there is a question whether a new firehouse would take up any of that property.


    A new firehouse would need about five acres of land, Nelson said.


    The centerpiece of Tuesday’s meeting was a tour of the fire station.


    “Times have really changed,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said as he talked of the need for additional space for the fire and ambulance services and the dive team.


    When the station opened in 1968, he said, firefighters rode to calls on the outside of the trucks. That’s changed, and so has the size and number of vehicles used by the department — equipment that’s stored so close together it can be difficult to open the door of one truck without striking the side of another.


    The fire station was also built exclusively for firemen, Mitchell said, but today 16 members of the department are women, and the station lacks facilities for them.


    Paramedics weren’t envisioned then, either, and while department members have fashioned a tiny sleeping area for them, it’s inadequate for the future, he said.


    The current building is also inefficient, lacks storage space and training areas, and a new building could not only address these needs but also provide additional room for general city storage.


    And with an increasing amount of rail traffic through the city, a new fire station could also help decrease response times and ensure easy access to all areas of the city in an emergency, he added.


    There was talk of building a second station in the 1990s, Mitchell said, but the city instead opted to construct an addition to the existing firehouse.


    “This was probably too small when they moved in,” he said.


    Officials stressed that they are not considering abandoning the current firehouse, but augmenting it with a second station.


    “We really need to have a nice facility for everyone,” Nelson said. “The intention would be to create a facility that we hope could meet some of Ozaukee County’s needs, too.”


    A shared facility might be the best, he said, noting the county is looking at additional space for its emergency government operations. The sheriff’s department is also looking for additional storage space.


    Nelson said the new firehouse might also be able to house an indoor firing range for the police department.


    The fire department is currently looking into the cost of a study that would look at everything from the department’s needs to the design and cost of a new facility, Mitchell said.


Image information: PORT WASHINGTON Fire Chief Mark Mitchell (left) pointed out the close quarters in the firehouse to Ald. Dave Larson Tuesday while other officials looked on.                                    Photo by Sam Arendt

 
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