Brewpub plan prompts call for study, change

Port mayor wants new rules for developer agreements, parking study in response to proposal for lakefront parking lot

PLANS FOR THE new Inventors Brewpub on the former Blues Factory site on Port Washington’s lakefront, seen in this rendering by Striegel Agacki Studio, have prompted Mayor Ted Neitzke to call for changes in the way the city creates developer agreements.
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington Mayor Ted Neitzke, responding to criticism over the approval process for the proposed Inventors Brewpub in the heart of the marina district, proposed on Tuesday that the city take steps to strengthen the agreements it makes with developers.

And given comments by residents concerned about parking in the marina district and parking generated by the proposed brewpub, Neitzke said he also wants the city to conduct a new parking study in conjunction with its strategic and downtown planning process.

Neitzke said the changes are needed to give the city control of its future.

“There’s more development coming, and we need to put in place the processes that will guide that development,” he said. “We have to be strong stewards of what’s happening in Port Washington and have our contracts have meaning and value.”

Neitzke noted that the developer’s agreement put in place years ago for the proposed Blues Factory, which was to be created in a parking lot on the north end of Port’s north harbor slip, is now governing the Inventors Brewpub proposal since it is to be built on that same parcel.

“There’s a developer’s agreement that really ties the city’s hands,” he said. “We’re bound by a past council and a past mayor. This is not a criticism of past councils. They worked in the moment they were in. 

“But the conditions changed so rapidly downtown. Nothing across the street was there when this was created,” he added, referring to the townhouses built along Washington Street in the marina district.

“That’s all changed, but the developer’s agreement ... remains the same.”

Neitzke proposed that developers agreements have strict timelines that can’t be removed, and said the council or Plan Commission should review the agreements annually.

“For future developments, particularly in that historic downtown area, you have X amount of time to get it done,” he said.

If developers don’t build in a timely manner, he said, the city should then be able to renegotiate the agreement.

Developments, he noted, have an economic impact on the city and it’s important that officials are able to react to changing conditions.

When the Blues Factory was proposed, the developer’s agreement did include a timeline but, after the city asked developer Gertjan van den Broek to modify his plans to accommodate a neighboring project, officials dropped the schedule.  

In one of the most controversial moves officials have made in recent history, the city sold the parking lot to van den Broek’s TBF Development for the Blues Factory, which was to include a museum paying tribute to Paramount Records and the Wisconsin Chair Co., a restaurant and event space.

The controversy split the community, with some saying the project would be catalytic for the city and spur further development and others objecting to the fact the city sold publicly owned lakefront land for private development.

The Blues Factory proposal languished, but on Dec. 31, Inventors owner Adam Draeger announced he had reached a deal to build a 25,000-square-foot building on the site that would house a brewpub, bar and restaurant, an event space and offices.

One major concern about the plan is that the development will not include any on-site parking.

Officials said when the Blues Factory was proposed that there is adequate parking in downtown to handle the community’s needs, and the city’s zoning code does not require downtown developments to provide on-site parking.

Neitzke said he wants the city to conduct a parking study that would focus on downtown — particularly the area east of Franklin Street — either as part of its downtown or strategic planning processes. Both are ongoing.

Those studies, he said, should look at the 2014 parking study and see if it is still relevant or if it needs to be updated. 

They should also consider whether the entire downtown parking study needs a new look or whether specific areas, such as the marina district, south beach or Coal Dock Park, should be examined, he said.

Since the Blues Factory was proposed, Neitzke said, many of the parking lots in the area of the development have been built up.

There are more residents in downtown, he said, adding that the city and its marina district continue to grow and draw more people — who require parking.

“We have an aging population and we’re attractive to a retiring population,” he said, adding that these people require more convenient parking than younger residents and visitors.

The study should look not just at the amount of parking space in downtown but also at strategies that could be used to manage parking, Neitzke said.

Neitzke’s comments come as officials are poised to consider several approvals needed for the Inventors Brewpub proposal.

The Plan Commission on Thursday, Jan. 20, is expected to consider a building, site and operational plan for the development, as well as a special exception for the project.

While the bulk of the two-story building meets the 35-foot height requirement, a stairwell and grain silo atop the structure would exceed the limit.

If the commission recommends the special exception, the Common Council would consider that matter at its Tuesday, Feb. 15 meeting.

Also scheduled to be considered that night are amendments to the developer’s agreement for the project.

The developer’s agreement for the Blues Factory still governs the parcel since TBF Development still owns the land.

City Administrator Tony Brown said the primary change to the agreement is eliminating a 5-foot, no-build easement on the west side of the site as well as a requirement that the southwest corner of the proposed Blues Factory building be angled would also be eliminated.

Those requirements were incorporated into the agreement in 2018 to accommodate a proposal to convert the neighboring shopping center into condominiums — a proposal that’s since been dropped.

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