Commission still cool on shed condo proposal

Plan for industrial park units will go to council without recommendation
By 
KrISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Common Council will consider a plan for a business condominium development in the city’s industrial park, but without receiving a recommendation on the proposal from the Plan Commission.

The commission last week failed to come to a recommendation on the plan. A motion to approve it failed for lack of a second, after which members agreed to forward it without a recommendation.

Commission member Kyle Knop made the motion, calling the proposal “a very intriguing opportunity.”

“I’m trying to find a way we can help this developer,” he said. “What I’ve heard is we’ve done a great deal of work not to help this go.”

He noted the property isn’t an easy one to work with, and suggested that the city draft a definition for commercial condominiums to help facilitate plans like this one.

“I think this city needs to recognize commercial condominiums are here,” he said. “This will not be the last application that comes in here.”

This was the second time the commission considered the proposal. It recommended denying the plan in January.

The proposal by Maritime Sheds, represented by Scott Bretl, would create 23 units, each between 3,000 and 5,500 square feet, on five acres at the corner of Maritime Drive and South Park Street.

The buildings would be owner occupied, and if a larger space is desired, owners could buy more than one unit and knock down the walls between them, the proposal states.

The units would be used for manufacturing, assembly, fabrication, general  warehousing and “similar types of industrial operations,” the proposal states, adding that eight business owners have indicated interest in buying units. They involve construction contractors, small manufacturers, contractors who do assembly for the federal government and a warehousing operation that packs and ships to wholesalers.

Maritime Sheds was seeking an overlay planned development district for its proposal, but city staff members recommended against allowing this.

The project does not meet the “spirit and intent” or the basis for approval in the I-2 industrial zoning district, which calls for larger scale manufacturing operations in the area, and therefore doesn’t justify the request for the overlay district, they said, adding the series of small buildings isn’t compatible with the surrounding buildings.

It also said the project isn’t consistent with the comprehensive plan, which states that any expansion of industrial plans should focus on job density and not exclusively warehousing and prohibits mini-warehouse units.

Much of the discussion was between attorneys for the city and Maritime Sheds who disagreed on interpretations of the city’s ordinances.

James Danaher, who represents the developer, said the use is consistent with those on neighboring parcels, and he noted that there are many uses in the industrial park that aren’t industrial in the traditional sense.

The proposed uses for the condos, he said, are consistent with the industrial park zoning.

“This is not mini, self-service storage,” he said. “The idea it has to be a large factory isn’t in your ordinance.

”I don’t think this would disturb your industrial park,” Danaher said. “I don’t think it would look bad.”

Bretl also noted the plan would add both businesses and tax base to the city.

“We’re taking a vacant lot and putting on a $6 million to $8 million development” that won’t require additional city services, he said.

Danaher argued that a city requirement passed in January that requires warehouses to be a minimum 11,000-square-feet doesn’t apply because Maritime Sheds first sought approval before that ordinance was enacted, but City Attorney Eric Eberhardt disagreed, saying that many iterations of the plan had been submitted, the most recent of which was after the ordinance was approved.

Eberhardt noted that the city’s business park zoning may allow smaller buildings, but the industrial park zoning does not. And just because units could be combined into larger spaces doesn’t mean they will be, he noted.

A nearby business condo development was approved before the 11,000-square-foot requirement was put in place, Eberhardt added.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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