Council decides Hwy. 33 site not right for baseball complex

Aldermen reiterate support for project but say land at heart of Port-Saukville sewer dispute is too expensive to improve
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington aldermen said Tuesday that as much as they want to work with Port Youth Baseball to create a baseball complex on city-owned land off Highway 33 on the community’s west side, it may not be in either group’s best interest.

The infrastructure needed for the proposed ball park — utilities such as sewer and water and the construction of roads and parking lots — is so expensive that the city may be better off selling the land for development, they said.

However, the Common Council directed the city staff to look for alternative locations in and around the community that would work for a ball park, with aldermen saying they may be willing to use proceeds from the sale of the Highway 33 land to buy property for the complex.

“We definitely want it in the city,” Ald. Dan Benning said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich concurred, saying, “The goal is we want this to happen and we want to figure out a way the city can help make it happen. We don’t know if it makes sense on this particular piece of property (Highway 33 land).”

Recreational fields have been envisioned for a portion of the roughly 40-acre site since the city purchased the former Glen Schanen farm in 2000.

While the soccer fields initially expected to be built on the farmland weren’t developed, Port Youth Baseball proposed building a four-field complex there, complete with a concessions stand, walking trail and playground.

The ball fields would take up about 25 acres of the property, with residential development expected to occur along the perimeter and three commercial lots created along Highway 33.

But the plans were put on hold both to give Port Youth Baseball time to raise the expected $2.4 million needed to develop the complex and to give the city and the Village of Saukville time to determine which municipality would provide sewer service to the property.

Although the land is in the City of Port and Port’s sewer lines abut the property, it is in Saukville’s sanitary sewer service area, 

and village officials have said they are prepared to extend service to the site. But because of the distance it would have to extend those lines, the cost would be considerable.

Officials from the communities have talked about ways to service the land, including the potential for a land swap, but have not reached an agreement.

Port Youth Baseball officials recently came to the city saying they had raised enough money to build at least one field and the concession stand, and they asked if the Common Council was still willing to work on the project with the organization.

An analysis by Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven showed that the cost of installing the needed infrastructure for the fields would be $658,000. This, he said, would make it cost prohibitive for a developer to build on the remainder of the land.

If the city were to sell the land for development, Vanden Noven said, the value is estimated at $800,000. If the city were to extend its sewer service to the parcel, the net revenue would be about $770,000, while the revenue if Saukville were to service the land would be between $400,000 and $500,000.

If the parcel were fully developed for residential use, he estimated it would bring in $190,000 annually to the city in property taxes.

If Port Youth Baseball were to move ahead, Vanden Noven suggested the group should pick up the cost of the infrastructure improvements. 

The Village of Grafton, which recently inked a deal with the Grafton Little League, provided land for their baseball complex but required the organization pay for all improvements to the property, he noted.

Doug Biggs, a former alderman and member of the Port Youth Baseball board, told the council that would be difficult.

“We would be spending every dime on underground stuff and you wouldn’t have any fields,” he said.

The original agreement between Port Youth Baseball and the city did not make any mention of the group paying for the roads, he added.

That’s because the city had hoped a developer would pick up that cost when creating homes around the fields, City Administrator Mark Grams said — something that’s not feasible unless the city gives away the land for development.

Those numbers caused aldermen to pause.

“I want to see this thing in town. I just don’t see the numbers working for anyone at this site,” Benning said. 

Ehrlich agreed, saying, “As much as I would like to see this complex happen here, I don’t know if it’s in anybody’s best interest to move forward,” he said. “It might be in the best interest of you guys (Port Youth Baseball) to look elsewhere.”

But Ald. Pat Tearney said there are benefits to having a baseball complex that go beyond numbers.

“It makes the city a better place to live, and I think you have to take this into account too,” he said. “There are benefits to a complex like this.”

Ald. Paul Neumyer asked whether there is any grant funding that could help pay for the fields, something Biggs said Port Youth Baseball has not looked into yet.

But Grams said there is really no money available.

As aldermen contemplated the situation, Ehrlich suggested the baseball group look outside the city and Benning proposed the city consider selling the Highway 33 property and investing the proceeds into a different site for the baseball complex.

“I’m thinking outside the box,” he said, noting there is some land on Sunset Road just outside the city limits near Kleen Test Products that might fit the bill. “I think we all need to look at the options.”

Aldermen agreed to have the staff members look at options for the complex that are just outside the city, close to sewer and water services, and report back at the Wednesday, Feb. 20, meeting.

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