Plan would cap lakefront building height at 3 stories

Structures elsewhere in Port’s downtown could be four stories under proposal embraced by commission
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington Plan Commission members last week gave conceptual approval to the idea of allowing three story buildings on the city’s lakefront and four-story structures elsewhere in the historic downtown.

“In general, I’m comfortable with the phasing,” Mayor Ted Neitzke, chairman of the commission, said. “I like how you have it staged.”

He said he especially likes the fact the proposal maintains lower buildings along the lakefront while allowing taller structures along the outskirts of downtown, especially the area west of Milwaukee Street.

“Somebody should not be able to come along and put a six-story building in downtown,” he said.

The proposal, suggested by Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, is the latest attempt to guide development while ensuring the city’s lakefront remains open for residents and visitors to enjoy.

The city, which for decades has struggled with defining what the proper heights of buildings in the downtown should be, is grappling with the issue as it prepares to create a new zoning code in the coming year.

Harris stressed that his proposal, which would define the marina area as land east of Harborview Drive extended south and the downtown historic district as the area west of that line, was only intended to give commission members something to react to.

Commission member Mike Ehrlich suggested that the marina district should extend as far west as Franklin Street, but higher buildings allowed on the perimeter of downtown.

“I don’t think on Franklin you should be doing four stories,” he said, while buildings along the hillsides would not impede views in the same way.

Commission member Chad Mach agreed, saying the Port Harbor Center at the east end of East Main Street should be included in the marina district.

“They’re right on the water,” he said.

Commission member Kyle Knop suggested that instead of using streets to separate the district, the back of buildings along these streets could be used.

For example, the harbor district could extend to the back of buildings along Franklin Street, which would restrict the height of the Port Harbor Center while allowing slightly taller buildings on Franklin Street, he said.

Ald. Paul Neumyer, a member of the commission, noted that several properties at the base of St. Mary’s Hill are for sale and asked if buildings there should also be limited in height.

“The view looking up St. Mary’s Hill is pretty iconic,”  Ehrlich noted.

Knop also suggested that the city define the height limit in feet, not just stories,

“Somebody can use two stories to get to 45 feet. Someone else could use three stories,” he said.

He also suggested striking a proposed 6-foot height limit on architectural features such as corner elements, saying that if someone wants to incorporate a turret that would “look like a really poor hat.”

Ehrlich asked the commission to consider if it really wants to change the existing building restrictions, noting that anyone who wants to build a structure taller than 35 feet needs to come before the panel for permission, which allows officials to require additional architectural design elements.

“We may be giving up a kick at the cat with this,” he said.

But Neitzke said the city needs to give developers clear guidelines so they don’t come in with plans for buildings that won’t be approved.


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

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.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login