Store’s plan for kayak rental facility greeted with skepticism

Board leery of Sherper’s proposal to put shipping container on lakefront
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press Staff

A proposal by Sherper’s to place a renovated shipping container on the Port Washington lakefront as a kayak rental facility was met with some skepticism by the Design Review Board Tuesday.

Much of the discussion dealt with the placement of the structure on a small piece of city-owned land just south of the water filtration plant, a site that’s highly visible because of its location near the city’s breakwater and the proposed Newport Shores development.

“I think people are going to like the activity but you have to tread lightly,” board member Jorgen Hansen said. “Take up as little space as possible and leave as much green space around as possible.”    

While members endorsed the idea, which will be considered by the Plan Commission on Thursday, April 19, they offered a series of suggestions on how to make the temporary structure as palatable as possible.

Nate Sherper, vice president of Sherper’s — an outdoor clothing and equipment store that plans to open a retail shop in the Harbour Lights building at the corner of Main and Franklin streets in downtown — said the company wants to also open a canoe and kayak rental facility close to the proposed kayak launch area near the breakwater.

It could be used year-round, he added, perhaps for snowshoe rentals and by community groups in winter.  

Sherper’s is looking at using one to three converted shipping containers for the rental kiosk in a nod to the city’s history as a Lake Michigan port, Sherper said. The lakefront location will allow people immediate access to the water and eliminate the need for people to cross the city streets with a kayak or canoe.

While the retail store is expected to open by July 1, Sherper said the rental kiosk could open before that time.

“We want to make sure it fits in and is aesthetically pleasing,” he said, adding the proposed location is tentative. “Our purpose is to get people out on the water and enjoying nature. We just have to figure out how best to do it.”

The company has talked to representatives of Ansay Development, which has proposed the Newport Shores redevelopment, about the structure, Sherper added.

Hansen suggested that rather than placing the structure parallel to the lake, as proposed, it should be set perpendicular to the waterfront and as close to the water plant as possible to minimize the impact on the views.

“The view is a big thing in this town,” he said. “I don’t think people in this city are going to stand still for a shipping container set broadside against the lake. Anything that blocks the view is going to be a non-starter.”

Fire Chief Mark Mitchell, a member of the board, agreed, noting that five seats on the Common Council have changed in large part due to concerns about lakefront development and views.

“I don’t know how much more clear people can be,” he said.

Board member Jeremy Hartline said that any plan to create a two-story structure is also “a non-starter,” and said anything that can be done to make the building more transparent is desirable.

“If this were something a little more transparent, you’d have a better case,” he said.

Mitchell suggested Sherper’s consider locating the rental building in the marina, but Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven cautioned that no location is perfect.

“No matter what you do, people are going to be upset,” he said. “If it’s a success and people are using it, someone will still be upset.”

The board recommended that the use be reviewed annually and that the proposed building be one story and as transparent as possible, located perpendicular to the lake and sited with input from city staff.

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