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Baileys Harbor to Apply for Redesign Team

Baileys Harbor has redesign on its mind.

On the unanimous recommendation of its Plan Commission, the Baileys Harbor Town Board voted at its monthly meeting on May 11 to submit an application to be considered for an intense three-day session with a group of planning/marketing experts to design a cohesive vision of the future for the community.

The word “community” is important here because the program is about community rather than municipality.

That was made clear at the May 4 presentation on the redesign program before the town Plan Commission when Todd Johnson, Land Use and Community Development Specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension at UW-Whitewater, said an application to undergo the redesign process will not fly if it is submitted solely by a governmental entity. The request has to come from the community – the businesses, residents, homeowners, landowners, young and old, everyone with a stake in the community. Yes, even government officials.

Johnson explained to the Plan Commission, and Plan Commission Chair Gordon Rowley explained to the town board, that the program was developed in Minnesota in 1983 to help small towns understand themselves through dialogue about the pros and cons of living in that community, and then making plans to eliminate or correct the cons and highlight the pros. The group of 20-or so high-profile experts then take all that information and help process and define all those elements into a clear path for development, from immediate fixes to long-term solutions.

Rowley, after reminding everyone of the lengthy and abstract Smart Growth planning sessions the town had been through previously on two occasions, said of the UW-Extension redesign program, “Outcomes are more practical than abstract.”

“Where’s the plans for Baileys Harbor?” said town supervisor Bobby Schultz. “We don’t have any plans. What’s right for us? What’s wrong for us?”

Rowley said the Plan Commission recommends the board at least apply for the program.

Board members did not balk at the $5,000 price tag, although there was much discussion about the option of making two payments.

“Can one be in December and one in January?” asked Baileys Harbor Town Board Chair Don Sitte to a round of laughter.

And no one balked at the other commitment – the team that comes in for three days expects to be staying with locals. That’s part of the deal.

“They really want to get to know the community,” Rowley said.

Door County UW-Extension agent Rob Burke was at both meetings. He told the board if the application is submitted by the end of June, the town will be considered for a session scheduled for Nov. 5-7.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Sitte said, and the board unanimously agreed.

Two other potentially big-ticket items were put on the back burner while the town awaits an appraisal of 80 acres that were offered for sale by Joe Parent, property that adjoins the town’s wastewater treatment plant and runs down to Hwy. 57.

At the same May 4 Plan Commission meeting, town supervisor Peter Jacobs presented a concept for the 80-acre site that included room to expand the wastewater treatment plant, a passive recreation area (extending bike and hiking trails), and affordable housing. His thought was that with such a program, the town could tap into grants to recoup at least some of the price tag of the property (the asking price is $612,000), a thought reaffirmed by Door County Planning Dept. head and Baileys Harbor resident Mariah Goode, who was in the audience and identified the zoning Jacobs envisioned as a “conservation subdivision.”

“Let’s see how much it costs first,” Sitte said. “I think everything’s on hold at this point until we get the appraisal,” referring to the appraisal that he said he hopes to have in hand by the end of May.

Sitte charged the Plan Commission with continuing its investigation into what to do with the property if the town should decide to buy it.

Earlier in the meeting, Sitte and the board had charged the Baileys Harbor Community Association (BHCA) with researching the pros and cons of that organization being absorbed by the town.

BHCA Board member Steve Leonard, Events and Marketing Coordinator Brynn Swanson and Treasurer/Longest Tenured Board Member Paul Salm said the request was based mostly on the difficulty of maintaining an oversight board to make things happen. Salm said the organization didn’t have a quorum for more than a year, thus was acting illegally, although he added that Swanson’s arrival in 2012 has brought more credibility to the mission.

“I don’t understand the advantage,” said Supervisor Peter Jacobs. “As a 5019(c)3, won’t you lose your funding sources?”

“We need to investigate all that,” Leonard said.

Sitte, too, wondered about the advantages of bringing the BHCA under the town’s wing. He said he could see no benefit to the town, but suggested they draft a proposal, “at no expense to the town,” illuminating why the town should absorb the BHCA.