Baileys Harbor Will Take Nelson Hardware Store Purchase to Voters

Baileys Harbor voters will have an important say in the future of a property in the heart of the community.

During the annual town meeting April 20 residents can decide whether they want the town to purchase the former Nelson True Value Hardware and motel building and the garage immediately to the south. 

The town board voted 4-0 during a special meeting March 25 in favor of acquiring the Nelson properties, including two boat slips and about 155 feet of shoreline, for $1.95 million. Supervisor Barbara Anschutz was absent.

Town Chair David Eliot said the Nelsons would lend the town money over the next six years at 3.375% interest to ease the purchase costs, and the note would then come due in 2027.

Eliot said there were ways the town could lower the impact to taxpayers, including private funding options and grants.

“We’re always looking for ways to lower costs for property owners,” Eliot said. 

The town board has held several closed sessions during recent months to discuss the real estate purchase. Eliot said Nelson’s owner, Gary Nelson, has been active and supportive of the town for many decades, continues to serve as an assistant constable and has expressed a desire to do what’s best for his Baileys Harbor neighbors. The hardware store closed in 2016.

The old Nelson’s Hardware in Baileys Harbor. Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Nelson did not attend the meeting in person and was unavailable for immediate comment. 

Eliot said the property did not appear simple to sell as-is, though a condo developer likely could have purchased the real estate and bulldozed it. That was not Nelson’s preference, Eliot said.

“He wanted to make sure the town had the first opportunity to purchase the property,” he said. 

Town residents authorize the town board to do a number of things during the annual town meeting, including property purchases. Should town residents approve the property purchase, it would be up to them to decide what to do with it. That might mean selling the site for a stated purpose, or preserving a building, or expanding park green space, given the town’s limited public access to grassy shoreline.

Town Supervisor Peter Jacobs, who represents the board at plan commission meetings, said the supervisors and commission want to maintain the town’s character and small-town feel. The property purchase also reflects town goals, he said, such as acquiring properties if they’re adjacent to current town property – in this case, the marina and town hall.

“We don’t want to take control of things, but we do want things to develop nicely and not run amok,” Jacobs said. “When something like this is available, it seems pretty important to take advantage of it and to give the town an opportunity to have a voice in it.”

Pending town voters’ approval April 20, the deal has an Oct. 29 closing date. That allows time for measures such as building inspection, and it gives tenants of the one-bedroom apartments adequate notice of the sale.


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