City Seeks Negotiated Settlement in Road Connection Dispute

While meeting in closed session July 19, the Sturgeon Bay Common Council authorized making an offer to purchase approximately four acres of land, for an undisclosed negotiated amount, that the city wants to acquire to connect Grant Avenue and Sawyer Drive on the city’s west side, Mayor David Ward said.

The land is part of approximately 36 acres that Tim Ruenger owns in that area and previously declined to sell to the city. The city has proceeded with an eminent-domain process to acquire about two acres for right-of-way where an unpaved roadway already exists, and slightly more than two acres for stormwater retention.

That process included the city getting the property appraised and Ruenger also able to get his own appraisal at city expense, with the appraisals for the four-plus acres coming in at $28,000 and $104,000, respectively.

Ward said the undisclosed negotiated amount for which the city wants to buy the land is between the two appraisal amounts. City Attorney Jim Kalny and Community Development Director Marty Olejniczak will meet with Ruenger and his attorney to work out a property sale.

If a negotiated price is not finalized and Ruenger elects not to accept what’s known as a “jurisdictional offer” for the property, Ward said the matter could then be decided in Door County Circuit Court, where the purchase price would be determined.

Though Ruenger is able to contest the purchase price in court during an eminent-domain proceeding, Olejniczak said only the amount may be litigated with the city taking title to the property.

Background on the Road Extension

For residents who live on Grant Avenue, the only option when leaving or returning to their homes is onto or off of Highway 42/57 – a difficult and dangerous access point when making left turns, particularly during the tourist season.

In recognition of this, the city signed a memorandum of agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation several years ago to create the road when apartment buildings were first constructed on Grant Avenue. A gravel path delineates the route, and the road is included on the city’s comprehensive plan. That was as far as the city had been able to take it after the land was sold and the city was unable to negotiate a deal with the new owner. 

When Salty Seagull Mini Golf was first proposed in early 2021 for the corner of Grant Avenue and Highway 42/57, the city committed to proceeding with the process to get the road installed.