Civil Complaint Filed over Fincantieri Variances

Two Sturgeon Bay business owners want the court to overturn a Sturgeon Bay Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decision to allow height and setback variances for improvements that Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding intends for its Sturgeon Bay shipyard.

Daniel Bach – a Jefferson, Wisconsin, attorney representing plaintiffs Kelly Catarozoli and Hans Christian Reumschuessel – filed a complaint Sept. 24 in Door County Circuit Court that alleges the ZBA failed to act on a correct theory of law in making its decision; that its decisions were arbitrary, oppressive, unreasonable and represented the ZBA’s will and not its judgment; and that the board’s decisions were not reasonably made based on the evidence.  

In preparation for an upgrade to its facilities at 605 N. 3rd Ave., Fincantieri secured variance approvals from the ZBA in August that will allow the company to encroach setbacks and exceed the maximum height of 45 feet. The company intends to construct a new, 84,000-square-foot building that will be 110 feet tall, as well as a 68,000-square-foot addition to the existing building off the dead end of North 1st Avenue in preparation for a U.S. Navy guided-missile frigate contract that was awarded in April to Fincantieri Marinette Marine.

Catarozoli and Reumschuessel were among the residents and business owners who appeared in person during the ZBA’s August hearing when the variances were granted. The complaint alleges that if Fincantieri proceeded with its improvement plans, Catarozoli’s and Reumschuessel’s ability to conduct their businesses and live healthy lives would be severely affected by excessive noise levels, pollution and significant degradation of the views across the street.

The two reside and conduct their respective businesses at 330 N. 3rd Ave. Catarozoli owns and operates the historic Foxglove Inn, a B&B in operation since 1990 in a building constructed in 1877. Reumschuessel operates a professional recording studio, Studio 330, at the rear of the property. The front-porch view from the B&B under Fincantieri’s expansion would be the 110-foot wall directly across the street. Another buffer, the smaller train-depot building, “would now have the backdrop of a massive metal building,” according to the complaint, obscuring a clear view of the sunsets that are an “important asset to this type of business.” 

Catarozoli and Reumschuessel both purchased their properties when First Avenue was a public road that created an acceptable buffer around the shipyard. In 2015, the shipyard acquired First Avenue from the city, as well as the Palmer Johnson fabrication halls, the former Red Oak Winery building and the historic train depot, and it “expanded all the way to Third Avenue, thus eliminating any meaningful buffer,” according to the complaint. 

The ZBA is required to respond to the complaint within 20 days of the Sept. 24 filing. 

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