Joe Parent unveiled a long-rumored plan to build a 59-unit assisted living facility on the southern end of Baileys Harbor Tuesday night at a joint meeting of the Baileys Harbor Town Board and Plan Commission. The town board has been pushing to expand the town’s core district area for more than a year.
Parent said he gave the informal presentation “so people would understand what we’re looking at doing.” At the last meeting to discuss the Comprehensive Plan several people asked the board if there was any business demand that was driving the desire to expand the core.
Parent’s facility could be built without any changes to existing zoning, but the plan also calls for five commercial lots along Highway 57 that would require an extension of the core district. Parent said ideas for those lots include a pharmacy, doctor’s offices, and could include a hardware store if Nelson’s Hardware chose to move, among other possibilities.
James Parent, Joe’s son, recused himself from the meeting. Debate turned contentious once again, with most of the audience opposed to the expansion of the commercial district. Others were concerned, if the core expanded, about retaining the visual aesthetic for people entering the town from the south.
Much of the meeting was dedicated to discussion of a visual corridor that would serve as a buffer between the development and traffic entering the town from the south. It was suggested that a 70-foot buffer be placed along the highway and down County E, but there were differences about how dense that buffer should be and whether businesses would want to locate on the stretch if the buffer prevented traffic from seeing the buildings.
Though most of those who have attended the Comprehensive Planning meetings are opposed to the extension of the core, board members said their constituency isn’t limited to attendees at the meetings. Plan Commission Chairman Cal Oldenberg said he hears from many residents who are for the extensions but aren’t as vocal.
Supervisor Bobby Schultz said that extending the core actually provides the town more control of the look of the entrance to town.
“He can do this no matter what,” Schultz said. “He can plop buildings down right along the highway the way it sits now. The extension gives us a chance to keep this land, this visual corridor.”
Supervisor Roberta Thelen, one of only two town officials opposed to the extension, is concerned that the town is over-estimating the restraint of developers.
“We’re opening up something that we may not be able to control the way we think we can,” she said.
Parent said he has a company lined up from Peoria, IL that would own and operate the facility, but that he doesn’t “want to go out there and make a mess out of this property.” That company requires a pharmacy and professional offices for doctors and staff on site.
Supervisor Barbara Anschutz refuted the notion that the town was pursuing the extension specifically for this project.
“If Joe Parent didn’t own this property we would still be looking at extending this core to allow for growth,” she said.
At one point late in the meeting, Schultz’s frustration with accusations of closed door maneuvering showed.
“You gotta have a little trust in us once in a while,” Schultz said. “I care about this town a hell of a lot.”
Michael Meulemans urged people to consider the positives.
“As a 35-year-old winter unemployed resident, I’m excited to have something come into this town that would provide year ‘round jobs,” Meulemans said. “We have to welcome something.”
No decision was made on the comprehensive plan. The town will give several modifications to Jeffrey Sanders of Community Planning and Consulting to work into a revision of the comprehensive plan. Sanders will be asked to come back with revisions, likely in December. Those revisions will include eliminating the core extension on the east side of Hwy 57. The core district depth on the west side of the Highway will extend to 650 feet, with allowance for a visual corridor between commercial plots and the highway.
The Plan Commission has yet to decide what the parameters for that corridor will be or how it will be implemented.