Egg Harbor Condo Proposal Sent Back to Drawing Board

Commission says condo development is too large for site

The Egg Harbor Plan Commission sent developers back to the drawing board on a plan for a condo and retail complex at the property now home to the BP gas station.

“I really like the concept of the project,” said commission member Kathy Navis. “I much prefer to see 22 units in this arrangement than on 22 acres of land out here,” pointing to the orchards behind the Kress Pavilion. “I think it is too big. You hear it from every person in this crowd.”

Developer Mike Schwantes said his team is willing to re-work their proposal. 

“We want to do the right thing here,” Schwantes said. “Now we’ll go back and look at it again.”

Developers brought forward a plan with several revisions to the original plan based on feedback from the Plan Commission and residents. 

The new plan for a three-story building with 22 residential units on the top two floors and commercial units on the first floor, reduced the impervious surface area from 81 percent to 69.8 percent, about 1,600 square feet more than exists on the site under present use. The overall footprint of the building was reduced from 76,000 square feet to 73,000, and the design was adjusted to have commercial units along the entire street-facing side of the first floor. Developers also eliminated parking spaces from the front of the building.

With the new design brought forward Wednesday, builders would still need relief from ordinances that restrict the maximum floor area of any building in the zoning district to 18,000 square feet, and limits impervious surface to 60 percent.

“Even though the footprint is large compared to the site, I think we’re getting closer to the right feel of the building,” said architect Rick Fisher of Fisher and Associates. 

The total footprint of the building includes approximately one-and-a-half floors of parking in the basement level and first floor to reduce the need for surface parking. 

“This is important space in the community downtown,” Fisher said. “We’re not using land to park cars on.”

Taking that into consideration the total footprint drops to about 46,000, which still far exceeds the village ordinance limiting it to 18,000 square feet.

The project would require blasting 11 feet deep. Charles Paschke of Paschke Drilling and Blasting addressed concerns about blasting noise and damage. He noted that his family has been doing blasting for 92 years.

“The project can definitely be done safely,” he said. “We do have dust control with giant vacuums that suck the dust out of the ground.”

He referenced a blasting job his company recently completed in Kaukauna across from an elementary school that required blasting 40 feet deep. That job was completed without issues. “The blasting itself is no louder than a firecracker,” he said.

The Mueller Mini Mart property in Egg Harbor has been for sale for several years. Photo by Myles Dannhausen Jr.

Cambria Mueller fears approval of the plan sets a dangerous precedent for the village. 

“What you have to do for one, you have to do for all, so where do you draw the line then?” she said. “What’s the point of having the 60 percent [impervious surface requirement] in there if we allow that to go through? It’s a very slippery slope and Egg Harbor is doing a great job thus far. This development needs to meet the regulations that Egg Harbor has set forth.”

Sarah Bonovich took that concern a step further. 

“Deviances or variances are to be granted in proven cases of hardship to the owner or developer when there is no remedy,” Bonovich said. “In this case, the requested variances are requested only to increase density.”

Several speakers expressed concerns about parking both during construction and when the building is completed, when many of the units will be rented out as short-term vacation rentals. 

Karen Peterson, owner of Maxwell House, echoed those size concerns.

“I think the concept is good, but the building is massive,” Peterson said. “Anything over 2.5 times our largest allowed is out of character for Egg Harbor. It’s not close to being appropriate for little Egg Harbor. I think we need to keep working at this and bring it into a controllable size.

“If you want to see what it’s like to despoil a village, go to Sister Bay. You don’t want to be another Sister Bay,” said Dave Callsen of Main Street Shops.

Lauren Schar of Fireside Restaurant in Egg Harbor appealed to the existing character of the village, urging the plan commission and developers not to “give up on the things that make Door County special.”

“Leave that space for a small business owner to run a business and put their heart and soul into it and leave a mark on this community,” she said. 

Herman Birnschein’s service station and car dealership next door to the Bertschinger Lumber yard in downtown Egg Harbor. Photo courtesy of the Egg Harbor Historical Society.

Egg Harbor historian Giz Herbst spoke passionately about not tearing down the long-standing stone building constructed by Herman Birnschein in 1931. 

“Nobody has said anything about that building down there that stands as an icon that nobody is making any attempt to save it,” he said. “Door County has had a habit of tearing all of these types of buildings down.”

Schwantes said he knows there are some changes that can be done and recognizes that there are more steps to come.

“We want an opportunity to address those concerns and do what’s right for the development, the Mueller family, and the village of Egg Harbor,” he said. 

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