The Gibraltar Town Board will ask voters to approve a $3.5 million land purchase at a special election Nov. 15.
Owner Barb McKesson has accepted the town’s offer of $3.5 million for the Holiday Harbor Waterfront Cottages and its docks located at 4148 Main Street, Fish Creek. The .46-acre parcel includes five piers and the potential to offer 28 boat slips for the town dock.
Public information meetings about the purchase will be held Oct. 19 at 5 pm and Nov. 6 at 10 am at the town center. Town Administrator Travis Thyssen said those will be open sessions without the board present for residents to learn more about the property, ask questions, and offer input.
The property fits into the waterfront master plan created by residents in 2016. Thyssen emphasized that the proposed purchase comes from the vision outlined by residents.
“When I first got here I was presented with the long-range waterfront master plan. The plan identifies that property specifically,” Thyssen said. “You have the town dock next door and it could potentially assist with dock operations.”
In 2015 the town acquired a parking lot formerly owned by the Catholic Diocese located between the Waterfront Cottages and the town dock. In 2016 town voters approved the purchase of a parcel east of the town beach for $1.4 million.
McKesson’s great-aunt bought the property in 1939 and McKesson’s parents took over in the 1950s. She said it was a difficult decision to sell the property.
“It’s just time,” she said. “It’s just too much to run it and my daughters have their own lives in Pewaukee and Eagle River.”
McKesson grew up cleaning the cottages and later returned to help her parents on weekends before taking the reins with her late brother Charlie Kinsey in 2008. She said she hoped someone would want to continue operating the cottages but the reality is that the land is much more valuable for other purposes. That includes condominiums, which McKesson wanted to avoid.
“I’ve had a lot of people inquire and make serious offers over the years,” she said. “I finally made the decision this winter and contacted people who had expressed interest in the past. Then one day the town knocked on my door with an offer.”
The house on the property dates to 1914 and was once the post office. The cottage near the water is a Sears and Roebuck cottage built in 1935.
Thyssen said the town approached McKesson after learning that investors were working on a deal to purchase the parcel. The parcel is assessed at $925,600 and generates $10,485 in property taxes annually. Thyssen said the town’s offer is equal to what another party had offered for the property.
“Opportunities like this don’t come very often,” Thyssen said. “We have the chance to expand the town’s vision and protect its charm and character at the same time.”
He said that if the town acquires the property it would likely be up to the harbor commission to determine how it would be used. Thyssen said it gives the town options and would ensure control of a key downtown property.
“It gives us control not just of the waterfront portion but what happens along Main Street there to preserve the quaintness that people have wanted,” he said. “People don’t want a large condo there.”