Jacksonport Board to Consider Downtown Improvements

Fresh off of a Dec. 1 business forum, the Jacksonport Plan Commission is wasting no time in moving forward with ideas brought forth by business owners. The commission made recommendations to the town board for signage, banners posted along the highway and sidewalks throughout downtown.

“When you heard the businesses, to some extent they’re looking to the town for assistance,” said Bob Kufrin, chair of the commission. “In some places, businesses just shut down, they just close the doors because they have to retire. Envision a town with none of those businesses, what would be gone?”

“Everything,” responded commission member Al Birnschein.

But Tim Bley, commission member and member of the Town Board, explained that it wasn’t going to be so easy to convince the marginal residents of the Town of Jacksonport to support their tax dollars going toward downtown improvements.

“Me, being a board member, the signs and the banners, I would say that is a no brainer because we want to identify Jacksonport,” said Bley. But passing on the concerns brought to him from town residents, “sidewalks are something to talk about for the future but it’s not going to happen anytime soon…just because we’ve got extra sitting there doesn’t mean we’re going to spend it on sidewalks and improvements to the downtown quarter because your people out of the downtown quarter are not going to want to see their money spent there.”

Kufrin believes that a failure to support downtown revitalization is selfish on the part of the inland landowners, citing the trickle down that all residents would benefit from with improvements to the business economy.

Little Bit LeClair sits on the Door County Tourism Zone Commission as well as the Jacksonport Plan Commission. She explained that Jacksonport’s cut of the 30 percent town reimbursement after room tax is approximately $20,000 per year. Municipalities such as Ephraim and Gibraltar receive a similar size check every single month. While some municipalities use the funds for events and promotion, almost all set aside the majority of the funds for improvements to roads and municipal buildings. By making Jacksonport a more attractive place to spend the night, the town can subsidize projects with tourist dollars instead of increasing the taxes of residents, which is what the town did last month.

The commission recommended the signage be placed at the south end of downtown, in conjunction with the Jacksonport Historical Society, and at Lakeside Park. Commission member Lisa Bieri felt that Lakeside Park signage would do more to attract passersby than another sign on the north end of town.

Similar to signage, the commission recommended banner posts along the highway be installed, allowing the town to post banners for each season and event. Kufrin cited Sister Bay, where he previously served as village administrator, and how the coloring of the posts gave the area a consistent feel.

While there was little debate on the value of inexpensive signage, the sidewalk question remained elusive. The commission recommended the town board consider pedestrian paths, a less threatening term for sidewalks. Since Bley advised that concrete sidewalks would have trouble at the board level, the commission discussed the option of crushed gravel to begin with.

“If sidewalks are too expensive, is there a less expensive alternative that we could implement by spring?” asked Bieri.

Bley explained that after a few years of use, a gravel path would create a good foundation to support a concrete sidewalk in the future, avoiding the cracked and overgrown sidewalks that used to line downtown Jacksonport years ago before being torn up.

“I think sidewalks help tie the businesses together, they make it safer for pedestrians, people will stop and go someplace if they can see a pathway that doesn’t take them out in the street,” said Kufrin.

An inexpensive gravel path will also give the town the opportunity to test out the idea of sidewalks and see just how much they are used before putting in concrete walkways.

The commission discussed several ways for the funds to be raised for the project, including a levy on the businesses and property owners with land along the proposed path.

The path recommended by the commission will extend along the east side of Hwy. 57 from the north intersection of Onan Drive to the condominiums immediately north of the Square Rigger Lodge. On the west side of the highway, the path would extend from LeMere House Antiques in the north to the Town Hall Bakery in the south. There would also be a path on the south side of County V from the town hall buildings to Hwy. 57.

The commission also discussed ways to reduce the problem of speeding through downtown and recommended the town board further explore permanent bathrooms at Lakeside Park.

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