Most of what has dominated the news about Sturgeon Bay’s west side waterfront redevelopment has greatly misrepresented the city’s professionally produced plans and intentions to clean up blighted property and create an attractive and inviting waterfront destination. The blighted former Co-op property was for sale for many years, but no one stepped up to purchase the property nor was there any interest or movement to preserve any structures on it.
Not until years after the city had purchased the property, cleared most of the blighted buildings and completed plans for its redevelopment was there any objection to the city’s plan that was DNR-approved and financially bonded. Those objections morphed from a dislike of a hotel design into the filing of lawsuits to block the city’s entire plan. While legal actions were pending, the same protesters created a historic preservation group and had the old granary building placed on the historic register without city approval in an effort to further obstruct the city’s plans and create an emotional lightning rod. The city’s plan always called for the demolition of the granary unless and only unless a private developer wished to incorporate it into a new development (which Titletown Brewing did initially propose before the whole redevelopment plan was blocked).
The continuous demonization and accusations targeted at the mayor and select council and redevelopment authority members have been totally unfounded. Likewise, pointing a finger of blame at the city for not anticipating a lawsuit based on a rarely cited legal angle that was injected into this situation specifically to undermine it all is totally without basis. This had never been required in the past and if it had Stone Harbor, Sonny’s, Bridgeport and all of the public access and amenities around the waterfront would not exist today. All of the personal attacks and legal actions have been intended to divide the community, sway opinion against the city’s plan and ultimately usurp control over the property.
The biggest losers in all of this have been the taxpayers of Sturgeon Bay along with the quality of life and tourism destination benefits that we have all been deprived of. The costs related to the actions of a few have been very significant and they will only get worse if one more city council seat is won by a candidate who has bought into the anti-city narratives.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.