Letter to the Editor: Thoughts on Sturgeon Bay Westside Development
By now all property tax payers of Sturgeon Bay should have received their tax Real Estate Tax Bill for 2016. All except the Westside hotel developer who should have received one for nearly $162,500 if not for they lawsuits filed by No Big Dumb Hotel (NBDH) crowd, also known as the Friends of Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront.
Readers may recall that the hotel controversy began in November 2014 at a meeting of the Planning Commission. During that meeting and during the subsequent Super Committee public input meetings, it was made clear that their concerns were that the project would be in competition with already established hospitality facilities in the community, loss of a water view (even though the project preserves the right of public access to the waterfront) as well being opposed to relocating the tug boats. Over the next months, this community was subjected to a series of baseless charges by the NBDH crowd leveled against city leaders. Examples included that city had something to hide in not releasing the contract between the city and developer. Another was Council members Catarozoli and Gregory during a Council Meeting, when she questioned the motives of the mayor and council in supporting the hotel project. Mr. Gregory implied that poor planning was done on project and the process should start over. When challenged by the mayor, who demanded they present facts to support their claims, both remained silent. Later in the meeting, the council agreed to approve the hotel project.
On Sept. 17, 2015, the NBDH switched strategies, in the form of a federal lawsuit based upon the 14th Amendment. Thus, the issue of high water mark was born. The fact that the land in question had been filled for at least 65 years was irrelevant to the NBDH crowd. This lawsuit was dismissed in Jan. 15, 2016. The judge stated that the NBDH needed to raise these issues in state court. Less than a week later, a new lawsuit was filed in state court, with a trial scheduled for February 2017.
Lately, the NBDH misinformation campaign has begun again. In this newspaper, a NBDH contributor claimed that the developer [and plaintiffs met to come up] with a compromise. Not factual. The so-called compromise called for relocating the hotel from facing the water, to facing Madison Avenue. The city rejected the Madison Ave idea due in part that such a change would impact off-street parking.
In my opinion, the sole purpose of these lawsuits is to delay the project until the developer gives up.
Readers should be concerned if the NBDH suit is successful. In the city, there are a number developed neighborhoods built on filled-in land. What happens to the tax base of this city if the next lawsuit over high water mark goes after these areas?
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.