Miniature Golf Course Planned for Sturgeon Bay

Sturgeon Bay resident Susan Hartzell found the right location at an affordable price to bring a dream to life, one inspired while growing up in Sister Bay and playing miniature golf at the Red Putter in Ephraim.

Hartzell secured permission from the Sturgeon Bay Plan Commission to proceed with plans for the Salty Seagull, an 18-hole miniature golf course on the northeast corner of Grant Avenue and Highway 42/57 in Sturgeon Bay.

Locating an outdoor recreation facility on commercially zoned land requires a Conditional Use Permit, which the commission approved unanimously Feb. 17.

In addition to the miniature golf course, the plans include a 26-foot-by-16-foot clubhouse with a small concession stand and two ADA bathrooms, 28 parking spaces, Grant Avenue access and night-sky-friendly lighting. The course will harness nature for its theme through natural vegetation, but it will also have a 14-foot lighthouse feature and a water feature designed to resemble Cave Point. 

The commissioners said they had received a lot of positive feedback from residents looking for inexpensive activities to do with children and that the business would provide a good buffer between the fronting highway and the apartment buildings behind the proposed development.

Those apartment buildings – SCS Sturgeon Bay, Harbor Ridge and Harbor Winds – are separated from the 1.14-acre golf course site by a vacant, seven-acre parcel of land, or roughly the length of two football fields.

The miniature golf course would be built on the front (smaller), 1.14-acre parcel shown on this map. The gravel path shown at the top is where a road would be constructed to connect Grant Avenue to Sawyer Drive. Source: City of Sturgeon Bay.

The concerns expressed during the plan commission meeting about the golf course came from the owner of Harbor Ridge and Harbor Winds, and residents of the various buildings and pertained to traffic, lighting, noise and the negative impact the course may have on the local wildlife.

By far the biggest concern was increased traffic. Already the only option residents have when leaving or returning to their homes is onto or off of Highway 42/57. Several speakers and emails outlined exactly how difficult and dangerous it is, particularly during the tourist season, to make left-hand turns from the highway onto or out of Grant Avenue.

That problem was supposed to have been addressed when the apartment buildings were constructed and the city signed a memorandum of agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to create a road from Grant Avenue to Sawyer Drive. A gravel path delineates the route, and the road is included in the city’s comprehensive plan. But that’s as far as it got.

Marty Olejniczak, Sturgeon Bay’s community development director, said the city hasn’t built the road because a bank took possession of the property during the Great Recession, and the city has been unable to acquire the right of way from the new property owner. Absent a deal, condemnation is the only route – something that Mayor David Ward, in his role as chair of the plan commission, said the city used only as a municipal tool of last resort. 

But Ward said Feb. 17 that he would commit to getting the road constructed.

“So when we look at the capital budget in August or September, that [Grant Avenue extension] will be in there” for 2022, Ward said.

Meanwhile, Hartzell is solidifying her financing and preparing for the final presentation before the city’s Aesthetic Design and Site Plan Review Board. If all the pieces fall into place, she’ll transition from a career spent mainly in the restaurant and real estate industries. 

Hartzell had also owned a small jewelry store with a partner – a business she said had failed. That experience makes this new business venture “super scary,” she said, but she doesn’t think the risks are the same.

“I just can’t see a way for this to fail except if it rained every single day we were open,” Hartzell said.

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