Sturgeon Bay Approves Plan for 56-unit West Side Apartment Complex

The Sturgeon Bay Common Council approved a Planned Unit Development (PUD) application for a 56-unit apartment complex on the southern edge of the city at its July 5 meeting.

The development proposed by SC Swiderski, a development firm out of Mosinee, Wis., is planned for five acres on the southwest corner of Grant and Sycamore Street just off of Hwy. 42/57. The parcel is owned by the City of Sturgeon Bay but SC Swiderski has a purchase agreement in place subject to project approval. The project was required to go through the PUD process because the city requires a PUD for any multi-family project of 25 or more units on a single parcel.

Fay Harder, a representative from SC Swiderski, said the project will include apartments ranging in price from $650 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,100 per month for a three-bedroom unit. It includes 16 one-bedroom units, 24 two-bedroom units, and 16 three-bedroom units. When completed, the development is expected to have a taxable value of $2.8 million, which would generate an estimated $23,500 in annual property tax revenue.

The approval came after a sometimes-heated debate about pedestrian safety and connectivity to the development. The property is accessible only by Grant Avenue, which connects to Hwy. 42/57 and does not have a sidewalk or paths to connect it to the city.

Councilwomen Kelly Catarozoli and Laurel Hauser each urged the city to add a condition that a secondary road or pedestrian path be required for approval of the project, which led to contentious exchanges between Mayor Thad Birmingham and the councilwomen.

Catarozoli said the city should extend Sawyer Drive to connect to Grant Avenue.

“We’re adding 56 units plus another [development] that adds 14 town homes,” she said. “It’s important to get a secondary outlet in there before we approve this. These are accidents waiting to happen. Or we’re going to be required to put in a stop and go light.”

Community Development Director Marty Olejniczak said the lack of a secondary access is a legitimate concern for the project.

“The city has a plan to extend Grant Avenue,” he said. “But the city would have to acquire the right of way, which is currently privately held. Have met with two property owners that could solve this, but no guarantees anything would happen within a year or two.”

Birmingham acknowledged there are concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety, but prioritized getting construction started and putting faith in the city to improve access in the future.

“I would hate for this development to be held up for a year or two until we get engineering done and right of way acquired,” he said. He pointed out that the longer the project is delayed, the longer the city has to wait to collect tax revenue from the complex.

Alderwoman Laurel Hauser said it’s the city’s responsibility to make the community safe, and that safety is something the taxpayers should be willing to pay for.

“I’m worried about not having some sort of access for kids on bikes or people walking,” she said. “We at least need an easement, we have to have a way for kids to get home from Boys and Girls Club events and school and access that is not on the highway.”

Councilman Richard Wiesner said that while the development will add traffic to the corridor, it would not be any more than the many vehicles that come and go from the nearby Taco Bell/Arby’s location across the street.

“We have all the traffic that comes out of the gas station and fast food stores across the street, and we haven’t had problems there,” he said. “We’d love to get that road back through there, but to require a developer to put a road in, we’ll never get anything made back there.”

Birmingham said he is confident the city’s staff will get something done to create a secondary access in the future. Hauser expressed less confidence, saying that when it comes to city developments, “if things don’t get done at the beginning, they tend not to get done later.”

Harder said construction will begin in August and is expected to be completed in Autumn of 2018.


Beekeeping Ordinance Passed

The City of Sturgeon Bay moved closer to approving a final ordinance on the keeping of honey bees within city limits.

The council approved the first reading of an amended ordinance that allows people to keep bees in the city under a regular permit through the Community Development Department. Under the new ordinance, a notice of the application for a permit would be mailed to neighboring property owners, giving them up to 30 days to object to the proposal, in which a case a hearing would be held with the Community Protection and Services Committee.

Under the ordinance, beekeeping equipment would be restricted to side and rear yards, and no closer than 10 feet from a property line or 25 feet from a sidewalk or street.

Prior to the ordinance, the keeping of bees in the city required people to obtain a conditional use permit from the plan commission to keep hives on a property. There were no specific standards, and there was a $300 fee for the permit.

The Door County Beekeepers Association asked the city to make it easier to establish hives with clear standards. City staff developed the new ordinance in cooperation with the Community Protection and Services Committee.

Only Alderwoman Barbara Allman, citing concerns about curious children being drawn to the bees, voted against the ordinance.


Maritime Museum Tower Plan Re-approved

The city approved the Door County Maritime Museum’s plans to build a 10-story, 121-foot tall lighthouse tower at the museum property on the West side of the Michigan Street Bridge. The museum required approval of a Planned Unit Development since the tower will exceed the maximum building height and requires a waiver of setback requirements.

The museum previously received PUD approval for the plan, but it expired.

Door County Maritime Museum president William Harder led a lengthy presentation lauding the tower’s expected impact on the city, citing increased tourism, cultural and educational impacts.

Alderwomen Kelly Catarozoli and Laurel Hauser raised concerns about whether the project had proper approvals in place to construct the tower, since it sits on filled lakebed adjacent to the West Waterfront property that has caused years of controversy in the city.

Catarozoli motioned that the city delay a decision until it acquires the proper lease or permission from the board of commissioners of public lands, but the motion was defeated.

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