Bob Papke has been fairly silent the past 2½ years as the community raged around him regarding his planned waterfront hotel development.
But after the Feb. 10 court decision that promised even more court time and uncertainty, Papke decided to try to end the dispute and maybe even heal the rift in the community by requesting mediation between the two parties.
“I am tired of having people from other areas of Wisconsin ask why Sturgeon Bay can’t get along and why are there dirt piles on this waterfront property. It is time to talk, work together and move forward,” he said.
Papke invited officials with the City of Sturgeon Bay and representatives of the Friends of Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront to mediation moderated by state Rep. Joel Kitchens.
“The groups have agreed to meet and Joel Kitchens has agreed to be the moderator, so I was very happy about that,” Papke said. “At this point, both parties agree that there needs to be a hotel for the tax benefit to pay for the park, and now it’s simply a matter of finding a location. So let’s have a conversation. Having a conversation is important in a family, it’s important in business and it’s important in this development for our community.”
Papke said he was disappointed by Judge Raymond Huber’s “half way” decision after the two-day trial in Sturgeon Bay.
“I was disappointed that it was just going to go on and on,” he said. “I would have preferred to have seen a more definite decision. Either you can’t build here or simply you can, and as I understand the ruling, it allows for more DNR determination, which just continues the delay. At this point, delay is not in the interest of the taxpayers and residents.”
Papke said every year the hotel and other improvements are delayed the taxpayers are spending at least $480,000 plus losing the benefit of having a completed park. So he hopes both parties have a sense of urgency about coming to a decision. The hotel has approved building permits, as well as financing, a management team and, Papke said, all the ingredients for a well-run business to compliment and support the tax needs for this new community park.
“We only have 12 days,” he said. “That’s critical, and here’s the reason why. When you move a property back, it requires a redesign for the building. A redesign takes time and you have to go through some steps. And to do all that and get started by this spring, late this spring sometime, means March 1st is the date the builders are given. We just simply can’t do it overnight. March 1st is aggressive, but they said they can do it. And from my standpoint, after all this time and all this effort and all this energy, I believe 12 days is adequate. The parties know the issues. It’s a matter of sitting down and having this conversation.”
Papke said he is cautiously optimistic that the two parties can reach an agreement soon.
“We’re trying to make some positive moves here,” Papke said. “I want to encourage people with a shared goal of helping the community to work together and have that conversation and see if we can find some solutions.”