The Town of Baileys Harbor voted last week to ask voters to approve the purchase of the former Nelson Hardware property for $1.95 million. The parcel has been a topic of speculation in the town ever since the hardware store announced it would close in 2016.
The parcel is enticing to the town. It abuts the town marina and includes 150 feet of mostly sandy shoreline across the street from the town hall. But it also takes the property, which generates about $11,000 a year in property taxes, off the tax roll.
The town board has not announced a plan for the property, which follows the approach used successfully for other recent property purchases on the peninsula. When Sister Bay began buying waterfront property in 2007, the village took an exhaustive planning process to its residents, which it completed over many years (and many subsequent property purchases).
In Liberty Grove a proposal to purchase several waterfront parcels in Gills Rock failed in 2010, when the proposal was linked to potential condo and marina development. When the town brought the idea back to voters in 2018, this time asking voters to tell them what to do with the property, it passed overwhelmingly.
When the Town of Gibraltar sought to purchase the Redmann property in 2018, it proposed a number of plans for the property, including housing development, educational facilities, bike trails, and a research institute. Those proposals confused many voters and changed the debate from the pros and cons of acquiring the property, to a debate about the town’s proposals and ability to bring them to fruition. Voters said no by a large margin. Voters did sign off on expanding the town’s public beach, however.
In Sturgeon Bay the city has incrementally transformed its west waterfront over 30 years in fits and starts. An early plan based on public input to create a public promenade received largely favorable reviews in 2012, but when that plan abruptly changed to include a large-scale hotel in 2014, it split the city.
Villages have the authority to make property purchases without taking it to voters, as Sister Bay did repeatedly in opening its waterfront. The Village of Egg Harbor did the same when it bought property to expand its beach. But townships are governed differently.
Property purchases in towns must be brought to voters at an in-person vote at a town meeting of electors. Baileys Harbor will vote April 20.
Brussels is the latest Door County community targeted by Dollar General as the retailer continues its strategy of opening hundreds of new stores each year. Though some assume Dollar General is uniquely targeting Door County’s tourism market, the company’s growth strategy indicates that is a small portion of its consideration.
Dollar General has opened stores in communities as small as a few hundred people, including many in small towns on the west side of the bay of Green Bay. It appears the Brussels application isn’t a Plan B after failing to gain approvals in Sister Bay and Egg harbor, but rather just a part of the larger expansion plan. Expect to see more proposals from Dollar General in Door County in the future.
The Baileys Harbor vote on Nelson Hardware property isn’t the only upcoming vote. Local elections are coming April 6, with several contested races for town and village boards and school boards. There are also multiple referendums on the ballot. A preview of the races and ballot questions is coming in this Friday’s issue.