Waterfront Planning Moves Forward: Sister Bay narrows down plans for park

The following are the notes of Sister Bay Waterfront Citizens Advisory Committee Member Myles Dannhausen Jr.

• The Sister Bay Citizens Advisory Committee met Sep. 27 to review two preliminary plans for the village’s proposed waterfront park adjacent to the existing public beach.

• JJR consultants formulated the plans under contract with the village with input culled at meetings with the public, village officials, and the committee August 21-22. The two concepts would take the park in disparate directions.

• The park expansion was made possible by the village’s purchase of Helm’s Four Seasons in April, a purchase expected to be completed Nov. 15.

• Concept 1 called for retaining the portion of the purchased property located opposite Helm’s on the other side of Mill Road and reconfiguring the road around the property to keep it a contiguous part of the park. The plan calls for expanding the beach by extending the existing swimming dock at the beach by about 33 percent and adding a breakwall at the end. This would allow more sand to accumulate through natural means.

• The expanded beach would then be home to a kayak launch on its south end. Concept 1 also includes the addition of a new bath and shower facility (and the removal of the existing bathrooms) and a natural wetland/stormwater feature.

• The consultants presented a second plan that would significantly expand the marina and beach that would require the cooperation of the Sister Bay Yacht Club in expanding their marina. The second concept would include many of the same additions as Concept 1, such as an amphitheatre, volleyball court, wetland/stormwater feature, expanded beach and pier, and boardwalk. It also called for selling the portion of the property across Mill Rd. for development to offset the cost of the project.

• Though reliable cost estimates were not yet available for the two plans, JJR guessed Concept 2 would cost significantly more than Concept 1.

• Both plans included the removal of street parking on the west side of Bayshore Drive to make way for a wider sidewalk, landscaping, and a bike path. There are currently 32 parking spaces on the street, but both concepts would result in a net gain in public parking through added spaces on Mill Rd. and through construction of parking in other areas of the village.

• Marina Committee Chairman Peter Trenchard said it is not in the interests of the marina to expand to the extent proposed in Concept 2. Many citizens and committee members expressed concerns that such an expansion would leave a horizon of breakwalls and sailboats instead of open water on the shoreline.

• After hearing from the public and officials throughout the day, the committee decided the expanded marina was an unpopular idea and recommended JJR produce a modified version of Concept 1 for review at the next meeting, slated for late October.

• Village Administrator Bob Kufrin said all that is likely to happen by summer of 2008 is for all the buildings on the Helm’s property to be torn down, grass planted, and some small aesthetic improvements made. Any action on the shoreline or in the bay are unlikely until 2009, as permitting through the Department of Natural Resources and other agencies is likely to take at least nine months after a plan is chosen and pre-engineering is completed.

• Many in attendance implored the board not to sell any portion of the Helm’s property, but board members Ken Church and Peter Trenchard each said they would lean toward selling the property across Mill Rd. to help pay for the project and finish other village projects. The committee decided to put off any recommendation on the property for the foreseeable future, opting to mark it as “To Be Determined,” since any reconfiguration of Mill Rd. is unlikely for several years. Kufrin said a decision on what to do with the property is likely at least two years away.

• The plans presented are long-term horizon plans, expected to be phased in over 10-20 years. They show the land currently occupied by the Village Hall, Al Johnson’s gift shop, the Post Office, and the Sister Bay Café as parkland.

• The village is looking into the possibility of moving the Village Hall or leaving it in its current location and opening it to the water for community events. The Post Office has a lease through 2016, when it is likely they would move. The Sister Bay Café and Al Johnson’s properties are not for sale, though Kufrin said the village has discussed possibilities for tying them into the park planning.

• Input for the committee can be emailed to Bob Kufrin at [email protected] or mailed to 421 Maple Dr., PO Box 769, Sister Bay, WI 54234.