By Roger Utnehmer
A three-hour meeting of the Sturgeon Bay city council ended Tuesday with two resolutions opposed by a majority of speakers being tabled or significantly changed.
The first was a proposed resolution that would have authorized Mayor Thad Birmingham to represent the city in negotiations with a local group opposed to the construction of a west side hotel. Opponents maintain the site is on land held in trust for the public. After a lengthy discussion, a motion offered by Council Member Kelly Catarozoli to replace the mayor with council members Laurel Hauser and David Ward was unanimously adopted.
The council also voted to table a resolution that would have authorized a request to state legislators to adopt legislation establishing the Ordinary High Water Mark on the west side waterfront.
A total of fourteen speakers addressed the council before consideration and most were opposed to the two resolutions.
At issue is the resolution of a legal dispute initially won by Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront. The group sued the city of Sturgeon Bay and won a preliminary decision halting the sale of land on the city’s west side waterfront to developer Robert Papke for the construction of a hotel.
Tuesday’s council vote means an effort to pursue a city win through state legislation is on hold. And Birmingham will not represent the city in future negotiations. Speakers cited a conflict of interest for the mayor because he owns a condo at Bridgeport Resort, has served as a Bridgeport association president, and has opposed a compromise hotel location agreed to all parties because it would have taken parking from Bridgeport.
The chair of the Friends group, Dan Collins, said his organization proposed six offers and all were rejected by Birmingham.
A party to the Friends lawsuit against the city, Carri Catarozoli Andersson, questioned why the city is giving developer Robert Papke $300,000 a year while the lawsuit is resolved plus $150,000 to improve the facade of his proposed hotel. “When will it end?” she asked.
Several speakers also asked that meetings be moved to evenings so more working people could attend.