By Mark Kanz
The developer of the proposed Sturgeon Bay downtown waterfront hotel has filed a notice of claim for damages against the city. Sturgeon Bay native Bob Papke is seeking $550,000 in damages for money he has already spent plus legal fees. The city has 120 days to respond to the notice of claim which is the first step in the lawsuit process. City Attorney Randy Nesbitt says the city will be turning the claim over to its insurance company.
Papke says the city didn’t disclose the fact that the title for the proposed Sawyer Hotel project was not clear when he was first asked to be a part of the project. The hang up was due to the on-going dispute over the Ordinary High Water Mark for the property. Monday’s meeting in Madison between the city and the Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront will go on as scheduled since the Ordinary High Water Mark needs to be established for any future development to occur on the site.
NEWS RELEASE from Robert Papke below:
Sturgeon Bay Hotel Developer Notifies City of Claim Claim states Sturgeon Bay officials knew City lacked clear title to land it offered to sell FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 9, 2017 (Sturgeon Bay, WI) Attorneys representing Robert Papke, developer of the proposed Sawyer Hotel in Sturgeon Bay, have provided notice to the City of Sturgeon Bay of a claim resulting from actions and omissions of the City related to the development. Papke is seeking nearly $550,000 in damages, plus attorneys’ fees. Under state law, the city now has 120 days to respond. “The city called me three years ago to build a hotel,” said Papke. “I’ve worked tirelessly since then to make it happen. As someone who was born and raised in Sturgeon Bay, I was looking forward to doing something positive for economic development efforts in my community. However, when you realize there is simply no waterfront property legally available for this effort, you reasonably come to the conclusion that the project is over. I’m done. I invested enough.” “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Papke was not given a true picture of the situation three years ago when he was first approached by the city,” stated Papke’s attorney, William Plummer of Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. “He has no real option other than to abandon the current project.” The notice of claim states that as early as 2013, the City was aware of concerns regarding the location of the Ordinary High Water Mark (“OHWM”) on the waterfront land where the Sawyer Hotel was to be built. Despite extensive correspondence between City employees, attorneys retained by the City, and third parties, the City never disclosed to Papke that there was an issue with the OHWM, which precluded the City from conveying clear title to the land needed for the project. The notice of claim states the City had a duty to disclose the information; a duty the City breached when it failed to alert Papke about the issue. It also states that the Sawyer Hotel project invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the proposed development without ever being told the OHWM line issue would prevent the City from conveying the clear title necessary to close the transaction.
NEWS RELEASE from City of Sturgeon Bay:
Sturgeon Bay, WI) The City of Sturgeon Bay has been served with a notice of circumstances of claim by Attorneys representing Robert Papke, developer of the proposed Sawyer Hotel in Sturgeon Bay. The City had been aware of his concerns and dissatisfaction and was working on a resolution to them, and frankly I am surprised by his press release”, said Mayor Birmingham. The City is reviewing Mr. Papke’s claim and will take appropriate action.
The City and Mr. Papke have worked very closely throughout the project to resolve title matters and was looking forward to completing the hotel. Since 2014 the City and Mr. Papke have worked together to create the economic reinvestment that in turn would generate the cash necessary to create more and better public space and public attractions. The hotel was one part of a comprehensive effort to reinvest in the west waterfront. However, the hotel and public aspects have been delayed by a lawsuit challenging the redevelopment project and title to lands.
The West Waterfront Redevelopment Project has been reviewed, shared and approved by multiple state agencies, including the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Department of Administration.
For nearly 30 years, the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority of the City of Sturgeon Bay has been working to eliminate blight, invigorate and stimulate retail activity, and bring people to the Sturgeon Bay waterfront. Waterfront Redevelopment Authority Chair Tom Herlache said “The fruits of this labor are quite evident in downtown Sturgeon Bay with thousands of people enjoying the improved waterfront every year. The West Waterfront Redevelopment Project is the last piece of the effort.”
Birmingham added “The residents and small business owners, including many who are sole proprietors deserve to have the opportunity to thrive and grow. The residents of the whole City and especially those on the West Side, deserve to have a completed waterfront parkway and the recreational opportunities it presents without seeing their property taxes rise substantially. The City will continue its efforts, the title issues will get resolved, and the waterfront parkway and other improvements will be completed. ”