By Roger Utnehmer
A closely-divided Sturgeon Bay City Council extended the life of the structurally-challenged waterfront granary to the end of the year.
Council Member Stewart Fett moved to obtain bids for the razing of the structure with demolition not be begin before January 1, 2018.
Fett’s motion was adopted by a 4 to 3 vote in spite of a proposal made to the council by Hans Christian to repurpose the granary as part of a Center for the Arts.
Christian has been in discussion with the Miller Art Museum and Third Avenue Playhouse to create a waterfront performing arts complex that would be utilized by both organizations and available to the public for performances.
Christie Weber, president of the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society, also asked for a delay in demolition stating the granary will be listed on the National Register the of Historic Buildings soon.
Voting against obtaining demolition bids were Council Members Barbara Allman, Laurel Hauser and Kelly Catarozoli.
Numerous members of the public appealed to council members before the vote to save the granary and to approve a settlement negotiated by Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront and the city. The vote to go into closed session sparked an emotional appeal by Council Member Catarozoli to be transparent and meet in open session.
Her motion failed by a 4 to 3 vote. She was joining in advocating for open discussion by Council Members Allman and Hauser but not before Council Member David Ward claimed that “everything said in closed session is leaked to the press,” something he called “unprofessional behavior.”
An ad hoc committee with representatives of both the Friends group and city government reached an agreement that would settle the lawsuit brought by the Friends to restrict the location of waterfront development. The council went into closed session to discuss settlement on a vote of 5 to 2 with Catarozoli and Allman voting against the secret session.
Council Members Allmann and Hauser have asked for a special meeting of the council to consider the settlement but that request has not been approved by Mayor Thad Birmingham.
Ward did confirm that attorneys hired by the city to appeal the lawsuit won by the Friends could take “from two to six years” to resolve.
During public comments, Paul Anschutz charged city officials or the council with ignoring an agreement to provide access to a housing development on the city’s west side and Laurel Brooks called for the adoption of an ethics policy. Brooks also said the council is not complying with the state’s open meetings law by allowing the mayor to make appointments without listing the names of the people being appointed on the agenda.
Both Mike Orlock and Bonnie Staatz used the public comment period to ask for evening meetings of the council and more transparency in city government. Several speakers also asked that the controversial Waterfront Redevelopment Authority be abolished.
Entire audio of open session below: