By Roger Utnehmer
The deadline for the Sturgeon Bay Waterfront Redevelopment Authority to agree to settle a simmering suit is coming in September.
Both the Sturgeon Bay city council and Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront have agreed to settle a lawsuit that would allow development on the city’s west waterfront. However, that settlement was blocked with the WRA voted in July to reject the compromise.
The Department of Natural Resources has scheduled a hearing to take public comments regarding the location of the ordinary high water mark on the disputed property September 6th. That ruling will determine where commercial development can occur and what property must be held in trust for the public.
Once the DNR rules on the OHWM in a declaratory ruling, it will not be possible to revisit settlement discussions between the parties, according to Dan Collins. Collins heads the Friends group. He told DoorCountyDailyNews.com that if either party to the lawsuit does not like the ruling it will be too late for settlement negotiations. The only option, Collins said, is to appeal the DNR ruling. That, says Collins, makes the DNR the focus of the dispute not any of the parties involved.
Collins says the WRA’s rejection of a settlement agreement reached between the Friends group and the city is “risky and regrettable.”
The Friends group challenged the development of a west-side water-front hotel in circuit court and won. The compromise reached with the group and city council would allow commercial development on a portion of the property in question and preserve some for public-use only.
Several members of the WRA have explained their opposition to the settlement and one, Cindy Weber, says she’s open to a solution.
WRA Chair Tom Herlache told DoorCountyDailyNews.com he has no plans to schedule another meeting of the authority before the DNR hearing.