By Roger Utnehmer
After three and a half hours of passionate, articulate testimony from both sides, the Sturgeon Bay’s west side waterfront development now appears to be in the hands of the Department of Natural Resources.
When Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront challenged the development of a controversial hotel on land they claim to be filled lake bed and not suitable for private projects they took the City of Sturgeon Bay to court and won. The judge, in that case, delegated the determination of boundaries for public and private use to be determined by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Developer Robert Papke proposed a new hotel on Sturgeon Bay’s west side waterfront but has since backed out and filed a legal action against the city, claiming he was misled.
The Wednesday DNR hearing was held to help DNR staff determine where the line between public and private development, the ordinary high water mark, should be designated. Private development, like hotels, can take place outside of that line and inside property must be held in trust for the general public.
The testimony Wednesday focused on many presenters who are part of the Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront, the group challenging city development plans, citing maps, photographs and newspaper articles supporting their contention the land in question was former lake bed, filled by property owners, and not legally available for private development.
The other side, represented primarily by city officials and the chair of the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority, argued the DNR needs to bring certainty to ordinary high water mark determinations in order to protect landowners and spur development.
DoorCountyDailyNews.com will report in greater detail the comments given at Wednesday’s hearing in a series of stories and will provide each side with an opportunity to share their positions.
Three members of the Sturgeon Bay Waterfront Redevelopment Authority attended Wednesday’s public hearing included chair Thomas Herlache, Laurel Hauser, and David Ward. Only four of seven Sturgeon Bay City Council members attended; Laurel Hauser, Barbara Allman, Kelly Catarozoli and David Ward.
Mayor Thad Birmingham attended briefly but left after approximately 45 minutes of testimony.