By Tim Kowols
Three Sturgeon Bay City Council members issued a statement Monday explaining their walk-outs and several recent meetings. In the statement, the three council members explain why they have avoided voting on the bids to tear down the granary sitting on the city’s west waterfront. Council member Laurel Hauser explains one of the major concerns.
The lack of an ordinary water high water mark determination from the Department of Resources and the refusal of putting plans submitted by the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society and Center for the Fine Arts on the agenda are among the reasons given for four meetings going without a decision on a bid contract.
A special session of the Sturgeon Bay Common Council is scheduled for Monday night, but Hauser has already said via email that she has let City Administrator Josh Van Lieshout know she will not be attending. You can read the entire statement by the council members below.
A joint statement from Alderpersons Allmann, Catarozoli and Hauser regarding the Teweles & Brandeis Grain Elevator
We believe our constituents, and the greater Door County community, deserve to understand the reasoning behind our recent actions to avoid voting to tear down the Sturgeon Bay granary.
- We believe that the raze order, or the actions that precipitated it, are politically motivated. The raze order was issued within days of the City learning that money had been raised to stabilize the building. The raze order was issued based on an anonymous call and with no opportunity given to repair or rectify. No structural engineering study has been done to substantiate the claim that the structure moved one-eighth of an inch, although baseline measurements exist from a comprehensive study done in 2013.
- The City’s own Historic Preservation Commission, made up of citizen representatives, passed a resolution in support of preserving the granary. Minutes from that meeting were left out of subsequent Common Council board packets. The Common Council voted on dismantling the granary before seeing those minutes or considering the resolution.
- State law requires the City to negotiate in good faith with the Wisconsin Historical Society and to discuss alternative options before tearing down a structure that’s listed on the state registry. The majority of our council voted against complying with that law, even after our attorney advised us it was the best way to avoid legal challenge. This leaves us vulnerable to legal action and perpetuates a “just sue me” mentality that has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and has mired the City of Sturgeon Bay in multiple, ongoing, costly lawsuits.
- We are still waiting for an Ordinary High Water Mark determination from the Wisconsin DNR. That determination will be the basis for all future plans for what can and cannot be built on the westside waterfront property.
- The Sturgeon Bay Historical Society has raised nearly $1.5M to stabilize, renovate and endow the grain elevator and has submitted a Letter of Intent to the City. SBHS has asked to be placed on multiple Common Council agendas in order to discuss its offer. The mayor has refused to give them that opportunity. The Council has not been able to consider a $1.25M donation.
- Two organizations that add great value to our community – the Miller Art Museum and the Third Avenue Playhouse – formed an Exploratory Committee for a Center for the Arts to be built on the westside waterfront, incorporating a restored granary. The group has expressed its readiness to make a presentation to the necessary committee and the Common Council.
The Center for the Arts and the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society deserve to have their proposals heard. The community deserves to hear them. We all deserve good leadership and governance that is inclusive, that seeks to follow its own policies and state law.
For the above reasons, we believe it is premature, foolhardy and disrespectful of our community to vote to tear down the Teweles & Brandeis granary at taxpayer expense. We are in favor of working with the Department of Safety and Professional Services to stabilize the structure in a way that satisfies safety concerns and we strongly request that our City Administrator host and facilitate good faith, open and honest dialogue between council members and the public over options for the westside waterfront.
We care deeply about the Sturgeon Bay community, are excited by Sturgeon Bay’s future, and appreciate your willingness to keep informed about this situation.