By Roger Utnehmer
The seven members of the Sturgeon Bay City council got a civics lesson on levy limits and lawsuits Tuesday from administrator Josh VanLieshout. Responding to a request to explain the impact state-imposed levy limits have on the Sturgeon Bay budget, VanLieshout shared a detailed explanation of pros and cons of levy limits. He also detailed the timeline of the lawsuit that’s held up development of a west-side waterfront hotel for several years. After VanLieshout’s presentation, the council went behind closed doors to discuss settlement of the suit.
Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront prevented the private development of the property when a circuit court judge ruled in 2017 it was located on the former lake bed and must be used for public purposes. The Friends group were plaintiffs in the case.
Sturgeon Bay Public Utilities General Manager Jim Stawicki informed council members that a lead reduction program in the city water supply has been successful.
The council unanimously approved charging property owners on North 12th Avenue a special assessment for sidewalk installation but only after hearing from two citizens who did not agree. City resident Scott Moore said that sidewalks benefit the entire city much more than an individual property owner. He suggested action on the assessment be delayed until the city implements a proposed Premiere Resort Area Tax to pay for streets and sidewalks. Steve Ehlers, a North 12th Avenue property owner, said he believes that the assessment should be applied to taxpayers on both sides of the street because both benefit.
Former city council member Will Gregory used the public comment period to say the biggest problem in Sturgeon Bay is that some people have been mad at each other since the playground.
Hayes has asked Birmingham to appoint him to the commission as a city council representative. Gregory also questioned why the agenda for the last council meeting included a vaguely-worded discussion of the Teweles and Brandeis granary, now located on the east-side waterfront. According to Gregory, placing the granary on the council agenda created turmoil in the community. He said those requesting a referendum on what should happen to the granary need to recognize a referendum already has been held. Gregory said the referendum on the granary was held in spring elections that replaced council members who created the mess.
Future items council members asked to be placed on meeting agendas include city residency requirements for serving on committees and commission placed council member Laurel Hauser, cafe permits if they include music performances on city sidewalks by council member Kelly Avenson, an update of the dissolution of the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority by David Hayes and a look at open records requests regarding electronic devices, also by Avenson.