County Board OKs land deal
DNR grant, developer will contribute to county’s $1 million portion

By Denise Seyfer - News Graphic Staff

Sept. 3, 2015

PORT WASHINGTON — After months of negotiations, the Ozaukee County Board Wednesday approved its part of a 101-acre land acquisition deal in which the county will contribute $1 million, though only a portion will come from the county budget.

The funds will go toward the Cedar Vineyard Development, which will be built along Lake Michigan on Highway C, from the city of Port Washington south to a northern section in the town of Grafton. The plan calls for a mixed-use development of upscale homes and a 100-acre public nature preserve overlooking the lake. A vineyard is planned for the west side of Highway C.

The vote was 23-2, with Supervisors Don Dohrwardt of Fredonia and LeRoy Haeuser of Mequon voting against the resolution.

“It will be a momentous vote, because it will be the point at which the dealings between municipalities and developers will ... become the new normal,” said Dohrwardt, concerned the county would suffer in the future because of how the financing was established. “I am not comfortable setting up this precedent.”

But County Board Supervisor David Larson of Port Washington disagreed.

“This project is an incredibly unique project,” he said. “Any decision we make on one particular project does not bind us to anything in the future. Any project that comes after this, we weigh that on its own merit.”

The partnership involves the county, the city of Port Washington, the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Waukesha State Bank, the Highview Group and the Parallel 44 and 44 Door wineries.

The Highview Group will acquire the property from Waukesha State Bank, which foreclosed on it in 2011. A transfer of ownership would be granted to Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and/or to the county, the board resolution said.

Half of the county’s $1 million contribution is expected to come from a $500,000 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant, said county Planning and Parks Director Andrew Struck.

The actual amount of the grant is still pending, dependent on a second appraisal, which is expected in the coming weeks, Struck said. Land acquisition grants are based on 50 percent of the DNR certified appraisal value of the land or the purchase price, whichever is less, a memo from the DNR to county officials said.

Another $325,000 will come from the developer within five years, with specified residential lots used as collateral, according to the board resolution.

The developer or successor will provide an annual payment to the county, according to the agreement, to cover 100 percent of the estimated annual maintenance costs, estimated at $15,000 to $20,000.

The county’s net acquisition cost totals $200,000, which will come out of the county’s 2015 general fund.

If the entire Cedar Vineyard project comes to fruition and the tax rate stays favorable, the county could gain $93,000 on the accumulated property tax values after the 20-year tax incremental financing district closes, according to information provided in March by County Administrator Tom Meaux.

Currently, the county receives about $378 in property taxes annually for the agricultural acreage, county information said.

Meeting the county’s Park and Open Space Plan for Ozaukee County objectives, the added park land would allow for passive-use, nonmotorized recreational activities, such as a 4-mile stretch of beach access along Lake Michigan, a rest area for the National Lake Michigan Water Trail, limited hunting, trapping, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, wildlife and bird viewing activities, as well as restoration and management of critical species and scientific research opportunities, said county parks information.

Denise Seyfer can be reached at