Condo project could bring new pier to Pewaukee Lake
Public fishing pier may be eliminated

By Brandon Anderegg

August 19, 2018

The proposed mixed-used development would include five condo units with first-floor enclosed 2-stall garages and a 5,250 square-foot business space at the sidewalk/street front.
Submitted rendering

PEWAUKEE — Pewaukee Lake’s fishing pier may be on the line as village officials consider approving a developer’s request to pay for a boating pier that would serve the public and tenants living in the proposed $6 million lakefront condominium development.

Joe Grasch, owner of Beachscape Pewaukee LLC, has proposed a five-unit condo complex with commercial elements on vacant land located between existing buildings at 161 and 125 W. Wisconsin Ave. in the village. Village Board members have approved the design of Grasch’s development as well as $206,000 in tax incremental finance money that will pay for the project due to the poor soil quality on the property, said Bob Rhode, Village Board and Parks and Recreation Committee member.

But the developer’s agreement hangs in limbo as board members and the Parks and Rec department consider pier location and whether boat parking spots, known as “slips,” will be dedicated to five condo tenants.

Grasch has told board members he will pay for a $35,000 pier with 12 slips if five slips are reserved for his tenants, Rhode said. Village President Jeff Knutson said the pier would be public and while those slips would be dedicated to the five tenants, the developer would pay $2,500 a year per slip.

“He’s responsible for five boat slips,” Rhode said. “We’re not going to be in a situation where we’re footing the bill for five boat slips.”

Rhode further explained the cost of the pier and revenue generated by the slips would sustain any maintenance associated with the pier, making the idea attractive to the village. The new pier would also allow for more spaces to those visiting downtown businesses by boat, which could further boost the local economy, Knutson said.

Board members have also contemplated ways of making the swimming area on Pewaukee Lake safer for beachgoers. Recently, the board restricted the mooring of boats, which essentially means boaters can no longer beach their boats. Swimming safety has generated a lot of concern recently after an incident where a boater backed into the swimming area, cut a metal cable with a boat propeller and destroyed a buoy, Rhode said.

While the new pier would provide new slips and better lakefront access, the caveat is that the public fishing pier could be eliminated. Both board members and Grasch have contemplated placing the new pier where the fishing pier is located and moving it to just south of the dam, or removing it altogether.

Both Knutson and Rhode have opposed removing the pier, but it’s still a possibility, Rhode said. Pier location is one of many details that will be discussed at a board meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Village Hall, 235 Hickory Street.

People fish off the pier on Pewaukee Lake earlier this summer.
Freeman file photo

Setting a precedent

Some residents are alarmed by the project, including former Plan Commission member Charlie Shong, who said giving special privileges to developers could open the door for other developers to request the same special treatment.

Shong recalled the blue roof condo development on the south end of the public beach, which he said took away a portion of public beach frontage.

“That disappeared, and we never get it back,” Shong said. “Once they dedicate this to that condo it’s gone. I don’t have a problem with increasing the boating docks of the area, but these are private slips and they’re dedicated to this building.”

Because residents pay taxes for the public beach, having a new pier should be up to the community, Shong said. There are also other boaters, Shong added, who are on a waiting list for boat slips at Laimon Park.

“This is a precedent they’re setting and it’s not easily going to go away,” Shong said. “That’s the biggest problem I see, is that this is only the beginning.”

Rhode disagreed.

“The DNR is only going to allow a limited amount of slips to be put on the lakefront in the park land,” Rhode said. “There are no future options for putting in additional boat slips other than the 12 we’re putting into the lake.”

Rhode said people can think of this project as a public-private partnership, similar to Laimon Park, the boat launch and the slips for the dock at the park.

“That public park was purchased knowing that we would have the money and interest to pay for that park,” Rhode said. “We would not have been able to purchase Laimon Park without that revenue stream coming in.”