Wanting to avoid spending more money on legal fees, the Sturgeon Bay city council voted Tuesday not to hire attorneys to represent the city in an appeal of a recent Department of Natural Resources ordinary high water mark ruling.
The DNR ruling determines where private development can occur on the Sturgeon Bay west-side waterfront. An agreement between Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront, the DNR and City of Sturgeon Bay endorsed by the DNR ruling is being appealed by a group led by former Waterfront Redevelopment Authority member Thomas “Cap” Wulf and twenty-one others.
According to council member Barbara Allmann, legal fees of almost $300,000 have been incurred by the city. The council voted to send a letter to the DNR stating the city position in favor of the compromise DNR ruling without hiring attorneys and incurring additional legal fees. That motion was opposed by council member David Ward.
The meeting got underway with Chris Kellems using the time reserved for comments from the public to blast the twenty-two people who are appealing the DNR ruling.
Kellems said two of the people involved in the appeal have had restraining orderers imposed related to harassment issues and one has been convicted of using his position of public trust for personal gain. You can read Kellems' entire statement at the bottom of this story.
Appellants John Yount and Thomas “Cap” Wulf have both had restraining orders issued against them for harassment. Yount was recently jailed in Door County for violating that restraining order. Thomas “Cap” Wulf is reported on a Wisconsin circuit court website as having been convicted of using his position of public trust for personal gain. Wulf was a long-time member of the Sturgeon Bay city council and Waterfront Redevelopment Authority.
The city council voted in 2018 to replace the role of the WRA with an ad hoc west waterfront committee. The WRA, however, did meet on January 24th to discuss joining the DNR declaratory ruling appeal. WRA Chair Thomas Herlache stated that he was contacted by Wulf asking if the WRA would appeal the ruling. According to Herlache, he informed Wulf there is no money available to fund the appeal and that Wulf and others would have to pay for it.
Herlache also said, according to minutes of the meeting, that the purpose of the appeal would be “to get more developable land” and “to delay action to potentially allow the Wisconsin legislature to pass legislation that establishes the OHWM.”
WRA Member Cindy Weber said there was public support for a brewpub on the west-side waterfront property.
WRA and city council member Laurel Hauser made a motion to not appeal the declaratory ruling. She was joined by David Ward and Ryan Hoernke. Members Cindy Weber, Thomas Herlache and Chris Jeanquart opposed the motion, resulting in a tie vote and no action.
The appropriateness of the WRA meeting, in view of previous council action to diminish its role, was raised by council member Kelly Avenson. City attorney James Kalny explained the meeting was probably proper. The WRA, he said, has been a party to on-going litigation in which it will continue to be involved until legal issues are resolved.
FULL CHRIS KELLEMS AUDIO BELOW