Opinion Archives for 2017-02

Letter to the Editor

By Mike

In reply to "Letter to the Editor: The Unrealized Potential of Sturgeon Bay's West Side:"

"These are the kinds of ideas and voices that need to be encouraged as the city gets a second chance to revisit the west side redevelopment issue, barring something unforeseen coming from Madison. I know that the Mayor will likely say that ideas such as these were considered in committee, then rejected for one reason or another, usually having to do with money. I sat in on several committee meetings over the past few years as this project, like Frankenstein's monster, took on a life of its own; there was little or no sharing of ideas with members of the public. People were allowed to speak; committee members would generally listen (or pretend to listen), but no discussion or interaction usually took place. After all, an agenda was there to be followed, and most of the big decisions regarding the hotel and adjacent areas (like the granary) had already been decided. Now that the court has issued a judgment preventing the sale of the property for "private" development, I would love to see the city council invite people like Mr. Shogren to be part of a committee planning how best to utilize this property for "public" development."

Letter to the Editor: The Unrealized Potential of Sturgeon Bay's West Side

By: Samuel W. Shogren, MPA


Op Ed
The Unrealized Potential of Sturgeon Bay's West Side:
How Heritage and Culture Can Build Economic Opportunity and Transform a Community
Samuel W Shogren, MPA
© 2017

It's time for a new conversation regarding the Westside.
A conversation that, for planning purposes, ignores property boundaries for a moment, to see a larger historic maritime cultural landscape that can create a larger economic opportunity for the community. A conversation that sees the whole of a neighborhood as an asset. A conversation that utilize the tools provided by heritage and environmental tourism as an engine of economic growth and development.
Behind the recent legal storm clouding the future of the Westside and the development of some of the last publicly held land on Sturgeon Bay lies a "Perfect Storm" of unrecognized shared interests, motivations, and development plans. The building blocks are present to create a uniquely local tourism attraction that celebrates the heritage of Sturgeon Bay if all the players can be brought to the table. But it will take private, public, and philanthropic dollars to pull it off.
By combining the parallel efforts of private developers and the community campaigns to expand the Maritime Museum, the County Museum, and the Save the Elevator campaign together with the recently announced NOAA National Maritime Sanctuary for Lake Michigan (and NOAA's need for an operations base) the funding and synergies are present to develop a cultural attraction that will drive tourism to the Westside and Downtown Sturgeon Bay and expand the resident workforce in the community.
To sell heads in bed, those heads need something to do during the other 16 hours of the day.
Drawing on my thirty years of experience in leading museums and working for some the largest history museums in the United States and my work with the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Working Waterfront Museum, the Washington County Museum, the Maine Governor's Office, the Maine State Tourism Commission, and cross boarder collaborations with the Provence of New Brunswick let me share some observations and lessons that lead to success in creating maritime and heritage attractions.

Lesson 1. Co-location of Cultural Attractions Builds Success – Separation Spells Struggle
When I relocated the Washington County Museum outside of Portland, Oregon from a rural location at a community college to the main street of the county seat close of two theater companies, art galleries, restaurants and shopping museum visitation increased 10-fold despite the greatest recession since the 1930's. And a local developer built and opened a micro-brewery a few blocks down main street after the new museum opened. Just like restaurants and gas stations do better when clustered together -so to do museums and other cultural attractions.
In Sturgeon Bay the maritime museum and the county history museum need to join forces to build a co-located museum attractions that build a broader "experience" for tourists visiting Sturgeon Bay. Urban and city environments need a density of experiences in terms of attractions, restaurants and lodgings that encourage walking and socialization. Open space, in the context of Sturgeon Bay's West Side, forces
attractions and businesses apart decreasing the economic vitality of the effort and less return on investment for both private and public dollars.

Lesson 2. Science Sells – And Fish Do Too
More people visit science museums than art or history museums. Aquariums and marine science centers are also strong magnets attracting tourism dollars that spill over into the neighborhood economy. Even small marine science centers attract school groups and families – all year long. Here in Oregon, Oregon State University operates the H. Marine Science Center with hands on experiments and touch tanks and small aquariums for families and students to visit all year round. And it is located very near the Oregon Aquarium.
The last I heard from members in the local community, universities on the Great Lakes were looking for a new location for a marine science center. And NOAA needs an operations center for the National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA's oceanographic research vessels need a home base; and the families that operate those vessels and conduct the research need a place to live.
Imagine a complex that includes a maritime museum, a history museum, and a marine science center all located within the same economic redevelopment plan. Imagine too the business opportunities of commercial and retail space abutting those attractions and the economic synergizes that can develop for the West Side.

Lesson 3. The most successful heritage and scientific attractions build out – not up, and they incorporate the historic landscape and buildings.
When the aquarium was built in Monterey CA. they did so by repurposing an old sardine cannery. When they expanded (twice) with modern construction they went horizontal and took their design cues from the other buildings of Cannery Row. The most successful maritime museums who are members of the Council of American Maritime Museums all created "campuses" or clusters of buildings. In my time as Curator of the Penobscot Marine Museum in Maine I developed exhibits for and "curated" a collection twelve historic and modern structures with over 22,000 sq. ft. of displays. Maine Maritime Museum preserves the buildings and heritage of the Percy and Small shipyard and covers 20 acres. Mystic Seaport Museum, the nation's largest maritime museum covers 19 acres and exceeds 50 buildings and structures.
Clusters of buildings and structures that tell a story of the community and its maritime activities creates a sense of "value for the dollar" in the mind of a museum visitor. By moving visitors through a landscape of smaller structures a sense of place is created and the co-location of different attractions is possible. Incorporating elements and styles of heritage architecture create a sense of place in a changing world.
Communities across the country are discovering that preserving, and including elements of what was present before builds a richness of experience. A recent tour of the redevelopment efforts in Wilmington, Delaware and proposed plans for Portland, Oregon's South Waterfront both include the preservation of gantry cranes and other elements of a maritime past. Preservation of the Granary and its incorporation into a heritage attraction is necessary to provide authenticity and an icon symbolizing Sturgeon Bay's disappearing working waterfront.

Lesson 4: Promote and Financially Support the Creation of Cultural Infrastructure
In the mid-1990s as a member of the Maine Governor's Taskforce for Heritage and Cultural Tourism we reinvented the state's approach to selling "heads in bed" by focusing on building collaborations among heritage, cultural and tourism operators that celebrated the place and the idea of Maine. We promoted the rich history and culture – including lobsters and lighthouses – but all writers, artists and maritime commerce. We focused on improving the cultural infrastructure of the state to provide attractions and events that drew "folks from away" to spend time in the community and in doing so we increased hotel occupancy rates. Our efforts, along with similar efforts in Oregon, were recognized by the Pew Charitable Trusts as national models for combining economic development with culture and heritage.
Heritage and cultural tourists stay longer and spend more money than any other form of tourism. People want to encounter a real past with real objects and real heritage buildings. Look at the numbers generated by American's visiting England and Europe for vacation for a "cultural experience."
Supporting a healthy Main Street program, building collaboration, and partnerships between the public and private sectors, between the heritage and environmental communities, between industry and government, between philanthropy and private investment is the only comprehensive, between public and private land owners is the only real solution and way forward for Sturgeon Bay and the rebirth of the Westside.

My recommendation to my hometown is to pull back and develop a new comprehensive development plan that builds on the lessons learned above and the underlying maritime cultural landscape below. A plan that celebrates past, present and future. A plan that seeks to draw people into the community and make them stay because there is so much to do here with new attractions that it fill their day. An active vibrant waterfront built on a new cultural district located on the Westside and within a short "ferry ride" to downtown.


Samuel Shogren, is a 1978 graduate of Sturgeon Bay High School and former sailing instructor at the Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club. A trained Historical Archaeologist, Sam is a former member of the Maine Governor's Taskforce for Heritage & Cultural Tourism, and the former Executive Director of the Working Waterfront Museum, the Aspen Historical Society, and the Washington County Museum. He is the previously served as Curator of the AAM accredited Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine and served on the Creative Advocacy Network for the Mayor's Office, City of Portland, Oregon. Sam authored the County Cultural Plan for Washington County, Oregon.
Sam has spoken before to the North Dakota Governor's Conference on Tourism, the American Association of Museums, the New England Association of Museum, Maine Archives and Museums, and the Oregon Heritage Conference on tourism, strategic planning, and historic preservation. He has developed over 60 museum exhibitions and written for Maine Boats and Harbor's magazine. WoodenBoat Magazine and the Portland Merchant's Exchange have published his photography. Sam is currently a consultant in private practice in Portland, Oregon, and a member of the Lower Columbia River Harbor Safety Committee.

Letter to the Editor--Open Letter To Rep. Kitchens

By Donald Freix

A very sincere thank you is hereby extended to the Public Health and Land Conservation Committee, Door County Supervisors along with all associated exceptionally hard working and I believe underappreciated, Door County public employees involved in responding to citizen concerns over environmental impacts and public health during the joint meeting Monday evening February 13, 2017. Anyone interested in the issues discussed absolutely needs to review the comprehensive Joint Meeting information packet published at the county website.

The following is an email message I sent to Representative Kitchens' staff and close copied to Mr Kitchens this morning in regard to two issues of importance. (Spelling corrected)

Good Morning People,


I appreciated hearing Mr Kitchens at the Door County Supervisor's joint committee meeting last night reassuring us of the inevitable and pending Sensitive Resource Area, DNR rules being drafted to regulate industrial and small farm land spreading of liquid manure in the Karst regions of the state.  If these ever come into fruition, sadly they will only address a small portion of the known public health problems directly associated with the industrial ag business model.  Caps on expansion and roll-backs of current rule violator's herd sizes should be part of current enforcement, of which there will likely be little more of, even with a change of the rules.  Unfortunately, Mr Kitchens was not listed on the joint meeting agenda, even though he was invited to present his views, and citizens had no chance to question him at all on the public record.


Forgive my skepticism and absences of any glowing optimism on the current political spin on that topic please, as after the DNR writes the "what," of what is to do done differently, those rules will then be buried in the legal authority of WI DATCP officials to determine, "how," any changes will actually be carried out, implemented if you will.  To my understanding of the process, a time frame that is not being publicly mentioned in this discussion yet.


In the meantime on the second part of this message, Mr Kitchens appears to be silent so far on the district court ruling against the current fully gerrymandered, partisan and presently ruled as "unconstitutional," GOP redistricting in our state.  The 2017 Senate Bill 13 is in circulation needing GOP co-sponsors to gain any traction and if Mr Kitchens is actually interested in adhering to his sworn duty to uphold the state constitution, it seems an easy plus for him to immediately add his name alongside of Rep Novak's and to begin speaking publicly to the waste, fraud and abuse of the WI DOJ appealing this decision and delaying implementation of the court order.


Thanks for your kind attention to these concerns.




Donald Freix

Fish Creek

Letter To The Editor

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Well, its over for now. I have followed this project since day one, most always in amazement that the city and its council never listened to the people, never relied on outside consultants and simply proceeded to the mayor's delight. This is what this entire project is about, poor and improper communications with the residents, not the ownership of the landfill. Compromise could have been the winner.

You know who the winner is thus far? Cap Wulf. His unattractive building is now waterfront. I'd like to know who approved the design and architectural standards. Mayor Thad Birmingham ran his reelection campaign on jobs. Jobs and new businesses require affordable housing. As well this has been a major issue at DCEDC and The Door County Community Foundation. Existing new housing doesn't accomplish this. Wulf Brothers as a one example, cannot find sufficient labor to meet its own demand.

Since the Westside is getting all the attention, lets have the city buy the old school building on the hill and embrace affordable housing by starting there. This is something the residents will support. And, guess what, it may have water views.

The City wants revenue, then why did they give away streets to Bay Shipbuilding. Unless I don't understand the deal, the city actually did a deal which cost them money. I have advocated that the city demand the shipyard move the old railroad building. They certainly have the equipment to do so. How about Sunset park with a couple of railroad cars. Tourist attraction? Use of the Park? Of course.

We have an upcoming election, let's get some residents on the city council who care, who do their homework and who listen to the people.

Thanks for listening.
Bryan Troutman

Letter To Editor--The Win In Court A Direct Indictment Of Mayor Birmingham

By Hans Christian


The win in court is a direct indictment of Mayor Birmingham.

As Sturgeon Bay's citizens are celebrating a decisive victory in their legal battles around the hotel development along the westside waterfront a focused question has to be asked: Who is responsible for this expensive mess? As the court clearly showed the city knew all along that the sale of the parcels for the hotel were covered by the Public Trust doctrine. There are no 'ifs and buts'- the city screwed up. Mayor Birmingham should take full responsibility and resign from his position. He has single-handedly led the city into a financial crisis. Attorney Nesbitt's role also needs to be examined in this situation, along with Mr. Olejniczak's role as city planner. As much as I enjoy a personal rapport with these gentlemen it is unconscionable for them to continue their roles without taking responsibility for their actions. We must restore the public trust in our elected officials and hired city staff, as much as the court upheld the Public Trust in this land.


Letter To The Editor--Waterfront Importance

By Marianne Ewig (Pesch)

Letter to the Editor


Why is this Public Waterfront important to me, our community, and our many visitors?


I moved to Sturgeon Bay at 13, torn from big city Milwaukee when my father, Raymond Pesch, took a managerial position with Roen Steamship & Salvage.


It did not take long to be in awe of the water all around me and what it represented.

But, I also saw how visitors came through Sturgeon Bay, often not stopping, moving on to "quainter" areas north of Sturgeon Bay.


Now, we have an exciting opportunity to invite those travelers to the north to stop to spend some time (and money) with us here.  Get to know us.


We have a developer eager to build his hotel facing Madison St, just before our historic bridge. We have the Loft apartments going up across the street, adding significantly to surrounding businesses.


And, we have a large, vibrant, enthusiastic group of long time residents and newer residents who want to preserve a small parcel at our historic west side waterfront, where one of the few remaining icons of the West side remain, the granary, once the backdrop for the Door County Coop.


Here might be a farmers market, possibly year round, more bike access, fishing, kayak launch, picnic areas, potentially a picturesque ice rink, and so much more.  Most important, and the biggest draw is the water, what drew me in over 60 years ago.


My parents would be proud to see this kind of responsible growth as my  civil engineer father often said we do not own the environment, it owns us and we need to respect it.  My mother spent decades volunteering to beautify downtown Sturgeon Bay with the  street side flower arrangements and in county environmental efforts.  I was once a "newer resident," 60 years ago. I came to embrace and love this area as the Friends do.


Let's all work together to have this happen. It will be a win-win for everyone.  We do not need to waste resources and time through a trial beginning this week.


Marianne Ewig (Pesch)

Sturgeon Bay, WI


Letter To The Editor: Opportunity Lost

By Will Gregory

Subject: Opportunity Lost

Despite efforts to avoid the court room, the trial over the plans for the development for Sturgeon Bay's westside waterfront is about to commence. The lawsuit is in regards to whether the city is in violation of the constitution of the State of Wisconsin. In my short experience as a council member, nothing has proven itself more of a disappointment than this issue. An inexcusable amount of time & opportunity has been squandered. This plot of land sits on what should be our showcase development, a potential crown jewel in the center of our town. It's eventual development is on our single greatest resource which is our waterfront. Whenever I'm anywhere in the county, the question that folks inquire about more than anything else is what's happening with those giant eyesore of dirt piles between our two bridges. Unfortunately, I have to tell them that, as near as I can tell, those eyesores aren't going anywhere soon. In my opinion, we are at this point because Sturgeon Bay has been failed by its leaders.
As the plans for this parcel of land were first disclosed in local media in 2014, a substantial portion of our community began seeking answers to a laundry list of questions & concerns. Here in the first months of 2017, questions regarding the "when, where, what & how" of this development still have not been resolved. I have to honestly answer when asked that I have no idea when it will be resolved. Unfortunately, the only question that I can generally give answers to is "why".
Case in point is the letter from Cap Wulf that appeared in the opinion section of local media. His letter uses words & phrases such as "deception & misleading & falsely accuse" with precious little context to support these accusations. The group of residents who have brought this suit have provided a wealth of supporting documents. Maps, pictures, newspaper articles, and correspondence all point to a conclusion that the plan was in probable violation of Article 9, section 1 of the Wisconsin constitution. This is the portion that deals with the Public Trust Doctrine.  To the lay person, this means that land that used to be part of a body of water, in this case the bay of Sturgeon Bay, can not be developed by private parties. This is not a "fabricated rationale", it's a stance stated quite clearly in our state constitution. It protects the average citizen of our state from more powerful interests who would fill in bodies of water for their own personal use.
Cap freely & accurately stated that the city purchased this property. When it did so, it now has to follow the law as written in Article 9. Anyone saying that since the land had previously been privately owned before city's purchase seems to be saying that this constitutional law no longer needs to be followed. The law doesn't say that. It's like if you were pulled over for speeding and you tell the officer "How can you give me a ticket now? I've been speeding my whole life"! That's not how our laws work.
Emails recently released show that the city's law firm was informed by city staff as far back as 2013 that the plan would meet a road block in this section of Wisconsin's constitution.  Furthermore, additional emails record conversations between the city & First American Title Insurance discussing their refusal to grant title insurance because the company "could not get a comfort level" with the proposed plan. These are crucial points of information which I, as a duly elected & sworn city council member, had every right to know.  It's troubling that this was kept from me, that I needed to be informed thru local media.
So, here we are now. We need leadership from Mayor Thad Birmingham. This year's  building season has been lost and appeals most likely will remove next year's as well. All of this could have been avoided had the mayor listened to the hundreds of people who packed council & planning commission meetings to the point they were held in the truck bay of the firehouse. After petitions with thousands of names were ignored. It happened after repeated attempts to reach a compromise proved fruitless even though the Friends group, the developer and State Rep. Joel Kitchens were involved. As a city, we've been let down and our leaders must accept the blame that is on their shoulders.
-Will Gregory
Alderman, District 7

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