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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Okays Zoning Change For Business District Apartments

Issue Date: March 5, 2020

After completing regular business at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 3, Peshtigo City Council met for approximately an hour with the Water and Sewer Committee in a joint closed session to discuss a request from BPM, Inc. for a sewer rate reduction. There was no action taken by either group after returning to open session before the meetings were adjourned.

Among those present for the closed session joint meeting were Mayor Cathi Malke, Aldermen Mike Behnke, Jillian Schutte, Debbie Sievert, Brigitte Schmidt, and John Behrendt; Water and Sewer Committee members Fred Meintz and Dan Seymour and Chair Tom Gryzwa; City Engineer George Cowell, Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal, City Attorney and Taryn Nall, Professional Engineer, with Ruekert-Mielke Engineering, who serves as consultant to the city utility on numerous projects, including the current River Crossing project.

A main action item for the evening was approval of a zoning ordinance change that will allow owner Tracy Berken to convert the former Colonial Cafe and Bar building into apartments. The once popular cafe has been closed for well over a year, and the bar has also been closed. Berken said his efforts to sell the building have been unsuccessful, and told the Council that it will never be re-opened as a bar or restaurant while he owns it.

The council meeting began with a public hearing on Berken's zoning change request, and he was the only member of the public who spoke.

The Zoning and Planning Commission had recommended approval of the zoning change requested, which was to add apartment buildings as a conditional use in the B-2 General Commercial District. Current rules allowed second stories of the buildings to be used for apartments, but not the main floor.

Berken detailed his efforts to sell the building, including dropping the price to less than $20 per square foot, and said it looks like he will own it for a long time. He has been going through the zoning change efforts since November. He said if the building does sell to someone who wants to return it to commercial use, that could still be easily done.

Schmidt asked about legal technicalities, and Spangenberg explained the ordinance allows second floor apartments now, and the change would just expand it to the first floor.

Schutte pointed out the ordinance will apply not just to Berken, but to everyone in the B-2 Commercial District.

Behnke commented it was sad to see the business being gone forever. Berken said he had tried six times since he owned the building to get another business going there.

He and Schmidt discussed parking issues. Berken said three of his vehicles use the city parking lot on the downtown triangle adjacent to the building, but there are six to eight parking spots on the west side of the building.

Malke said she is member of the Plan Commission and originally had cast the sole vote against Berken's zoning change request. After doing some research, she had changed her mind. She found there are 374 apartments in Peshtigo, and in conversations with each of the managers she learned they all have waiting lists. She told Berken that although she would love to see a business there, she now feels comfortable with his plans. Schmidt and Berendt made the motion to approve and all votes were in favor.

Also by unanimous action the Council accepted the Marinette County Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan for 2020 through 2025 as the plan for the city at the invitation of Marinette County Emergency Management Coordinator Kathy Frank.

In letter to Marinette County incorporated municipalities, including Peshtigo, Frank advised that a comprehensive planning update of the county's Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan is required every five years under the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 if they are to be eligible for disaster assistance grants.

Frank said should a municipality chose not to adopt the county plan it would need to develop and adopt its own plan consistent with the federal regulations and the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 to be eligible for disaster funding.

Frank said her office has completed updating the county's plan with assistance from Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission, and reminded them that input from communities had been sought last year. The updated plan was approved by Marinette County Board at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

"With the very real threat of flooding this spring and extreme weather I encourage you to adopt the updated Marinette County, Wisconsin hazard Mitigation Plan 2020-2025 as your local mitigation plan," Frank wrote. She said municipalities within Marinette County and the county as a whole, were included in a Federal Disaster Declaration last summer, and this allowed them to recoup thousands of dollars in response and recovery expenses. She advised that adopting the plan also makes municipalities eligible for mitigation funding programs, and urged them to either place the approval on their earliest meeting agenda and send her a copy of the signed resolution for forwarding with the plan being sent to FEMA for acceptance. Frank noted full copies of the plan are too large to e-mail, but can be found at marinettecounty.com/departments/emergencymanaement/mitigation/forms and documents/

Council unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Natural Resources for mutual firefighting assistance as recommended by Fire Chief Chuck Gardon.

Before the vote, Gardon introduced DNR Forester Cole Couvillion, a Peshtigo native who heads most of the DNR's forest fire work in the Marinette County area, working mainly from his office in Wausaukee.

Couvilion explained the DNR updates the MOUs whenever there is a new fire chief, and said although the DNR has no firefighting authority within city limits, they do work with all municipalities on mutual aid, and the city might become involved in a call for mutual aid in surrounding towns. There were options on the MOU for pay and no pay responses, and the council approved it with the options Gardon recommended. There will be pay for major assistances, and none for minor ones. The MOU also includes the first pay increase the DNR authorized in seven years.

Malke commented the Mutual Aid program (MABAS) is one of the best things fire departments have done in recent years. "Helping each other is the way it should be," she declared.

Council approved Selena's Voice Walk on May 2 as Malke recommended. Malke commented everything had gone well with the fund raiser last year.

Bartender licenses were approved for Katie Lynn Rohde and Renee Anne Demmith.

Parks and Recreation Director Shawn Northrup expressed deep thanks to Eugene Frank for his willingness to conduct cleanup along Riverfront Park at no cost to the city. "It's going to be quite an extensive cleanup," Northrup declared. Frank will be removing all the fallen trees there to the best of his ability.

Northrop also said he meets with the Peshtigo Lions Club every Monday, and thanked them for their hard work and due diligence in assisting with grant applications for future projects.

The parks department received 30 applications for open positions and Northrop said he will start interviewing soon.

In reviewing all the permits that need to be submitted by his department, Northrop said he had found the aquatic plant harvester permit had expired at the beginning of 2018. He applied for a new one, and was notified by e-mail that it had been approved to expire on Dec. 31, 2025. He thanked Marinette County Water Resource Specialist Chuck Druckrey for his assistance with all the paperwork that had to be submitted with the application. He is now working on renewal of the Badger Park Campsite permit that will expire in June.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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