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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Marinette Council Again Denies Goodwill Request

A request from Herman Pottratz and Goodwill Industries to rezone the property at 1805 Pierce Avenue from “B-1 Local Shopping” to “M-1 Light Manufacturing” came before the Marinette Common Council for the third time on Monday, April 15.

On March 6, the Council failed to approve the rezoning and instead opted to add a conditional use permit to the existing zoning that would allow “Educational and/or training facilities that may accommodate light assembly, fabrication and necessary equipment required to complete contracted production tasks.”

What the March 6 meeting failed to do was to bring Pottratz’ proposal to adopt an amendment to the City of Marinette Comprehensive Plan General Plan Design Map that would have first changed the parcel’s designation from “Community Commercial” to “Industrial.” The Plan Commission had failed to forward this part of the request, even though they recommended that it not be adopted.

Following the March 6 meeting, City Attorney Jonathan Sbar caught the procedural error and at a special meeting on March 18, the decision of the Council was vacated and basically a “redo” was called for the final meeting of the Council under its current membership on April 15.

All three proposals were given a public meeting prior to the start of the Council meeting. Several speakers from the residents neighboring the 1805 Pierce Avenue project spoke, as did Pottratz, Attorney David Spangenberg, the CEO of Goodwill and a neighboring business owner.

In a very general way, the neighbors spoke against the proposed rezone citing concerns about noise, traffic, wetlands, as well as sewer and drainage concerns, and property values.

Pottratz spoke about how the property was rezoned in the 2004 Comprehensive Plan adoption away from Light Industrial even though it had been zoned and used as such for most of its existence.

Other supporters of rezoning the property spoke about how not returning the zoning to its original would show that the city still promotes a hostile business environment.

The Goodwill CEO recounted Goodwill’s recent history, from bankruptcy, to giving up their former site on Main Street for the new marine welding training school. He mentioned that they would like to stay within walking distance for most of their employees and see their current location on Pierce Avenue as a good fit and a good blend for the neighborhood. Yet, he noted that actions of the city have caused the business to layoff a good many employees and spend about $15,000 a month renting other facilities.

Goodwill currently leases the property from Pottratz. A company that works well with Goodwill wants to purchase the property and continue the lease. In fact, Goodwill wants to expand the facility in order to acquire more business. Several local manufacturing facilities, especially Marinette Marine, have contracted with Goodwill to do some of their pre-assembly work. However, it is doubtful Goodwill will be able to secure expansion loans if the property remains zoned “B-1 Local Shopping.”

When the matter came up before the Council for a vote in regular session, Aldermen John Marx and Scott Wahl moved and seconded to amend the Comprehensive Plan to change the parcel from Community Commercial to Industrial.

In the discussion which followed, it became apparent that a “No” vote might allow Goodwill to continue doing what they’re currently doing at the property, but probably wouldn’t allow them to buy the property and expand what they have to offer. The Council defeated the measure with Marx and Wahl voting in favor, and the other seven members voting against.

The second resolution, to rezone the property from “B-1 Local Shopping” to “M-1 Light Industrial” also failed, with Alderman Sandy Saunier joining Marx and Wahl in favor, but the rest were still steadfastly against.

The final resolution, to add an additional conditional use to allow “Educational and/or training facilities that may accommodate light assembly, fabrication, and necessary equipment required to complete contracted production tasks,” passed by a 9 to 0 vote.

In the final analysis, it appears the Council is saying to Goodwill, “We want you here, but we don’t really want to do anything to keep you here.”

Juxtapositioned with this decision, in other matters the Council approved three resolutions connected with authorizing $3.1 million in general obligation bonds for community development projects in Tax Incremental District #11.

Phil Cosson from Ehlers, Inc. explained this bond sale will supply the city with the match needed to qualify for grants from Economic Development Association and Transportation Economic Assistance to complete road and utility work on Main, Stanton, Ely and Mann Streets. The TIF District #11 revenue will eventually pay the money back over time.

TIFs create funding for public or private projects by borrowing against the future increase in these property-tax revenues. It does this by freezing the allocations to various taxing bodies at their levels as of the start of the TIF. For the life of the TIF, typically a maximum of 23 years, the amount received by these taxing bodies from property taxes collected within the TIF will remain constant, unless the city decides to redirect TIF funds back to one or more taxing bodies. Any increased tax revenues collected as a result of an increase in property values then go into the TIF fund and can be used by the city for a wide range of purposes within the TIF to promote redevelopment.

An unfortunate result of a TIF is that other taxing entities within a TIF, like a school district, the county, and the city itself, often make up the loss of an increase in tax revenues by keeping their taxes higher than if the TIF didn’t exist.

The Public Safety and Code Enforcement Committee announced that a recent Request for Proposals for two new Police Department Squad Cars had a majority of the bids fail to meet the bid minimums. The ones that did meet the bid specifications had other deficiencies that caused them not to meet the Department’s needs. The result will probably be a reissuing of the Request for Proposals.

After minor corrections to three areas of the document, the Council adopted unanimously the City of Marinette’s Outdoor Park and Recreation Plan. The three corrections included the number of domes and the number of boat launches, and also added the area between the 6th Street Boat Slip to the old Popke Building as a part of the land that could be developed.


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