Opposition forms against Eagles Nest purchase
By Kevin Boneske
GREEN BAY – Though Brown County is applying for grant money to help purchase three parcels along Nicolet Drive for a safe harbor on the Bay of Green Bay, an effort is now underway to convince the county to not pursue the project.
The possible acquisition of the 4.54-acre Eagles Nest restaurant and marina property, which is now for sale and stands vacant, is under consideration by the county after the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in April authorizing the Parks Department to submit a grant application to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program or the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The resolution backed by Supervisor Bernie Erickson passed on a unanimous voice vote.
The county is now being asked to reconsider pursuing the purchase before finding out whether it would be awarded a grant intended to provide half of the land acquisition costs.
The property is listed on the tax rolls for Green Bay as having a current fair market value of $1,963,500.
Upon the county being awarded a grant, the remaining 50 percent acquisition cost and improvements would be borne by the county and/or additional donations and grants, according to the resolution.
The resolution also states the land acquisition “would provide the best and possibly last opportunity for a safe harbor public boat landing in the bay.”
Those now in opposition to the project dispute that claim.
State Rep. John Macco (R-Green Bay) and representatives from the Nicolet Drive Neighborhood Association held a news conference Monday, June 24, at the Greater Green Bay Chamber and stated their opposition to the county’s proposed project.
Macco, who noted his district includes Nicolet Drive and the Eagles Nest property, said the neighborhood association brought the matter to his attention.
“The Eagles Nest property is simply too far removed from any other lower bay initiative,” Macco said. “It costs schools, technical college, city government and county government way too much money in lost taxes. It’s designed for the benefit of a single special interest group and… does not solve any real problem, nor is it wanted by any of the neighborhood residents.”
Macco said more boat launch capacity and/or an additional safe harbor, if needed, could be added to existing facilities at the city launch, Renard Island or the former University of Wisconsin-Green Bay sailing site.
“Augmenting existing efforts and all without removing property from the tax rolls (is) a win-win,” he said.
Macco said the Eagles Nest property should be used for a residential development.
“It’s an expensive piece of property, and there needs to be a lot of work done to it,” he said. “But we’ve talked to a couple of developers, and depending on where the price is, there would be people interested in developing that property.”
Macco said he applauds the county for its forward-looking thinking, but the Eagles Nest property is not the site or solution for having a safe harbor.
“We have no idea what it would take, other than the purchase price, to develop the Eagles Nest property,” he said. “It seems to me, from a fiscal standpoint, that before we even bother to apply for a grant, or that we even bother to try and acquire the property and take it off the tax rolls, that we have a complete understanding of its present and future costs…”
Marty Webber of the Nicolet Drive Neighborhood Association said the county plan would not only take land off the tax rolls, but would also increase the county’s footprint and expenses.
“Any town, city or county official that is not actively working to expand the pie – make the tax base larger and taxes lower – and being part of the solution, is by definition part of the problem,” Webber said. “I am proud of the recreation and quality-of-life enhancements here in our community. But as a taxpayer advocate, those enhancements should come as a result of prudent financial management, not with the cost shifting to the remaining taxpayers.”
Another Nicolet Drive resident involved with the neighborhood association, Bill Acker, president of Acker & Associates consulting engineers, said developing the property into a public boat launching facility would be “poor planning.”
“It does not actually solve a problem and simply doesn’t logically fit into any comprehensive lower bay utilization plan,” he said.
Acker said the county has “clearly jumped the gun in moving in to take the site off the tax rolls, ignoring studies of the Brown County Planning Commission.”
“The county argues for increased boat launch capacity and additional safe harbor needs,” he said. “Neither of those issues are true… With the exception of an occasional (fishing) tournament, and with boat and launch permits actually down, there is no justification for a completely new facility. Any enhancement needed could be much more inexpensively and locally made at existing facilities.”
Acker said the Eagles Nest is more than 15 miles from another boat landing in the county, beyond the safe harbor requirement, plus a reef can make it difficult to navigate there from the west to the east side of the bay.
“In addition to that, if you come and visit us along the east shore, you’ll notice that it’s mostly kayakers, canoes (and) paddleboarders, because of that restriction of the reef,” he said. “They don’t enjoy waves being made (by motorboats)… They like calm waters, and for those reasons, I don’t support the project.”
As more information about the project has come to light, Acker noted three county supervisors are seeking a reconsideration of the proposal to purchase of the Eagles Nest property.
Supervisors Pat Evans, Steve Deslauries and Richard Schadewald made that request to the Education and Recreation Committee, which placed that matter on the committee’s agenda Thursday, June 27.
Evans said he doesn’t support the project because it is opposed by residents along Nicolet Drive, and the county doesn’t have money budgeted for the purchase.
“We don’t have any money for it,” Evans said. “The people who are the most affected are against it.”
Committee Chairman John Van Dyck and Board Chairman Patrick Moynihan Jr. both said the county wouldn’t proceed with purchasing the Eagles Nest property without receiving the grant, and the grant’s awarding wouldn’t necessarily commit the county to buying the land with its source of funds for the project yet to be determined.