Committee hears opposition to Eagles Nest purchase
By Kevin Boneske
GREEN BAY – Brown County wouldn’t be committed to purchasing three parcels along Nicolet Drive for a safe harbor on the Bay of Green Bay upon receiving grant money to pay for half of the sale price.
That was the underlying message Thursday, June 27, when the county’s Education and Recreation Committee heard from people opposed to the possible acquisition of the 4.54-acre property.
Committee Chairman John Van Dyck said when the committee was approached about the grant application, “it was made very clear that we were going to get another kick at this can at some point down the road.”
“Nothing has been approved, at least up to this point, where this is just going to go through without any further conversation,” Van Dyck said.
The Board of Supervisors in April passed a resolution authorizing the Parks Department to submit a grant application to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to help purchase the Eagles Nest land, which is now for sale and stands vacant.
The resolution backed by Supervisor Bernie Erickson passed on a unanimous voice vote, but now some supervisors, along with residents who live along Nicolet Drive, are against pursuing the purchase before the county finds out whether it would be awarded the 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 lower bay,” but those opposing the project dispute that claim.
Two county supervisors, Patrick Evans and Steve Deslauriers, appeared before the committee to state their concerns because of what they noted is new information that has come to light.
Deslauriers said his vote for the resolution was contingent on pursuing a safe harbor public boat landing.
“As that information was brought out that it perhaps doesn’t meet the technical requirements of a safe harbor, does it jeopardize the resolution, does it put that in question?” Deslauriers said. “And furthermore, I may or may not have voted for it if it wasn’t for its qualification as a safe harbor. In the investigation of the safe harbor technicality, other things have come to light, like the utilization of our other boat landing facilities, the community pushback.”
In hindsight, Deslauriers said he wishes the resolution would have been written to just apply for the grant and not also state it was for pursuing the acquisition of the land.
Evans said the proposed project has ended up with more questions than answers.
“We’re going down a path where we’re getting a lot of people excited on both sides of the issue, and yet the county… we haven’t even done our due diligence,” he said.
Evans said he would like to see the county negotiate a price for the property, find out where the additional funds would come from outside of the grant to purchase the land and address concerns residents along Nicolet Drive may have who are opposed.
“The cart is so far in front of the horse that it’s becoming something that we really need to just kind of put the brakes on and figure it out,” he said.
Because the grant would only cover half of the purchase price, Assistant Parks Director Matt Kriese said the proposed purchase would have to come back to the board for final approval.
“This is only a 50 percent match grant, so if we get the grant, it’s coming back to county board no matter what,” Kriese said.
Even if a donor came forward with money for the other half of the purchase price, Kriese said it would still have to come back to the county board for the budgetary adjustment and approval.
The speakers who came before the committee regarding the proposed purchase of the Eagles Nest property were all opposed to it.
Joe Morgan, president of the Nicolet Drive Homeowners Association, said the association’s board is against having a public boat launch at the property.
“We feel it will interfere with the residential quality of our neighborhood, it’s right in the middle of the neighborhood… we think it’s going to create problems,” Morgan said. “We would rather see this property turned into a condominium development. We think that will happen when the owners of the property realize the real market value of the property. We think it’s overpriced right now.”
Martin Webber, who also lives along Nicolet Drive, said a petition in opposition to the county purchasing the property to develop a public boat ramp has been signed by just under 170 people.
“Why would you take some of the most valuable real estate in the city and put something in that would devalue that area? Because there is no way a boat ramp is going to add to the value of the area, given all the noise, the additional traffic, the light pollution and the noise pollution,” Webber said.
Another Nicolet Drive resident, Bill Acker, president of Acker & Associates consulting engineers, outlined for the committee why he believes the property doesn’t meet safe harbor requirements and is not needed as a marina.
Acker said the property is more than 15 miles from another boat landing in the county, beyond the safe harbor requirement, and a reef can make it difficult to navigate there from the west to the east side of the bay.
“If the Eagles Nest marina were built, boaters could be injured, if they try to cross the reef that extends from Frying Pan Shoal to Point Sable, when the water is low over the reef,” he said.
Acker said he disagrees the property is needed as a future boat launching facility.
“If you look at the Wisconsin boater registrations from 1991 through 2018 – a 27-year period – it has gone up 24.73 percent, or only .91 percent per year,” he said. “But that growth mostly occurred from 1991 to 2013. From 2013 to 2018 it only grew by 1.7 percent over that period.”
Acker said the watercraft on east shore along the Bay of Green Bay by Nicolet Drive now is mostly kayakers, canoers and paddleboarders, who don’t care for the waves being made by powerboats.
The three committee members in attendance for the meeting agreed to keep the Eagles Nest property and the county’s possible acquisition of it on their agenda for monthly updates on any developments.
Kriese informed the committee the county likely wouldn’t know whether it will be awarded a grant until sometime this fall.