City Council to Consider Official Map Amendment Related to Hamilton Property

Next Step in Planning Process

The City Council held a public hearing on April 3 on a proposed amendment to the City’s “Official Map”—a map showing existing city streets and areas where there is an intent by the City to establish public streets in the future.

The amendment in question, recommended by the Plan Commission, would make official the City’s intent to eventually re-establish public streets in areas of the downtown Thermo Fisher Scientific (Hamilton) property where a grid street pattern once existed.

The street segments in question were vacated by the City over a period of many years, as  Hamilton Manufacturing expanded its plant and spilled across a 7-block area in the city’s downtown.

Hamilton grew, and the City accommodated that growth, as it darn well should have.

But land pattern use it created was an anomaly, unlike other areas of the city.

The proposed Official Map amendment is also consistent with the City’s official redevelopment plan for the 12.5 acre former Hamilton plant site, adopted in November of last year.  That plan calls for “reclaiming” the historic grid pattern of streets in this oldest part of our community, to facilitate redevelopment and provide for improved public access.

It does not mean that the City plans to run right out and build those streets.   Instead, it documents a planning intent to provide the public access (vehicular and pedestrian) and utility corridors that streets typically provide.  ‘Just like in all of the surrounding areas of the downtown, and throughout the community.

Thermo Fisher States Objections

Following the April 3 public hearing, the Council tabled action on the amendment to May 1, This was to allow for further consideration of the matter, after receiving a letter from Thermo Fisher Scientific that it objected to the proposed amendment.

Going on record against the Official Map amendment, a corporate representative opined in the letter that “this action is premature in the absence of any specific plans for the development of the property.”  The company similarly objected to the City adopting the overall redevelopment plan back in November, stating at that time that the City should ‘avoid burdening the property with unnecessary regulatory requirements.”

City Has Responsibility to Plan for Redevelopment

No argument about avoiding “unnecessary regulatory requirements.”  But it is the responsibility of local government to identify the community’s planning and zoning preferences for major development and redevelopment parcels IN ADVANCE of being presented with specific plans or proposals for those properties.

That’s why it’s called municipal planning, not municipal reacting.

It’s also local government’s responsibility to do its best to plan for serving such an area with municipal infrastructure—the streets, utilities, and other facilities needed to serve future development or redevelopment.

…And to plan for future public access, especially along the edges of waterways.  Those water edges have proven crucial to successful redevelopment in hundreds of waterfront communities across America.

Indeed, there are many sound planning reasons for the City to change the Official Map in this area, and many sound concepts in the City’s adopted redevelopment plan for the former Hamilton property.  And City Council, Plan Commission and I would not be doing our jobs if the City did not make plans for what it wants to see in this area—easily the most important property in Two Rivers.

We would have preferred to develop those plans working with Thermo Fisher at the table—we requested that the company commit to such a joint planning effort back in December 2011, just days after the plant closure announcement.  And several times since that initial announcement.  Thermo Fisher has declined to engage in such efforts.

So, unless Thermo Fisher Scientific can put forward an redevelopment plan—or redevelopment specifics—for the former Hamilton site between now and May 1, I will recommend on that date that the City Council proceed to adopt the Official Map amendment,

…And that the City continue to pursue implementation of the “Redevelopment Strategy and Waterfront Access Concept” for the property, as adopted in November 2016.

(That document can be reviewed on the City’s website, www.two-rivers.org; go to the bottom of the home page, under the Heading “Living in….”)

City Committed to Working with Thermo, Future Developers

That’s not to say that the City would not further amend the Official Map or take other necessary and appropriate zoning actions if presented with a bona fide redevelopment proposal for the Thermo Fisher Scientific property.

This community is generally pro-development, and the City has shown great flexibility in working with developers on major redevelopment projects in recent years.  Flexibility in approaches to zoning and land use; flexibility in employing incentives through grants and TIF districts.

The City Council and I believe that city government can bring a lot to the table when it comes to returning the Hamilton site to productive use.  We believe it can be a win/win proposition for both our community and the site’s corporate owner, a company with a reputation as a highly responsible corporate citizen.

And let me state, again, that Two Rivers’ city leaders are very appreciative of the $6 million-plus that Thermo Fisher Scientific spent to clear the site of 1.2 million square feet of obsolete industrial buildings.  That massive demo and salvage project was marked by great cooperation with the community and with an impressive emphasis on salvaging and re-using materials from the historic Hamilton complex.

But the City also has a right and a responsibility to make plans for the future of Two Rivers’ downtown waterfront, post-Hamilton.

That’s a future challenge–and an opportunity—that our city and its residents saw coming long before Thermo Fisher’s official announcements in 2011.

Two Rivers City Manager Greg Buckley can be contacted by calling 920-793-5532 or by e-mailing gbuckley@two-rivers.org.

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