City Council Moves to Acquire Portion of Former Hamilton Site

At a special meeting held on Monday of this week, the City Council unanimously approved “resolutions of necessity” that officially state the City’s intent to acquire about 5.4 acres of the former Hamilton industrial site for public parks, recreation and street purposes.

That former industrial site, with total area of about 12.5 acres,  is owned by Fisher Scientific International, LLC.

The proposed public uses are consistent with the Hamilton site redevelopment plan adopted by City Council last November.  That plan foresees public open spaces along the waterfront, along with uses like bike and pedestrian trails, shoreline access and docking/marina facilities.  3.3 acres of land is proposed to be acquired for such uses.

Those improvements would not only enhance the public’s enjoyment of this area, but could help spur redevelopment of the balance of the former Hamilton site and surrounding downtown/harbor area.

The plan also calls for re-establishing the grid street pattern that originally existed in this oldest part of the city—and still exists throughout most of the community.  These areas were in public ownership until the streets were “given up” (vacated) by the City, at various times from the 1890’s to the 1960’s, to make way for Hamilton’s expansion.

The land area associated with re-establishing those former street corridors is about 2.1 acres.

The ability to install new streets and utility infrastructure in these corridors in the future can enhance access to new public spaces and facilities along the waterfront, and also enhance the redevelopment potential for the balance of the downtown waterfront area.

Taking these proposed City purchases for park, recreation and street uses into account, there would still be about 7 acres of the site—almost three full city blocks—controlled by former Hamilton owner Thermo Fisher Scientific.  That area would remain available for private redevelopment, and the City would be happy to partner with Thermo Fisher to help make that happen.

The resolutions both indicate that the City intends to acquire these properties by condemnation (eminent domain), if necessary.

The City’s next steps in the process will involve getting appraisals on the properties proposed for acquisition, presenting the appraisal reports to the current owners, and advising those owners of their rights under WI law.  The process set out in state law also provides for negotiations between the parties, and allows for negotiated purchases.

The current vacant, undeveloped state of these properties presents the community with a unique opportunity to provide public access along the downtown waterfront and to preserve views that have not been seen in over a century.

…A unique opportunity for Two Rivers to capitalize on its single greatest asset: the waters of the East and West Twin Rivers and Lake Michigan.

Banning Dogs at Special Events—What Do You Think?

At the City Council’s monthly work session on May 22, I will present for discussion a possible ordinance prohibiting dogs from downtown streets and sidewalks in areas where streets have been blocked off for special events.

Such a ban would apply during special events like the Cool City Car Show and Ethnic Festival.  The City would need to work with event organizers, to place signs at all access points, so people are aware of the restriction.

Many people have suggested such a ban, and such prohibitions HAVE been adopted by other communities.

That said, I have to admit I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, many progressive and thriving downtown districts around the country take pride in being “dog friendly.”  They feature water bowls on the sidewalks in front of stores, even welcome dogs inside many shops.  Plus, many people travel with their dogs, and you hate to turn away visitors from community events.

On the other hand, hot, crowded special events can be very stressful environments for dogs.  And not every pet owner is responsible enough to use good judgment when they have their pet(s) out in public.  Further, we did have someone bitten by a dog at one of TR’s downtown events last year.

Enforcement of such an ordinance would pose challenges, too—we already struggle with enforcement of the “no dogs” rule at the beach.  But there is typically a good police presence at downtown special events, and I expect that voluntary compliance would increase over time, as word of the restriction spreads within the local community.

If you have any thoughts on such an ordinance, feel free to e-mail me or your City Council members.

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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