Amsterdam Dunes purchase approved by County Board

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – It was a buyer’s market for real estate for the County Board Tuesday.

As expected, the board unanimously approved the $4.2 million purchase of the 332-acre Amsterdam Dunes tract in the town of Holland.

Supervisors also approved purchasing a house on Pennsylvania Avenue just south of the Law Enforcement in Sheboygan for $71,000, by a vote of 22-3.

The parcel at 520 Pennsylvania Ave. could be used in the future for expanded parking or expansion of the Law Enforcement Center, board members were told. The house could also be used as temporary housing for clients of the county’s Health and Human Services Department, if needed.

But several supervisors questioned the expenditure.

“I don’t see a need for it in the next five years,” Supervisor Fay Uraynar said of using the parcel for parking.

“We can not look at this on a day-to-day basis, we have look at this in 15 or 20 years. We can’t pass up this opportunity,” Supervisor Charles Conrardy responded.

County Administrator Adam Payne explained that the sellers have an accepted offer to purchase a home in Green Bay that is contingent on selling the Pennsylvania Avenue home, hence the urgency.

In a memo to the board, Director of Building Services Jim TeBeest said the selling price of $71,000 is below the appraised value and there is another potential purchaser for the property.

Supervisor Richard Bemis pointed out that the county missed an opportunity to purchase all of the properties along Pennsylvania Avenue at a much lower price when the Law Enforcement Center was first built.

He urged his colleagues not to let the chance go again and risk the price going up even more when the county does eventually have to expand the center or increase parking.

“We’re about to double the size of our dispatch staff,” in the center, Supervisor George Marthenze reminded the board.

Supervisors Roger Otten and Jacob Van Dixhorn joined Uraynar in voting against the purchase.

The county will use the Amsterdam Dunes property along Lake Michigan in part as a wetland mitigation bank, restoring or enhancing wetlands there to use as offsets for possible future wetland loss to public or private projects in the county or elsewhere.

The purchase was supported by several speakers from the area before the board voted.

“I feel this land needs to be preserved,” David Huenink of Marine Drive told the board. “All the neighbors are very much in favor of this.”

“You need to preserve this property,” added Rick Johnstone of West Shore Drive.

Payne, in his report to the board, said the county has applied for a state Stewardship Fund grant for the purchase. The county is hopeful of getting $2 million to $2.5 million from the fund.

“We’re looking to create an advisory committee to help us develop a vision for the property,” Payne continued. “We want input from the (Holland) Town Board, area residents and others.”

He added that two small parts of the property between West Shore Drive and Lake Michigan would probably be subdivided and sold for private development, providing further funds to recoup the purchase price.

A deed restriction on those two parcels prohibits their being owned by any tax-exempt entity for at least 40 years, Payne explained. But he added that the full board would have to approve any division or sale of that land.

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