Throwback Thursday: On This Date in 2013…
*Editor’s Note: People love the feeling of nostalgia. Keeping our history close at hand is part of what makes us who we are today and shapes many of our decisions. But as the old saying goes, those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. It’s why we’re joining in the “Throwback Thursday” trend: each week we’ll randomly chose a top story from that date in a previous year. It could be a story which is relevant to current events, or it might be something completely random, but in any case it will help put local news into a greater context. We find this week’s Throwback Thursday focusing on a former residence located near the city’s largest cemetery from July 3, 2013-
Photo: The Haertel property sits between Guardian Angel Cemetery, where some 13,000 people are laid to rest, and Airport Bar on Main Street. (City-Times photo)
Plan Commission to Explore Business Development Near Cemetery
By Brandi Makuski
City Planners have opened the door for future business development next to Guardian Angel Cemetery on Main Street.
A private residence is currently located at 3500 Main Street, just between Airport Bar and the cemetery. The property was owned by Irene J. Haertel but became vacant when she passed away in late 2012.
The lot now sits in a trust with BMO Harris Bank in Milwaukee as the family determines the best future use of the property.
According to local realtor Ward Wolff, Haertel’s heirs want to sell the property, and he said the best way to make that happen is to rezone the property to fit with the surrounding commercial zoning. Wolff estimated the family would be able to sell the property for nearly $1 million if it were rezoned.
“We do not have a buyer for the property at this point; we just feel it’s the highest and best use. Hopefully we will find a buyer to put up a nice building and that will increase the tax base for Stevens Point,” Wolff said.
But John Okonek, director for Stevens Point Area Catholic Cemeteries, disagrees. Okonek said the cemetery made a verbal agreement roughly a decade ago with Haertel to buy the property once she passed away. The cemetery had begun to bury people right up to the property line because of that agreement, he said.
“The cemetery owns that entire block with the exception of five properties on Prais and Fronteneac,” Okonek said. “Any commercial property which might be there would be disruptive of people visiting graves.”
Alderman Roger Trzebiatowski agreed with Okonek, adding any commercial rezoning would place added dangers on traffic and pedestrians traveling to and from Washington Elementary on the next block. The relocation of Copps grocery store, Trzebiatowski said, has changed the traffic pattern along Main Street, and now two lanes of traffic are driving against the crosswalk used by students.
“There are mixed issues here; a bank from Milwaukee with heirs of the Haertel Estate, who are out of state- they don’t even live here, looking to make drastic changes to the area,” Trzebiatowski told the Plan Commission.
“That whole area is either institutional or governmental. If you look at your (zoning code) book, one of the objectives (of the city’s comprehensive plan) is to ‘minimize conflicts between adjacent land uses’. I guess, to me, that’s something you as a commission have to look at.”
The majority of city plan commissioners said they agreed with rezoning but wanted to be cautious of the rezoning classification, opting for a B-1 neighborhood business designation, which would limit the type of business which could operate at the location.
“You have B-4 commercial on one side (of the property) and residential and institutional on the other, so maybe something less intense for that property,” said Commissioner Anna Haines. “A flower shop, dentist or bridal shop would be good in that spot.”
Commissioner Jerry Moore, who also serves a city alderman, said the city should hold off rezoning the lot until a specific buyer comes forward.
“If we just rezone this without any idea of what’s going in there we aren’t going to have another shake at it, and it may not even come before the Common Council,” Moore said. “Mr. Wolff himself said they don’t have anyone interested in buying right now. We could have something there completely inappropriate. I think we’re putting the cart before the horse.”
The matter comes before the full council later in July.