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Finding North Without a Compass

A retired Army officer and retired Fortune 500 executive, Warren may be best known for making waves while serving on the Mequon Common Council and Ozaukee County Board. He's no longer an elected official, but he has plenty to say about local, state and national issues.

 

THE LAND TRUST WANTS TO FEED AT THE PUBLIC TROUGH

The Ozaukee-Washington Land Trust has now consummated its purchase of the Squires Country Club located in Port Washington/Belgium for conversion to a nature preserve. The price was $2.4 million and financed privately without the use of taxpayer funds.

I was disappointed to see the disappearance of a fine public golf course, leaving Ozaukee County with two 18 hole county-owned courses and two 18 hole daily fee privately-owned courses, but happy that no taxpayer money was involved in the transaction. Further, Ozaukee County did not have to take ownership of the property as originally proposed, with all the concomitant responsibilities and taxpayer costs that would have entailed.

You might recall that there was far from unanimity at the County Board in participating in an ownership position, with local municipal authorities in Belgium and Fredonia on the record in opposition. When the Chair of the County’s Environmental & Land Use Committee, a supervisor from Belgium, pushed a positive recommendation through the Committee, he generated serious local opposition, resulting in his defeat for reelection in April 2008.

Then Port Harbor Investment Group came along and made a surprise bid to keep the golf course active. This ended any further debate. Unfortunately the credit crunch caused them to back off the deal and the Land Trust re-entered the picture, finalizing the purchase on November 19th with private financing. So, all’s well that ends well – a private deal without taxpayer funding and no ownership responsibilities for the County.

The euphoria lasted just one day, until the Land Trust Executive Director, announced that the Land Trust was now going to belly up to the public trough after all and apply for a Wisconsin State Stewardship Grant to help pay for the purchase and restoration of the property. But why should the already put-upon state taxpayer be on the hook in this economic climate, to support a private sale which offers no real public benefit?

The Land Trust thinks otherwise and has rattled off four alleged public benefits that can easily be debunked.

1. They claim a public win for the migratory birds who will now stop on the property during their spring and fall migration. This claim is patently nonsensical, which assumes that these migratory birds don’t stop presently on the lush Squires golf course. All Ozaukee County golf courses host a myriad of migratory birds, as the clean-up of their droppings will attest.

2. They claim a public win for the Lake Michigan shore line for which the 142 acres has only a 50 yard shoreline. You can see the ridiculousness of this claim when you compare Lake Michigan’s total shore line of 2,882,880 yards to the 50 yards. That’s a ratio of 0.00173%.

3. They claim a public win for improving the water quality of Lake Michigan. This is a total non-sequitur when one recognizes that the drainage from the golf course is already well below EPA standards and flows into Lake Michigan’s 1,299,318,233,814 gallon basin.

4. Lastly, they claim a public win in saving open space. That totally ignores the Town of Belgium adamantly refusing to re-zone the golf course for residential purposes. Had Belgium done so the golf course owners would never have sold to the Land Trust, but have developed it themselves for a substantial profit -- well beyond their selling price.

So, with no public benefit evident, the Land Trust’s desire to belly up to the public trough by approaching the State DNR for taxpayer money is totally unjustified. The acquisition was completed on a private basis and that’s the way it should remain. If you agree, contact the Secretary of the DNR at
Matthew.Frank@wisconsin.gov and make your views known,

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