Concept gets committee nod
County group hears about Green Island resort plan
Monday, January 10, 2011 6:00 PM
MARINETTE - The plan to turn Green Island into a posh recreation and retreat area received conceptual support Monday from a second Marinette County committee.
The Land Information Committee voted unanimously to approve the concept of the project and forward it to the full county board. The Economic Development and Tourism Committee made a similar motion last month.
It's likely the county board will discuss the issue at its Jan. 25 meeting.
In addition to committee support, Town of Peshtigo Chairman Herman Pottratz told the committee that the majority of town officials also support the project.
John Gard, a former state lawmaker from Peshtigo, is acting as the facilitator for the group of investors who hope to turn the uninhabited 76-acre island into a resort area labeled "Anna's Vineyard at Green Island."
The name comes from Anna Drew, the daughter of Samuel and Mary Drew, who lived on the island as its first lighthouse keepers in the late 1800s. Anna died as an infant on Sept. 26, 1869, and is the only known person buried on the island, according to Gard.
The former state Assembly speaker is helping the group of investors clear regulatory hurdles - be it town, state, federal or Department of Natural Resources.
Gard told the committee that the group (whose identity has not been released) has been studying this estimated $90 million project for a long time and is eager to move forward.
"This investment group doesn't want to wait," he cautioned. "If they think this is going to be a (political) battle, they will find somewhere else to invest their money."
The island is located in Green Bay about five miles from Marinette and about 10 miles from Sturgeon Bay. The plan calls for an 84-boat slip marina and ferry dock, a vineyard, a resort hotel and executive retreat, timeshare beach cottages, fractional ownership condominiums, single-family residential island waterfront lots, parks and conservancy areas and a lighthouse historical park.
Gard said except for a few emergency vehicles, all of the traffic on the island will be in the form of golf carts. He anticipates the residences will be seasonal, although the plan is to have year-round functions on the island.
The goal, according to Gard, is to get the permit application process started this month and in February. He envisions the entire project taking about three years and completed in stages.
"Obviously it's important to get the marina done first," he said, in reference to getting construction crews on the island.
The project is expected to create 250 construction jobs and then about 150 full-time workers.
"The goal is to get as many local contractors involved as possible," Gard said.
Supervisor Jerry Pillath asked why this committee has to support the concept when that has never been done on other projects.
"Because this is unprecedented," committee chairman Ted Sauve said. "We can't let a $90 to $100-million project slip through our fingers."
Pillath also questioned if the increase in equalized value will increase taxes for those in the Marinette School District.
Gard said the positives will outweigh the negatives and if that train of thought was followed, no projects would ever be completed.
"Would you rather be a poor district that relied on state aid?" he asked.
Pottratz agreed, saying that the town of Peshtigo, the county and the schools will benefit by a bigger tax base.
"This seems like a win-win situation," he said.
Most everyone agreed, except for two unidentified women who sat in the back of the room with a sign that read "Green Island Project" with a line through it.
Gard said he's had people call him up and say, "Are you kidding, Green Island?"
"I say why not Green Island," he said. "We believe a project like this can financially succeed because of the rarity of Green Island. There's a lot of sailing traffic on the Great Lakes."
Green Island is currently privately-owned. Gard said no local, state or federal funds would be sought for the project.