City still undecided about scope of additional Barker’s housingOnce considered the sparkling center of Superior’s growing tourism industry, Barker’s Island and its fate became the subject of lengthy debates
By: Shelley Nelson, The Daily Telegram
Once considered the sparkling center of Superior’s growing tourism industry, Barker’s Island and its fate became the subject of lengthy debates in city council chambers in the late 1980s after a 14-acre bird sanctuary on the southern tip of the island was relocated to Wisconsin Point.
Proposals for the island’s south shore started to flow. City officials could have created a heritage center and aquarium, docked the USS Newport News (a retired naval cruiser) for a Patriot’s Museum, or let the property go for private development.
The final option won out when the city sold 9.5 acres on the island’s southern tip to the Barker’s Island Development Corp., led by marina manager Jack Culley, in 1988. The corporation had hoped to buy the entire 14 acres to create 46 townhouses worth about $6 million.
While councilors wanted to preserve the remaining 4.5 acres for public use, its location sandwiched between private housing and the city-owned marina left the acreage undeveloped and locked its fate that way, or so it seemed.
In 2001, as city officials discussed a plan to redevelop the island north of Barker’s Island Inn, Culley proposed using about 1.66 acres of the remaining parcel for housing, leaving the remaining acreage for possible marina expansion. It was an idea that didn’t sit well with Culley’s island neighbors, who convinced the city council to scrap the idea and maintain the green space that separated their homes from the marina’s service area.
Then last year, another developer — the former city planning director who had worked closely with Culley on his island housing development — eyed the parcel for development of condominiums and townhouses. Even a scaled down proposal couldn’t escape the scrutiny and displeasure of the island residents who worried what impact 41 townhouses — time shares — would have on their quiet residential neighborhood.
While Culley resurrected his plan to create single-family housing on 1.66 acres, the council rejected those plans in favor of the townhouse plan presented by Marshall Weems and Bob Coborn of Barker’s Island Cove LLC.
Hotel expansion plans ultimately sealed the townhouse proposal’s fate when the city was forced to renegotiate its lease for the marina operation to release land for the proposed hotel and conference center expansion. The subsequent lease agreement with Sailboat’s Inc. left the four-acre parcel sliced in half, but opened up about an acre of waterfront property for development.
Mayor Dave Ross said he’s heard from developers still interested in creating additional housing on the southern end of the island, but there are inherent problems with the remaining undeveloped land.
An easement the city granted Barker’s Island Development Corp. in the late 1980s makes the land inaccessible without condemnation or an agreement with the corporation.
The corporation’s housing proposal, defeated by the council in April, has yet to be resurrected.
Culley said he and his partners still believe developing the 1.66 acres adjacent to Marina Drive, as well as the parcel of waterfront property where boat cradles were stored, is the right way to finish the development started in the late 1980s.
“We are concerned about the timing and how the market is ...” Culley said. “We definitely have an interest in submitting the plan again that we submitted in 2000 and 2007.”
Contact Shelley Nelson at (715) 395-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.