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Senate passes Couture bill

The state Senate voted 24-9 across party lines Tuesday in favor of a bill that would establish Lake Michigan’s shoreline in Milwaukee and pave the way for the high-rise Couture project.

The chamber used a voice vote to approve Assembly Bill 655, which would stipulate that the boundary between Lake Michigan’s lakebed and adjacent land is the same as that defined in a 1913 agreement between the city and Chicago and Northwestern Railway Co. Having the line set according to that agreement is important for the Couture project because some critics have contended the plans for the project would have construction occur on land that was determined at a later date to be part of the lakebed.

The legislation prompted support and opposition from both parties, as one Democratic and one Republican Senator rose to spoke in favor of the proposal and one Democrat representing the Milwaukee area spoke against it. Sens. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said the project promised to bring thousands of construction jobs to their constituents.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, agreed but said the legislation would do nothing to avoid the purported goal of avoiding a brewing lawsuit.

Preserve Our Parks, a group opposed to the Couture, has insisted that the use of any former lakebed is governed by the state Constitution’s Public Trust Doctrine, which requires that waterways be kept open to the public. That interpretation has made it difficult to obtain title insurance for the project, which would have a 44-story, high-rise building containing apartments, shops and a hotel built on the lakefront.

The 1913 line is east of the proposed site, and if established as the shoreline, would place the site beyond the reach of the Public Trust Doctrine.

For AB 655 to become law, it still must be signed by Gov. Scott Walker.

About Dan Shaw, dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com or at 414-225-1807.

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