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Twice-rejected Minocqua Hotel Plan Heads Back To County

Town of Minocqua.org

MINOCQUA – The second appearance of plans before the Minocqua Town Board fared no better Tuesday for an Eagle River developer intent on building a nine-unit hotel near the downtown.

The town board unanimously voted to again recommend denial of the conditional use permit (CUP) sought by Glenn Schiffmann.

The town’s plan commission had also twice recommended denial, chiefly over parking concerns. The CUP application now goes back to the county planning and development committee, which last month tabled the application and sent it back to the town.

“Groundhog Day,” was town chairman Mark Hartzheim’s wry comment near the end of the hour-long discussion. With those multiple town appearances and with the same issues, his reference was to the movie by the same name.

At one point, a frustrated James Rein, Jr., the agent for Schiffmann’s project, said of the CUP application that the board was “nitpicking it to hell.” That brought a rebuke from Hartzheim who said the town has to live with whatever problems a developer might leave behind. In this case, the “problems” center on what the board believes is too little parking space for hotel guests’ vehicles.

In addition, the lower parking lot, as drawn, violates the county code’s minimum 75 feet setback from Lake Minocqua. The upper lot has parking stalls that violate minimum standards, the board noted. While proposed as a hotel, the structure contains walk-in closets and other amenities that lend the project to being converted to condominium ownership down the road, according to comments by plan commissioners and board supervisors.

Supervisor John Thompson made that very point when he moved to deny the permit. “I know exactly what’s going to happen,” Thompson said. “They’re using the hotel thing to get into a condo (ownership).” He was also upset with the size of the building in relation to the size of the proposed combined lot....“(I)n my opinion, cramming too much in. This is 10 pounds in a five pound bag without a doubt, and it’s going to be a problem.” His motion to reject the CUP includes concerns raised by the town plan commission. But so far the developer has not been willing to reduce the size of the project.

From the audience, former town chairman Don Gauger suggested that the town board hold a joint meeting with the county zoning body when it schedules a public hearing on the CUP. “I think it’s a lot easier when you’re at the courthouse in Rhinelander to not be in tune with local concerns,” Gauger said.

Without the town board’s presence, the county body could be misled as to what the local issues were adequately addressed or not, he said. The town will pursue that joint meeting proposal, Hartzheim said, but with the strong hope that the hearing will be held in Minocqua.

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