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Gage permit gets quick approval

October 27, 2010 | 10:56 AM
Williams Bay — If you blinked, you missed it.

The Williams Bay Village Board on Monday, Oct. 18, approved a conditional use for Gage Marine as recommended by the Plan Commission on Oct. 12.

In addition, the board also approved a zoning permit for the company.

The permits were approved by the Village Board with no audible dissent or discussion by the trustees.

Bill Gage, president of Gage Marine, wants to repurpose some of the Gage marina at 4 Liechty Drive from boat repair and storage to family restaurant and tavern.

Plans for the Gage property were officially revealed Oct. 12 at a village Plan Commission public hearing.

The conditional use is for operation of a restaurant and outdoor dining. The zoning permit allows Gage to structurally alter existing buildings to accommodate a restaurant within the existing marina business.

A variance, which would be granted by the village's Zoning Board of Appeals, might also be required if changes were proposed for the building that will house the restaurant will. Gage said during the Plan Commission meeting that he does not plan any changes to that building's basic structure, which may allow him to avoid having to apply for a variance.

Village President Don Weyhrauch said that approval of the conditional use and zoning permits does not mean that Gage Marine can immediately begin construction. He said the company must now come back to the Plan Commission with state approved plans and engineering drawings to show precisely what work will be done on premises. Based on those drawings, it is still possible that Gage would have to apply for a variance before it can begin work.

"He's not going to do anything for a month or two," Weyhrauch said in an interview on Friday.

Gage Marine has long been known for its cruise line, which operates out of Lake Geneva, and for its boat storage and boat repair operations in Williams Bay. The company also puts its name on the Gage Hacker wooden speed boats, which are manufactured in Boyne City, Mich.

Gage's renovation plan, formally presented to the commission that Tuesday, calls for a transformation of the Gage Marine site from light industrial use of boat storage and repair to light entertainment with indoor and outdoor dining. The changes would be the most radical in the history of the Gage site, which has been a boat storage and repair marina since at least 1878. The Gage property in Williams Bay has about 260 feet of lake shoreline.

The property is already zoned for business and the proposed new use of the property is appropriate, Weyhrauch said. The zoning and conditional use permits were required because the business use on the property is changing, said Weyhrauch.

At the Plan Commission meeting, Gage said the economy is driving the changes in the Williams Bay marina. Customers were asking for lakeside places to dine, he said. And Gage Marine has to evolve to remain viable and in business, he said.

According to the minutes of the Plan Commission meeting, e-mails received by the village showed 37 neighbors "responded positively" to Gage's conceptual plans, 26 "objected to the idea," and one was regarded as neutral.

According to the meeting minutes, Plan Commissioners Don Weyhrauch, Jess Haak, Pat Watts, Mark Resh, Jane Pegel, and John Grove voted to recommend the conditional use. John Hopkins voted no.

In preparation for the new business, Gage has also applied for a $10,000 liquor license from the village, Weyhrauch said. The company already holds a liquor license from the city of Lake Geneva, because it serves drinks on some of its cruise boats, he said.

Gage has said re-investment in the marina property would be considerable, but he has not specified an amount.

The new restaurant is expected to create 40 new summer jobs.

Although the project was officially unveiled earlier this month, it was brought to the neighbors' attention more than two months ago. According to Weyhrauch, Gage invited neighbors to walk the property and review the preliminary plans before they were brought before the Plan Commission.

The Regional News did not attend the Oct. 18 Village Board meeting, but the meeting was recorded and a reporter listened to the tape late last week.

Through misunderstanding or miscommunication, the Regional News was led to believe the conditional use would not be acted on at the Oct. 18 meeting.

Weyhrauch apologized on the village's part for any misunderstandings. He said the Village Board always takes up the business from the previous Plan Commission.

Some highlights of Gage's plans include:

n The restaurant and bar would be located in the 6,000 square foot building located closest to the lake at the east end of the property. Open air dining and the outdoor bar would be to the south on a canopied patio. Counting tables and chairs marked on the drawing, the indoor dining would seat about 77 and the patio dining would seat 65.

n The indoor bar would seat 16, and outdoor bar 14.

n Marina parking has 94 standard parking spaces, and moorings for 44 boats.

n Side yards and the area of the lake front near the restaurant would be landscaped.

n Outdoor lighting would be improved.

n Gage is moving its industrial operations, like boat repair and welding, out of the Williams Bay location to other locations along the lake that Gage has recently acquired.

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