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Conservancy opposes Pier expansion plan


Business plan includes boat storage, repair



Colman
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Colman

THE ROAD TO APPROVAL - Linn — When someone like John Trossen, owner/operator of The Pier Country Store, N1806 Linn Road, wants to build an accessory structure to house boats and other marine vehicles, conduct minor repairs and add it onto his current business, there's a process. First, in March, Trossen filed two petitions and an application. Because this request involves property zoned for single-family residential use, he applied for a conditional use permit and asked to rezone the property to a business class. Because he wants to change the zoning, this would require an amendment to the town of Linn's 2025 Comprehensive Plan, a document also referred to as the town's "Master Plan." Essentially, this is the guide used by town officials in deciding matters such as Trossen's request. This plan, which the town adopted June 28, 2004, shows the property in question as being used for a single-family residence. Under the state's Smart Growth legislation, this plan is considered to be a forecast of how town lands will be used until the year 2025. With Trossen asking the town amend this plan, the Linn Town Board and its Plan Commission have set a public hearing for this request Monday, June 20, at 6:30 p.m. The 1-˝ acres near The Pier is referred to in the agenda as "the former N1814 and N1818 Linn Road and the current N1806 Linn Road." According to the town of Linn's website, officials have some requirements to follow when it comes to requests like these. The town clerk must notify all property owners within 100 feet of the exterior boundaries of the applicant's property by certified mail "as soon as practical but at least 10 days prior to the hearing." Between the date an application is filed and the hearing, all Plan Commission members must personally view the property. Traditionally, such a request would first go before the Plan Commission, which can make a recommendation to the Linn Town Board. At the Town Board meeting, the public does not have the opportunity to speak about the request. Then, the request goes before Walworth County officials, which have the final say in town zoning and land use matters. Whether this is the only hearing on Trossen's request remains to be seen. The June 20 agenda is for a public hearing on the proposed plan amendment. It does not state it is a public hearing for the rezone or conditional use requests.
June 15, 2011 | 11:29 AM
Linn — Will John Trossen's proposal to expand his operation at The Pier Country Store create an "in-out" facility not only violate the town's Master Plan but place lives at risk?

Will it subvert a policy governing the number of boats allowed to launch on Geneva Lake? Is it in fact a new business and not an expansion?

The Geneva Lake Conservancy thinks so.

On June 6, Charles Colman, a member of the Conservancy Board of Directors, submitted a letter to the Linn Town Board on behalf of himself and the organization dedicated to protecting the environment of the Geneva Lake area. The letter also was released to the Regional News and posted on the conservancy's Facebook profile.

In his letter, Colman spells out concerns about Trossen's proposal, which calls for expanding the business by building a facility to store boats and other marine vehicles.

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Colman, a Linn Township resident, isn't the only one with concerns.

Several town residents, including members of The Birches Property Owners Association, are opposed to the idea for numerous reasons. On Friday, Linn Town Clerk-Treasurer Sue Polyock said the board has received a half-dozen letters in opposition to the request.

"If Mr. Trossen wants to start a boat storage business, he should be able to do so," Colman stated June 6. "However, we believe it should be built within areas recommended by the Linn Township Master Plan for commercial activities and far enough from the lake to prohibit the facility operating like an in-out facility, subverting the parking limitation on boat launches."

Colman recommends the Linn Town Board deny Trossen's proposal. The board and its Plan Commission will have a special hearing about the request Monday, June 20, at 6:30 p.m. The hearing is just one step in the approval process.

The request

In March, Trossen filed petitions to amend the town's Master Plan and rezone about 1-˝ acres near The Pier, N1806 Linn Road, about a half-mile from the shore of Geneva Lake and the area known as the "Linn Pier" boat launch and beach. He also filed an application for a conditional use permit.

According to an operational plan provided with those documents, Trossen purchased the property Nov. 30, 1998.

Previously, the property was used as a restaurant, small gas station and soda shop with an attached single-family residence. Trossen had converted the restaurant into a country store, which includes a fishing guide service on Geneva Lake and sells fishing gear such as live bait and tackle, groceries, deli products, snacks and liquor.

The plan stated that with The Pier being close to a residential area, business has grown. Now, Trossen wants to provide additional parking and build an accessory structure on the 1-˝ acres near the store to provide off-season inside storage and the "minor servicing" of boats and other marine vehicles.

"(Trossen's) expanded business on the properties may include such permitted uses as the sale of sporting goods, boating and fishing accessories and equipment, live bait and tackle and other such possible goods as groceries, bakery items, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, snacks, liquor, delicatessen (items), florist items and gifts," the plan stated.

His proposal calls for the construction of "a Wick-type building," about 80-by-180 feet and 16 feet high.

"Initially, the floor of one-third of the building, approximately 60 feet by 80 feet, will be poured concrete, and the balance graveled," the plan stated.

The intention is the area with the concrete floor would be the location of Trossen's fishing guide service and "the performance of minor servicing of boats and other marine vehicles," according to the plan.

"Boats and other marine vehicles will be stored in and removed from the accessory building by appointment only, using forklifts or trailers only," it stated. "Consequently, only employees of the applicant, not customers, will deposit and remove the boats and other marine vehicles from the storage building. There will be no outdoor off-season storage of boats or other marine vehicles. Boats or other marine vehicles may be parked temporarily outdoors, less than 24 hours, pending their imminent pick up by customers."

The proposed annual hours of operation are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week from April 1 to Oct. 31. From Nov. 1 to March 31, it would be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Trossen currently has two full-time employees, but the business may need up to two additional full-timers, according to the plan.

"The overall operation is very clean, operates during limited hours and should result in only sporadic and minimal additional traffic on Linn Road," the plan stated.

Opposition

Others, including Colman, disagree. In his June 6 letter, which appears this week in its entirety as a Letter to the Editor, he took issue with Trossen's petition.

"The petition states that the purpose is not for an 'in-out facility,' but with the temporary parking of trailers, it essentially becomes just that — an in-out facility, although one that requires the boat owner to trailer and launch his own boat," Colman stated.

He also stated the conservancy shares the concerns of other local residents about how the request would affect traffic along Linn Road.

But the conservancy, the Birches association and other opponents appear to see eye-to-eye on other factors of Trossen's request.

What Colman states in his letter is similar to what was stated in an item promoting a May meeting organized by the Birches association about this issue.

"This is not an extension of a current business," the association stated. "It is the creation of a new business. In-and-out boat service is clearly intended. How many more boat trailers will be parked on this property for 24-7 'imminent' pickup? How will this affect our already crowded boat launch, beach parking, Linn Road traffic and the quality of life along Linn Road and our (quiet) R-1 residential neighborhood?"

Colman stated if this were a petition "for modernization and upgrading" The Pier "to make it more viable, that would be a different matter."

However, he stated the conservancy's greatest concern is for the possible reduced safety and additional congestion on Geneva Lake.

According to Colman's letter, there is limit on boat launching based on the number of parking spaces in specific lots, with the exception of Gage Marine.

"Geneva, Fontana, Williams Bay and Linn Pier all operate this way, thereby capping the number of boats on the lake from launchings,"

Colman stated. "This is important for the safety of boat traffic on the lake. Accidents, some causing deaths, have increased every year on the lake and are a cause for serious concern. There are just too many boats crowding the waterways."

He claims Trossen's proposal would sidestep this control mechanism.

"This proposed facility would allow the total number of boats in the warehouse to launch at the same time as it is close to the lake and thereby subverts the parking limitation that has helped control the boat population on the lake," Colman stated. "Thus, we believe Mr. Trossen's proposal both violates the Linn Master Plan and adds to the safety risk on Geneva Lake."

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