Tags: Geneva Linn
June 26, 2012 | 03:15 PMLINN — Last year, officials denied John Trossen's request to rezone about 1-˝ acres at N1806 Linn Road because the town's master plan doesn't allow more business development in that area.
Now, Trossen, who owns The Pier Country Store, has filed another rezone request.
Once again, if approved, it would change the town of Linn's 2025 Comprehensive Plan. Once again, it has prompted a special joint hearing before the town board and plan commission on Monday, July 23, at 7 p.m.
This time, Trossen asked to rezone a half-acre to allow for an 80-by-60-foot accessory structure behind The Pier. The parcel on which the store is located is zoned for business use. The remaining 1-˝ acres, which forms an L around The Pier parcel on a map, is zoned residential.
"The (proposed) structure would garage commercial equipment, i.e. boats, commercial vehicles, company lawn mower, ice shanties, fishing equipment, store product overflow, etc.," Trossen stated in his April 27 petition to amend the 2025 plan.
The words "business expansion" do not appear on this petition, unlike what he asked for last year.
Also, the area in question is about one-third the size of what he wanted to rezone previously.
The building's smaller, too.
In March 2011, Trossen filed requests to create additional parking and build an accessory structure on the 1-˝ acres surrounding the current convenient store.
He wanted to provide off-season, inside storage and perform minor service operations on boats and other marine vehicles inside a 80-by-180-foot building.
The request sparked some concerns from the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency, the Geneva Lake Conservancy and neighbors, including The Birches Property Owners Association. One of the main concerns was, if Trossen wants to expand his business, it should be within the areas allowed by the town's master plan.
That was the main grounds for the Linn Town Board's 5-0 vote on a motion to deny Trossen's request in August 2011. Linn Town Chairman Jim Weiss had asked rhetorically if there were no businesses at that location and someone asked to rezone that property for business use, "would you say yes? I don't think you would."
How does a business like Trossen's end up in a residential area?
Weiss had said those who completed the 2025 plan allowed long-established businesses to remain, even though in this case, it amounts to spot zoning.
Truth is, part of the entire 2-˝ acre property has been used commercially for more than 70 years.
It was a restaurant, a small gas station and a soda shop with an attached single-family residence prior to Trossen purchasing the property in November 1998. Since then, he converted the former restaurant into a country store.
Trossen also runs a fishing guide service on Geneva Lake from the establishment, which is where he sells fishing gear such as live bait, tackle, groceries, deli products, snacks and liquor.
In his documents for last year's rezone request, Trossen stated business has grown. He wanted to expand his business to possibly include "such permitted uses as the sale of sporting goods, boat 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."
But in addition to that request being viewed by some as violating the town's master plan, others were concerned about how expanding The Pier would affect traffic along Linn Road and how the proposed business plan would subvert a policy governing the number of boats allowed on Geneva Lake. Some questioned whether the proposed business expansion plan was in fact a new business entirely.
Chuck Colman, of the conservancy's board of directors, made his concerns public in a June 6, 2011, letter to the Linn Town Board which was posted on the conservancy's Facebook profile.
Colman stated last year's plan would have created a new business which "clearly intended" in-and-out boat service, which he claimed violated a limit on boat launching based on the number of parking spaces in specific lots.
"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."
But the plan had its supporters.
At the August 2011 hearing, some argued that Trossen needs to expand his business, that he is an honest businessman with five children who needed to grow his business in order to survive.
"If John doesn't get this, he many not be here in a year," Linn resident Richard Mell said. "The economy is tough. He needs this proposal to be approved."
Matt Brueck, the president of an area bass fishing club, said he brings people to Linn because of Trossen -- people who pay to park and shop in Linn. He said if Trossen leaves Linn, the club would probably go elsewhere.