Committee Tables Quarry Development Decision

After hearing nearly eight hours of testimony about the proposed RV village at the old stone quarry site in the Town of Sevastopol Thursday, the Door County Resource Planning Committee (RPC) tabled a decision on issuing a Conditional Use Permit for the project until next Wednesday. The committee heard testimony from the developers of a proposed RV Park and opponents of the development.

RPC Chair Ken Fisher said it was the longest single meeting he has ever been a part of. The meeting packet the RPC had before them to review was more than 1,400 pages long. The meeting was held at the Door County Community Center to accommodate a crowd of more than 100 people who showed up for the proceedings.

The 117-site development would be located at the former Leathem Smith quarry across from George Pinney County Park on Bay Shore Drive. Each site would be 9,000 square feet, on which owners would have the option to build homes with a first-floor footprint of up to 1,200 square feet. At full build-out the project could include 115 homes.

Pete Hurth of Baudhuin Engineering led the presentation, which was largely the same as the presentation given to the Sevastopol Plan Commission last month. He said the development would allow only Class A motor coaches, which can cost between $200,000 and $1 million and look similar to a tour bus.

The meeting was held in the Door County Community Center to accommodate the large crowd. Photo by Myles Dannhausen Jr.

The plan includes ponds for stormwater management and aesthetics, a clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis and pickleball courts. Developers have emphasized that the project is a permitted use for the site under county zoning. Developers are not seeking a zoning change or variance for the quarry, which is owned by Peggy Dreutzer and has been zoned Recreation Commercial since 1968.

“At some point something has got to happen to that piece of property,” Hurth said.

He seemed surprised by the level of outrage regarding the proposal.

“There’s always opposition, I get that,” he said. “Nobody likes anything changed. But this is quite the opposition.”

A well-organized opposition group made up of nearby residents and other concerned citizens questioned many aspects of the plan. The committee received more than 140 pieces of correspondence opposing the proposal. Other than the developers, no residents spoke in favor of the plan at Thursday’s meeting. Opponents focused heavily on wastewater and stormwater management plans and its potential impact on surrounding property values. 

Geologist Roger Kuhns argued that the site and surrounding wells are much more susceptible to groundwater contamination than developers have asserted due to the fractured karst rock. Kuhns argued that by his calculations the project will require disturbing more than 100,000 cubic feet of stone, which would require a mine reclamation plan.

The developers plan to put an average of 18 inches of material and soil on top of the existing rock, Hurth said, a significant part of that coming from rock excavated for stormwater ponds on the site. The plan calls for curbs and gutters to control runoff and guide it to the stormwater-retention pond. The water would then flow down to another pond below the bluff on Bay Shore Drive.  The stormwater management plan has not yet been approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which has requested a geological study after challenges from the No Quarry RV Village group.

Hurth touted the demographics of the Class A motor-coach clientele, pointing to studies that show that 87 percent of Class A coach owners are older than 45, 38 percent are older than 65, and 50 percent of such owners have annual incomes of more than $100,000. 

Developers Tom Goelz and Mike Parent hired Kurt Kielisch of Forensic Appraisal Group to perform a survey of similar developments to determine its likely impact on neighboring property values. Kielisch presented surveys of communities where similar RV resorts in surrounding states, including Michigan.

“We do believe there is a temporary stigma attached to neighboring properties,” he said. But he said that eventually declines and there is no long-term stigma impacting surrounding property values.

But the opposition poked holes in his survey, pointing out that Hearthside Grove, the Petosky, Michigan development most-often cited by developers as a model for this project, is located in a light industrial area very different than the neighborhood of single-family homes surrounding the quarry.

Opponents also asked the RPC to deny the Conditional Use Permit based on the potential impact of increased traffic along Bay Shore Drive, threats to public health and safety from excavation and blasting, and the disturbance of a historically significant site.

Developers have noted that they would be required to adhere to all state regulations when it comes to blasting and excavation, including dust and noise control. Hurth said that arguments about traffic impacts have been overblown.

“These RVs will not be coming and going on a regular basis,” he said. “People will come up, park the RV, hook it up, and most will leave it there for the season.”

Near the seven-hour mark of the meeting Fisher asked the developers about the finances behind the proposal.

“I don’t think anyone can vote for this based on a pipe dream,” he said. Committee members and opponents expressed concerns about what happens if lots in the development don’t sell, or construction begins and the developers run out of money in the middle of the project.

Goelz said that to this point the development team was spending their own time and money on the project, but did not have a clear answer on financing once the project begins.

“When we plugged ourselves into various people in the industry,” he said, “people told us that people loan money to these things because they believe in them. But you have to have the permits first. Until you have permits in hand, you don’t have anything. Without a permit, we don’t have anything to finance or to sell.”

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