Referendums in Egg Harbor, Ephraim, Gardner and Island School District

Three municipalities and one school district in Door County are referring questions to voters for a direct decision. These referendum questions on different issues will be decided within the Village of Egg Harbor, the Village of Ephraim, the Town of Gardner and the Washington Island School District. 

Village of Egg Harbor Asking for Funding for Kress Pavilion

The Village of Egg Harbor is asking voters to allow it to exceed the tax-levy limit to help fund the Kress Pavilion. 

The referendum language reads: Under state law, the increase in the levy of the Village of Egg Harbor for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year, 2022, is limited to 0.785%, which results in a levy of $2,297,577. Shall the Village of Egg Harbor be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year, 2022, for the purpose of providing operating funds for the Donald and Carol Kress Pavilion and Egg Harbor Library, by a total of 5.233%, which results in a levy of $2,417,577 and include and not exceed the increase of $120,000 for fiscal years 2022 through 2028?

The village will review that dollar figure every year and may choose not to use the full amount if the Kress generates more revenue, if private funding is secured to supplement the operations and/or if funds are found from other sources, such as a room-tax increase. 

When the facility opened in 2018, the village anticipated operating at a loss for the first three years, but it hoped the facility would be revenue neutral after that by scheduling weddings, conferences and other events. The pavilion was funded with $5 million in private donations and $1.5 million from the village.

General manager Jess Reinke said late last year that the staff has learned a lot during the first two years of operation and were on a good track before COVID-19 led to the cancellation of dozens of weddings. There were 31 weddings scheduled at the Kress in 2020, but it was able to host just six scaled-back events.

“We walk a fine line of charging a rate that is accessible to people and will also generate revenue,” Reinke said. “We could make it expensive, and a lot of people couldn’t hold events here, but that’s not what we want this space to be.”

The Kress Pavilion has received rave reviews and has become a sought-after venue for meetings and events. Village President John Heller credited Reinke last year for creating revenue streams for the venue. 

“Now I believe it is a terrific asset to the village, and now that we have it, we’ve got to make it work,” Heller said. “I was a skeptic, but I’m glad we built it. I don’t think we’re ever going to have a break-even point.”

Gardner Asks Voters if They Want Zoning

The Town of Gardner has no zoning to control land uses and no ordinances regulating mines. That had not been a problem until last year, when Scott Franda purchased property off Stevenson Pier Road to open a limestone quarry, which he plans to mine for the next 20-40 years in 10-acre quadrants.

All Franda needed to make that happen was approval from the Door County Soil and Water Conservation District on a post-operation reclamation plan and a stormwater permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. By the time neighbors learned about the development and how their quality of life could be changing, Franda had already applied for the permits.

Town officials agreed to place a moratorium on new mining operations until the town hammered out a mining ordinance. 

The town adopted that nonmetallic mining ordinance last month, which covers new mines and changes to existing mines, but it doesn’t apply to the Franda mine because he had filed his applications before adoption of the ordinance.

“I’m not against a nonmetallic mining ordinance, but I’m against the way we did it,” said Gardner Chair Mark Stevenson. “To me, it’s a back door into zoning.”

To learn whether voters want to open the front door into zoning, the town board approved putting the question on the ballot. The referendum language reads: Shall the Town of Gardner pursue establishing zoning regulations within the town? 

The referendum is advisory only. Stevenson said if it passes, the board would take it up during the town’s annual meeting April 20. 

“I think the town still is in favor of no zoning,” Stevenson said.
“There are people moving in from out of the area that come from zoned areas and can’t understand why people can park a travel trailer on a lot and camp there for a couple days. Well, we have no zoning. Gardner is kind of a fishing area. They want to come and stay for a week and fish. There’s nothing wrong with that. They’re not unsightly. It’s a recreational area, and you have to remember that. Some people think it’s their personal retirement area.”

Washington Island School District Asking for Operations Funding

The Washington Island School District is asking voters for permission to boost its operational budget for two years. The island school district relies heavily on local taxes and is 94% locally funded. 

The referendum asks voters for a “yes” or “no” answer to the following statement: Be it resolved by the School Board of Washington Island School District, Door County, Wisconsin, that the revenues included in the Washington Island School District budget be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91 Wisconsin Statutes by $675,000 for the 2021-2022 school year and by $775,00 for the 2022-2023 school year for non-recurring purposes of paying the ongoing operational expenses of the school district. 

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