Sister Bay Approves Wedding Barns Across Residential District

With little discussion, the Sister Bay Village Board followed the recommendation by the Plan Commission to amend the zoning code, now allowing assembly halls throughout the R-3 zoning district. At the plan commission meeting, the recommendation passed on a 4-2 vote, in what Denise Bhirdo called a “very, extremely unpopular” move.

Residents railed against the move, claiming the village was retroactively approving a use to cover up a spot zoning dispute.

“By allowing this conditional use, we are allowing a commercial enterprise to exist in residential areas and now you are considering allowing that on any residential R-3 property,” said Kathleen Kunstman, a resident on Fieldcrest Road where the wedding barn is expected to sit.

The plan commission said, by requiring a conditional use permit, any future assembly halls in R-3 districts could be severely restricted. But a change in the state law in 2017 strips many of the village’s powers when issuing conditional use permits.

Vivian Nienow, a resident of Northwoods Drive near the wedding barn property, contracted an attorney to look into the original zoning change, which she claims constituted spot zoning. She may continue toward litigation.

“Our lawyer very recently, as in a couple of hours before the meeting, came up with another option,” Nienow said in a Wednesday morning phone call. “I don’t want to sue. I want the village board to do what’s right. I’m not alone in seeing, believing that this was a mistake.”

At the plan commission’s hearing, residents also expressed concern with the fact the village did not have a definition of what an assembly hall was before approving their conditional use in the R-3 district.

The newest village board member, Rob Zoschke, brought those concerns to the board.

“We’re potentially saying yes to this but not knowing how it’s going to be defined,” Zoschke said.

The plan commission will come back in coming months and write the definition for an assembly hall. If the commission narrowly defines what an assembly hall is, it may be able to preempt any other developments in the R-3 district that would claim to be an assembly hall.

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