Trustees Pump the Brakes on Village Hall Changes

After years of discussion that has included reviewing several different plans, Ephraim trustees have decided they like the village hall landscaping and parking lot pretty much the way they are. 

During its July 11 meeting, the board voted 3-2 against moving forward with a redesign aimed at showcasing a building that trustee Ken Nelson called “the most beautiful building in Ephraim.” The hall, built in 1927, is listed on both the Wisconsin and National Registers of Historic Places. 

The village first discussed redesigning the landscaping and parking around its historical village hall during the planning phase for its streetscape project almost a decade ago. It was put on the back burner at that time, but not taken entirely out of consideration.

During the past 18 months, the board has looked at several options to redesign the surrounding property, which fits snugly between Highway 42 and several bustling restaurants. Proponents hoped to better showcase the hall, which now has six parking stalls directly in front of it with few plantings. 

The village removed landscaping in trees in front of the village hall several years ago when it determined it was too difficult to maintain. Photo via Google Maps.

Several attendees asked whether the board would consider sending a survey to residents about what they would like to see done with the hall. President Mike McCutcheon said that’s not in the cards. 

“No, because we’ve publicized this, and the board wants to get this over with,” he said.

Some residents spoke in favor of the plan, which calls for replacing six stalls in front of the village hall with green space and plantings to give the building a grand entrance. Proponents said it would open up a view of the hall and its beauty. 

But many spoke against it, including Ephraim resident Tad Dukehart.

“I’m opposed to this, and it’s not about change – I’m supportive of change in the village,” he said. “I was incredibly impressed with the streetscape. But this is a bridge too far. It looks to me as though we’re trying to correct a problem we don’t have.”

Many who are opposed to the design pointed to concerns about delivery trucks accessing restaurants behind the hall with the new traffic pattern, as well as the net loss of six parking spots in the design.

“I am concerned about losing the parking,” said former trustee John Cox. “Losing six is not a good idea. I’m really concerned about the use of resources. We have a lot of roads that are falling apart. I just don’t think this is a good idea for our community. There are a lot of things we could do to make the hall look better for a lot less money.”

Todd Bennett, owner of the neighboring Chef’s Hat restaurant; and Sarah Martin, owner of Wilson’s Ice Cream Parlor, echoed that concern. “For me, it’s about losing six parking spaces when all I’ve heard for 20 years is that Ephraim needs more parking,” Bennett said.

“Adding more green space is great, but not when it comes at a loss of parking,” Martin said.

Trustee Tim Nelson said the loss of parking was a big negative in the plan and that the village has plenty of green space, but not enough parking for people to enjoy it. 

“This is a huge issue for the center of Ephraim,” he said, noting that the village already maintains at least two acres of green space in the core area. “I’m not in favor of our physical-facilities staff trying to maintain that in front of the village hall.”

But not everyone thinks parking is a big issue in Ephraim. 

“I personally don’t think we have a parking problem,” said former trustee Cindy Nelson. “We just have people who don’t want to walk a block to the place they want to go.”

“I look at this as an opportunity,” said Ken Nelson, while speaking for the design. “If [the village hall] is not the most beautiful building in Ephraim, I don’t know what is, and it’s surrounded in asphalt.”

In the end, Ken Nelson and Matt Meacham were the only trustees to vote for the plan. McCutcheon, Tim Nelson and Carly Mulliken voted against it. 

Anderson Dock Cleanup Hits Roadblock

Last month, the village was hopeful that the graffiti that has spread from the Anderson Warehouse to the entirety of the Anderson Dock, riprap and many other surfaces near the landmark building would soon be cleaned up. But removing years’ worth of paint on porous concrete and stone has proved more difficult than expected. 

Administrator Brent Bristol said he put a halt to the graffiti cleanup when he realized after three days that the cost would easily exceed the $10,000 cap the board had set for the project. 

“In an average area, it wasn’t removing a lot of the paint,” he said. “Even if we spent $12,000-15,000, we weren’t going to fix it.”

Bristol said he paused the work to give the board the chance to consider a new direction, which could include buying a washer or finding a different solution.

Related Organizations