Winning Seasonal Housing Plan Could Face Battle

County board to address number of cabins allowed at campgrounds

An Illinois couple was recently recognized as the winner of the 18th annual Door County Entrepreneur Training Program Business Plan Contest with a seasonal housing plan they hope to make a reality for the 2020 season.

Jamie and Greg Schab were honored in what was called the “most competitive field in many years” for an “incredible, well-articulated, thorough plan” that received 284 out of 300 points from the judges.

The plan calls for placing cabins on 40 acres in Baileys Harbor; the cabins will be rented to seasonal employees.

“The Schabs are offering a solution for one of the key economic challenges currently facing Door County as identified by the recent housing study,” said Jim Schuessler, executive director of Door County Economic Development Corporation, in announcing their contest win. “Their proposal offers high-quality, affordable seasonal housing for J-1 workers while fully respecting their future neighbors in the site where it will be developed.”

However, according to letters that poured in to the county recently, some neighbors don’t see it that way. Some are accusing the Schabs of using the county/state campground ordinances to create what one letter writer described as a “high-density, substandard housing development.”

The Schabs say they are just trying to help the county – in their own small way – to reduce the seasonal-workforce housing shortage while creating a business for themselves and their two sons, ages 13 and 15.

“We’re campers. We kind of know the lifestyle,” Jamie said. “We started putting ideas together, and that’s how we got the concept. We had read about other [housing] projects that didn’t go through, like dorm-style, and I thought a campground-style would work. With Door County being so outdoorsy, we thought it would be a good idea.”

The 40 acres are located at a former cherry orchard on Ahrens Road in Baileys Harbor. 

Jamie said the family would reserve three and a half to five acres of the property for a house and their personal property, and they are working with a cabin builder in Unity, Wisconsin, to come up with 16 14-foot-by-28-foot cabins with four-foot porches on the front. Each unit would have three bedrooms with bunk beds (the state campground code allows six people on a single campsite), a small community area for a couch and a small kitchen with a microwave and refrigerator. The cabins would have electricity but no bathrooms.

An existing processing building on the property would be converted to communal use, with bathrooms, showers, a laundry facility, a kitchen for cooking meals and a general store.

They have also been talking to Door County Cab about having a shuttle service to help the workers get to work.

“This is going to be a community effort trying to get these kids back and forth,” Greg said. “I’ve been talking to business owners in Baileys Harbor, where I’m gathering support for the project. There are 58 businesses in Baileys Harbor. I delivered pamphlets to each business and talked to most of the business owners.”

“And they were very interested in the project,” Jamie added.

“We’re not developers,” Greg said. “We’re people who want to build a business. We’ll be living there.”

The Schabs are still gathering paperwork and waiting for their civil engineer to finalize some documents before submitting an application for a conditional use permit to the Door County Land Use Services.

Mariah Goode, head of Land Use Services, said she has met with the Schabs and advised them of possible changes coming to the county campground ordinance that could have an impact on their plans.

At its Aug. 1 meeting, the county’s Resource Planning Commission (RPC) recommended some changes to the county ordinance that include allowing plumbing and electrical for campground cabins. But the committee also decided to limit the number of cabins at campgrounds.

“That’s where the Catch-22 is specifically to the Schabs’ proposal,” Goode said. “They want to do 100 percent camping cabins, which is currently allowed and will be allowed until probably the first of October.”

She explained that when the county board approves a modified version of a text amendment that has been put forward for a public hearing, the amendment doesn’t go into effect until 40 days after the county votes on it. The RPC held the public hearing on Aug. 1, and the county board will probably make a decision on the revision at its Aug. 27 meeting.

“In order to even come remotely close to what they want to do, the Schabs need to apply within 40 days of the county board vote,” Goode said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen at the county board. Generally, they tend to go along with committee recommendations, so we’ll see. I’m sure there might be some questions.”

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