Workforce Housing Proposed for Fish Creek

Little Spring Road neighbors are opposed to the project

The Gibraltar Plan Commission will take a first look at a plan for constructing seven apartment buildings that are intended to be used by local employers for employee housing.

Michael Niss, on behalf of the Fish Creek Sanitary District, is proposing to rezone 4.90 acres at 3815 County F from Light Industrial (LI) to Neighborhood Residential (NR). The zoning request is being sought so that Niss may apply for a conditional-use permit to establish a multiple-occupancy development.

The Town of Gibraltar has county zoning, so the County of Door would make the decision about the rezoning request and the conditional-use permits to follow, with the town only making recommendations either for or against a request. 

The area marked in red shows the almost five-acre parcel, currently all forested, that’s being proposed for a workforce housing development. The land is owned by the Fish Creek Sanitary District.

“The property would need to be rezoned first, and then if that were successful, a conditional-use permit would be required for the units themselves,” said Mariah Goode, director of Door County Land Use Services. “Multiple-occupancy developments of this scope require a conditional-use permit.” 

The buildings would be located on a lot owned by the Fish Creek Sanitary District, according to Niss, who owns Michael Niss Construction. The lot is located on County F, east of Little Spring Road.

Together, the seven buildings would comprise 49 units, each measuring about 544 square feet. 

The apartments would be “condo’ed out,” Niss said, to local businesses that would use them as employee housing. He said he’s been collecting commitments from local business owners and is confident there’s enough interest in the project.

“All of the businesses I canvassed echoed a need for it,” Niss said.

A rough sketch of a seven-building workforce-housing project being proposed for land at the Fish Creek Sanitary District. Source: County of Door.

Opponents of this plan, including members of the Little Spring Road Group and participants at sanitary-district meetings, have already voiced their concerns about the project. Those include worries that the apartment residents would disrupt the neighborhood with parties, that the units would reduce the property values of nearby homes, and that they would cause health issues for the tenants because the buildings would be located close to the sanitation-treatment plant. 

Gibraltar’s Plan Commission will make a recommendation that the town board will then consider during its next meeting May 3. 

The county’s Resource Planning Committee won’t hear the request on the rezoning until at least three weeks after May 5, which is the date when the county expected to get the scheduling process underway, according to Kristin Rankin, Door County zoning administrator. That process includes notifying all within 300 feet of the property that would be rezoned.

— Debra Fitzgerald contributed to this report.

Food-Truck Ordinance Approved

After implementing a 2018 ordinance to ban food trucks – and having that ordinance ruled unconstitutional and wiped from the books in 2020 – Gibraltar has a new mobile-vending ordinance.

This ordinance is similar to others in nearby municipalities, according to town administrator Travis Thyssen. Key points include:

• Mobile vendors may operate in Gibraltar up to four times before they are required to purchase a permit.

• A mobile-vending permit in Gibraltar costs $500. The fee was put in place because food trucks don’t pay property taxes the way that brick-and-mortar restaurants do.

• Three permits will be available.

• Mobile vendors may operate only on private, nonresidential properties such as theater or gallery grounds. They may operate in only one location per permit, and they must be located on a paved surface.

The ordinance was OK’d by the town attorney and approved by the board during an April 12 meeting. 

“It meets state guidelines and provides a service to the town without impeding brick-and-mortar restaurants,” Thyssen said. 

Mailbox Ordinance in the Works

A new ordinance would regulate how far from the road mailboxes are placed within the Town of Gibraltar.

Chair Steve Sohns took this idea to the town board April 12 after he noticed mailboxes on the shoulder of Peninsula Players Road and Gibraltar Road, among other areas. This may be because “when roads are widened, shouldering machines are going around mailboxes and leaving it at that,” Sohns said.

One problem this causes is snow plows veering to avoid mailboxes placed too close to the road, thus narrowing the road and leaving snow piles on both sides of the mailbox, according to Sohns. He said another issue is that people riding bicycles, motorcycles and farm equipment cannot safely stay on the road’s shoulder if mailboxes are in their way.

The board agreed to move forward with drafting an ordinance to address this issue. Few details – such as whether the town or the property owner will be responsible for moving mailboxes that violate the ordinance – have been hammered out yet. But one detail – the required distance between the mailbox and the road – will likely be based on U.S. Postal Service standards.

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