Year in Review 2018: Changes Bring Drama to the Town of Gibraltar

It’s been a rough year for the Town of Gibraltar. Residents resisted a handful of projects, and the April town-board election drew fierce and funded skirmishes between candidates.

Meanwhile, the town remains embroiled in litigation over its early 2018 decision to ban food trucks throughout Gibraltar. Modification of a 1970s-era ordinance effectively banned food trucks in the town, which shut down operation of a food truck on the private property of White Cottage Red Door. The shop owners sued – with the power of a media-savvy, nationwide, libertarian law firm behind them – alleging the ban was instituted illegally to protect local restaurants in which town-board members are invested. As 2018 closes out, there is no clear end in sight for the lawsuit.

The litigation over the food-truck ban was just one controversial topic that played into the April town-board elections, which saw the ousting of longtime board member Brian Hackbarth, who received fewer than half the votes of Bill Johnson or incumbent Barb McKesson.

The air surrounding the election was thick with tension regarding the rapid clear-cutting of trees for a new parking lot in Fish Creek’s main corridor. Residents surrounding the development mounted a campaign against the town board, funding mailers to influence the April election and successfully halting the project after uncovering the town had failed to acquire a needed permit.

Residents continued to rein in what some believed to be an overreaching town board as construction costs for new bathrooms at the Fish Creek beach were released. An initial proposal of $850,000 brought more than 200 voters to the Gibraltar school gymnasium to handily reject the price. Those in opposition called the project a luxury, especially when placed next to the costs associated with the rest of the beach upgrade and the upcoming highway project. Back at the drawing board, Gibraltar settled on a $300,000 budget, which residents readily supported. The bathroom is expected to be functional before the Fourth of July festivities in 2019.

Lingering in the background is the reconstruction of Highway 42 through downtown Fish Creek, which will result in delays and closures during the spring of 2019.

For all the struggles in Gibraltar, the town did have much to be proud of in 2018. The business community welcomed Taco Cerveza, an outdoor bar and patio serving creative fare; and Bison Bison, which brought distinctive craft spirits and rare wine within reach.

Gibraltar school will start work on renovating its library, cementing its place as a top-tier educational facility.

Perhaps most importantly, the town has much to look forward to in 2019. The reconstruction of the highway will breathe new life into Fish Creek’s downtown, and visitors will get to enjoy the expanded beach for the first time.

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