Construction business gets OK years after the fact

Neighbor dispute rears its head over plans to create parking area for equipment
Kevin Passon

More than three years after starting a home-based construction business, Dennis H. Bontrager finally has proper approval from Shawano County officials.

But it didn’t come without some controversy over his new plans to add a parking area for his equipment.

Bontrager had another contractor bring in fill to create a parking area for his construction equipment. Without being aware that he needed a conditional use permit to do so, he had 56 loads of fill brought in before the operation was shut down due to not having the permit.

On July 3, the Shawano County Planning, Development and Zoning Committee granted him the permit, but not without first hearing from an upset neighbor.

“A couple years ago, we started our own roofing and construction business. I didn’t realize we would need a home occupation permit,” Bontrager explained. “And then, this summer, I hauled some fill in. I never checked into it. I didn’t realize we needed a permit, so that’s what I’m here for.”

Bontrager Brothers Construction is located at N5234 State Highway 117, Bonduel.

Neighbor Alan Bernitt was upset with the pile of fill.

“The fill is put 17 feet from the property line that I occupy. This fill is 6 feet high,” he said. “When I moved there, we put in a septic system; we put in a 2-foot berm. We scraped the water from flowing in. Now, 17 feet from the property line is this mound of gravel, rock and silt, and with the current flow of water, all of this water is coming right into my property, on my drain field.”

Bontrager explained the fill was left there because he had to halt construction of the parking area.

“There’s 56 loads of fill brought in. It’s rock and silt. Water is going to go through there like a sieve, and it does. It’s going to come right into my drain field,” Bernitt said. “I’ve had three estimates if my drain field gets screwed up. That’s $65,000, and I’m not going to be the one paying for it.”

Bontrager said his intent is to level off the area and seed it.

Bernitt said his neighbor didn’t respect the land.

“There’s no respect for the topography of the land whatsoever,” he said. “They put the building up. It was a dirt floor. All of a sudden, they cemented in the dirt floor. Then, they cut into the hill towards his house. And now they put in all this fill. It’s screwing up the drainage royally.”

Bernitt said Bontrager should build a berm the entire length of the property line to prevent runoff onto his land. And he insisted the berm be made of blue clay for water control, containment and berm strengthening.

Charlie Fritsch, zoning chairman for the Town of Washington, said that when the zoning committee approved the parking plan, both parties were OK with it.

“When this came in front of the board, we talked about this,” he said. “One of the last questions I asked at that meeting about a berm, ‘Are both parties OK with this?’ This berm that you were putting in for drainage. You guys told me that you guys were OK with it. You even shook hands on it. I don’t know what changed on this.”

The county committee eventually approved the conditional use permit to allow Bontrager to build the parking area, suggesting he be mindful of his neighbor’s concerns.

Committee members also approved a conditional use permit to allow Bontrager to run his construction company as a home occupation business, the permit he should have applied for when the business operations began three or four years ago.