Newcap denied zoning change for housing plan

Several area residents spoke against turning resort hotel into apartments
Kevin Passon

A proposal to turn the vacant White Pines Lodge into apartments for low- to moderate-income residents was denied the necessary zoning change by the Shawano County Planning, Development and Zoning Committee on July 3.

The unanimous vote followed public comments by several area residents and elected officials, most of whom opposed the change with the remainder at the public hearing to gather more information.

Other than officials with Newcap Inc., the nonprofit organization that provides a myriad of services and programs for those in need and the organization proposing the housing project, no one else spoke in favor of the proposal.

“(Tax)-exempt status scares myself and the town,” said Lonnie Schreiber, Town of Red Springs chairman.

The Red Springs Town Board voted in April to oppose the rezoning of the 28-room motel known as White Pines Lodge, N9117 Big Lake Road.

Newcap, which would not have to pay property taxes, proposed negotiating with the town to offer payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to help pay its share of costs for road maintenance, law enforcement, fire prevention and other town and county services.

Newcap officials proposed an amount similar to the $8,500 annual tax bill paid by the current owners. They suggested locking into a rate for 10-year increments, renewable at a negotiated rate every decade.

“Say things get heated in negotiations for whatever reason, and Newcap decides … we’re not going to pay anything at all,” Schreiber said. “Any agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on most of the time.”

Schreiber acknowledged Newcap changed its plans after the original plan was denied by the Town Board, but complained the new plans were not reintroduced to the board.

“The area is not fit for a facility of this sort,” he said. “And this project, after the changes were made, was never brought to us.”

Nearly a dozen residents then addressed the committee, urging members to not overrule the Town Board. They cited concerns over noise, traffic, the well and septic system, lake water pollution, the potential for vandalism from bored children with nothing in the area to occupy themselves, the lack of 24-hour on-site management and more.

Gresham resident Ginger Brady recalled problems after the current owner, Badgerland Travel International Inc. (owned by Jeff and Kathy White), rented the units to the former Aarrow Electric to bring in workers from Texas.

“My concern is, ‘Is there background at all done on what their background record is that you’re going to put there?’” she asked. “It’s been a nightmare. It’s been a real nightmare. When it was a motel and run properly, there were no issues going on.

“I just can’t see it. I don’t see it for our area at all. It’s just red flag after red flag after red flag.”

Newcap’s plans included remodeling the motel into three studio apartments, 17 one-bedroom apartments, one two-bedroom apartment and one three-bedroom apartment. The play area would be expanded and enclosed with a fence.

On-site management and counselors for the low- to moderate-income residents would be available each weekday. Renters would sign a one-year lease.

Committee members were unsure if, because they denied the zoning change, the matter had to be forwarded to the Shawano County Board.

Newcap also sought a conditional use permit, that if the rezoning was approved, would allow for the building to be used as apartments.

The committee denied the conditional use permit, just in case the County Board would move ahead and approve the rezoning request.