Carol Warden expressed concerns about wild rice impacts with the proposal.
Carol Warden expressed concerns about wild rice impacts with the proposal.
After a five-hour hearing last Thursday on an application for a 200-site campground and zipline/aerial trekking development in the town of Lincoln, the Vilas County Zoning Committee voted 5-0 to approve the conditional use permit (CUP) application with limited conditions.

Jason and Nicole Bach proposed the development on 32 acres on Highway 17 South in the town of Lincoln, bordered on the north by the Mud Creek boat landing road at the state wayside, on the west by Highway 17 and on the south by Skinner Road. The property includes 1,328 feet on Mud Creek. 

While the property is zoned general business and campgrounds are allowed, a CUP is required for a campground in Vilas County.

The public hearing on the application attracted 45 persons to the courthouse conference rooms, with one testifying in favor and 11 against. In addition, there were 92 letters received against the proposed campground and 75 received in favor.

Nicole Bach, owner, indicated they were planning to develop the site in three phases: first with limited camping sites along with septic system, wells, shower building and laundry; second with more campsites and an office; and third with the zipline/trekking complex.

“We would use Highway 17 to enter with the exit on Skinner Road,” she said. “Each site would be 40 by 50 feet or larger with vehicle speeds limited to 5 mph. In addition, no outside firewood would be allowed to be brought in and there would be a quiet time from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Wildwood Outdoor Adventures would include the zip lines tower to tower above the tree line with trekking and rock climbing.

“We intend to educate our guests on aquatic invasives, provide them with a map showing all boat landings on the Chain of Lakes, and let them choose which one to use depending on the size of their crafts,” said Nicole Bach.

She concluded her testimony by stating they were “looking forward to having a positive impact on our community.”

Public testimony

One person, Robert Mason, favored the development, indicating the Bachs “are the kind of people we want to live here” and “other campgrounds on our lakes are well run with no negative impacts.”

Among those testifying against were persons living along Skinner Road, including Peggy Sieren.

“Skinner Road is narrow with no turnarounds and cannot handle the traffic,” said Siern.

Siern also was concerned there would be trespassing issues to surrounding lands to look for firewood and identified “the pit” as an abandoned dump site with unknown items buried.

Kaisha McGreal said she has worked as a sheriff’s department telecommunicator for about 22 years and there “have been an average of 29 complaints a week from campgrounds, countywide, during the camping season.”

Skinner Road resident Keith Popp said he had concern over his property value dropping.

“It would substantially diminish the value of my property,” he said “It is not a proper place for this type of development.”

Michael Potter said he had concern over the impacts on wild rice in Mud Creek and noted this was an area for blastomycosis — an infection caused by a fungus called Blastomyces. The fungus lives in the environment, particularly in moist soil and in decomposing matter such as wood and leaves, and can cause a lung infection in humans.

Nancy Slizewski said she wanted to get the county health department involved regarding blastomycosis as did Maxine Drager, who also questioned if a high-capacity well was planned.

Carol Warden of the Vilas County Lakes and Rivers Association also expressed concern on wild rice impacts, saying “the county should not issue the CUP.”

Michael Kennedy said the six standards the committee had to consider included noise levels, noting noise levels from ziplines are very loud, playing a recording for the committee. 

Debra Kennedy said she had concerns about algae blooms, if Kirtland’s warblers were present and if the 200 camping sites on about 9.5 acres would cause erosion.

All letters received were identified as to the authors and entered into the record.

Panel discussion

Vilas County Zoning Administrator Dawn Schmidt, along with assistant zoning deputy Jane Van Wormer and county Corporation Counsel Jack Albert provided the zoning committee with information on the six items they needed to consider for approval and provided information on issues from the testimony.

Committee member Jerry Burkett recused himself from the agenda item and left the room before testimony began, indicating a salesperson in his real estate office sold the property to the Bachs.

Van Wormer said she gathered information on blastomycosis from state health officials in Madison, indicating both Vilas and Oneida counties are “hot spots.” She noted soil cannot be tested for blastomycosis spores.

Schmidt said all other permits for wells, septic, and buildings have to go through her office for approval and all storm water runoff and wetland permits need approval from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) .

County Board Chairman Ron DeBruyne looked up the definition of a high-capacity well, indicating it would be one capable of pumping 100,000 gallons a day and would be under the jurisdiction of the DNR.

Committee members said they understood the public concerns, but noted the development has to be built to Vilas County zoning standards, DNR requirements and any applicable federal codes which would protect the values of water, land and natural resources.

The committee also noted although the campground would change the neighborhood, it would not substantially diminish other uses or impair other uses in the general business zoning district.

It was pointed out there are many uses that could be in a general business zoning district and this would not impede development in the area.

The committee found there are adequate utilities and access roads that are present or will be provided. 

Few conditions

It was noted ingress and egress to public streets are present, but it was an area where the committee did approve attaching two conditions if the vote was approved. 

One would be to have both an entrance and exit on Skinner Road to avoid persons driving to the no-outlet end with the lack of turnaround area and providing an egress and ingress on Highway 17 if approved by the Department of Transportation. A final condition was to have any lighting shielded downward.

The committee said the application complied with all aspects of the Vilas County general business zoning district.

On a roll call vote, the committee approved the CUP 5-0. Persons who may want to appeal the zoning committee decision need to file the appeal with the Vilas County Board of Adjustment.