The recent sale of the historic Lake Forest Golf Course property has created a lot of buzz from local residents and visitors concerned about what development could mean for the area.

Dalmark Development Group LLC., a real estate firm based in Leawood, Kansas, finalized the purchase Feb. 17 to the tune of $2.5 million, according to the Vilas County Register of Deeds office.

Zoning records show the development parcel is approximately 130 acres, with about 1,225 total feet of frontage on the Eagle River Chain of Lakes — 880 feet on the channel between Eagle and Voyageur lakes, and another 345 feet on Voyageur Lake.

It is one large parcel, but it has a number of “exemption parcels” inside of it — especially along Anthony Drive and Treehouse Village — that were split off years ago, said Vilas County Zoning Administrator David Sadenwasser.

Sadenwasser noted that preliminary plans indicate Dalmark plans to build a 155-unit condominium development that includes duplexes and fourplexes on the grounds.

The property is zoned in a General Business District, which Sadenwasser said allows a wide variety of uses, including the existing golf course, restaurant and bar, and single- or multiple-family dwellings. This also means there would be no limitations in place if future owners want to rent out their condos weekly.

“Since the property was zoned that way at the time of purchase, there is no way for it to be rezoned differently unless the owners were to change the form of ownership to a subdivision, individual lots, etc., in which case it would then go in front of the Zoning Committee again,” he said.

“At this point the project falls under rules of the time it was started, meaning it’s grandfathered in under the zoning ordinances in place when the property was purchased. The office has to allow it if it’s zoned that way, so there is not much to be done after the fact.”

Sadenwasser explained that plans were actually recorded back in 2007 for a 142-condo development, which were then amended this past February to 155 units that had different locations and building types than the original planned development.

Three Lakes resident and minority partner in the project Jake Weinand said plans are still being finalized for the project and more information will be shared at a later date.

Although he was unable to talk specific details, Weinand stressed they are “following every rule out there” when drawing up their plans.

“The condo was recorded (in 2007) — it was set in stone and approved 17 years ago,” Weinand said, adding that there is no change in density from what had already been approved. He also said the group aims to maintain as much history as possible on the grounds.

Sadenwasser said zoning rules require any new structures have to be at least 75 feet back from the water, but the clubhouse could be torn down and “rebuilt in the same footprint”, even though it is closer to the shoreline than 75 feet.

Based on the preliminary plot, which Sadenwasser said is subject to change before final approval is given by the department, the historic clubhouse will remain on the grounds. The existing fitness center is not included in the plans and will likely be removed.

Aside from losing what many view as an important piece of Eagle River history, some of the main concerns voiced by residents involve what sorts of impact a development that size could have on surrounding waterways and roadways.

Sadenwasser said that, again due to how the property is zoned and the fact that nothing in the ordinance requires it, no impact studies would have to be completed before development could start.

He added that the zoning office accepts public input and comments, but this is “not a situation where the public can vote on it.”

Since the parcel is located in the town of Washington, Chairman Jim Egan has received a lot of comments from the public — most of which have been negative and he attributes to people’s “fear of the unknown.”

“We’ve been getting a million questions and we don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.

“There are concerns with septic and wells available to handle that type of influx of people — 155 units of duplexes or fourplexes is a lot of additional people,” Egan said, adding that another big concern is the development affecting infrastructure like local roads and waterways.

“There has been mention of putting in a private road, but they would still have to utilize Rangeline and other local roads in the area.”

It is also unclear if these units would be sold as condominiums to house people, or if they would be rented out weekly by owners, which could create even more strain on local resources.

Egan said that by his understanding zoning currently allows those units to be used as weekly rentals, but if an HOA was put into place banning it, then it would only be allowed to be used by owners as a place of residence.

As far as boat traffic and pier allotments go, Egan said the town has no control over the boat traffic and safety in the channel, which is regulated by the DNR.

According to Francesca Sanchez of the Wisconsin DNR, a DNR pier permit is needed to install a pier that exceeds “reasonable use,” which she explained means that a riparian owner can have two boat slips for the first 50 feet of frontage and one slip for each additional 50 feet of frontage.

“If the condo will have 1,225 feet of frontage, they can have up to 25 boat slips under reasonable use,” Sanchez said. “If the number of slips does not exceed the amount allowed under reasonable use, and it meets all of the exemption criteria in the exemption checklist, they do not need a DNR permit. The exemption is based on Wisconsin Statute 30.12(1g)(f).”

She added that certain riparians (commercial, condo units, etc.) can apply for an individual permit for double reasonable use.

“Again, if there is 1,225 feet of frontage, under double reasonable use they can apply to have up to 50 boat slips. The related statute is 30.12(1j),” Sanchez said, adding that DNR wardens and local police/sheriff departments enforce boating regulations as there are state boating laws and local ordinances.

There are a lot of question marks looking to the future of the property, but it’s also worth looking back at what the course has given to the area.

Originally built in 1917, the nine-hole course has provided a recreational experience for almost 105 years. In addition to individual tee times, the course also offered multiple leagues for residents and summer visitors to join. It also was home to the famous Sunday afternoon deck parties for nearly 30 years that featured live music on the water each week.

“Lake Forest Golf Course will be missed as a place that hosted a lot of leagues for both men and women, as well as other social events,” Egan said. “It was a place where you could get together and have a good time.”