Plan for outdoor farm events sparks protests

Sauk Road resident’s proposal to use property for large-scale dinners, weddings has neighbors concerned
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Plans for a bed-and-breakfast inn and large-scale event space in the Town of Grafton were tabled by the Plan Commission after neighbors voiced concerns about the proposal.

More than 30 residents attended a two-hour public hearing Wednesday, Jan. 8, on a conditional-use permit request by Kira Behrens for her farmstead, Golden Belles Farm, at 1235 E. Sauk Rd. 

Behrens wants to start an organic farm on the property, which is zoned for agricultural uses, and use the property for events and a five-bedroom house as an inn for as many as 10 guests. The latter two uses require a conditional-use permit.

The farm would sell its produce through a stand on the site and at farmers markets,  as well as supply local restaurants. Behrens said she would like to host farm-to-table dinners in the garden for 40 to 50 people. 

She also said she would like to make improvements to the property, including additions and renovations to some of the buildings. In her conditional-use permit application, Behrens outlined various events for 15 to 150 people that could occur four times per week. 

“That’s my biggest concern because we’ve all seen this before,” resident Steve Betts said regarding the large events. “It was bright, and there were cars burning in and out of there.”

A previous owner of the same property held a large wedding that was mentioned by several residents during the hearing. They also said they heard loud music emanating from the farm last week and that  it was loud and unacceptable.  

Behrens said the recent noise was a sound test and the loud volume the neighbors were referring to was the maximum level. She said a sound technician was performing tests to calculate the volume she could allow.

Behrens said the loudest level of noise the neighbors could hear would be about the same decibel range as a refrigerator.

“Will you hear music? Of course you will, but it’s at the same noise level you’re already hearing,” Behrens said, noting she does not plan to host many large-scale events.

Fire codes require her to install fire safety equipment and a sprinkler system for large events, Behrens said. There would not be more than 100 people at an event in the immediate future, she added.

About a dozen neighbors spoke during the hearing, most expressing concerns about amplified music, outside floodlights, portable toilets and 170 parking spaces in a residential neighborhood. The residents who spoke did not have issues with farming on the property or having a bed-and-breakfast inn.

“I’m not against Golden Belles Farm growing produce to distribute to restaurants or to farmers markets, and I’m not against their property having a 10-guest bed-and-breakfast abutting their property,” residents Dale and Judy Fischer wrote to the Plan Commission.

“I am against the non-agricultural uses that are proposed … The proposal for that property would adversely affect everyone in the general vicinity, and we feel that would lower our property values as well as possibly bring in unwanted traffic and congestion.”

Others said large events such as weddings could lead to inebriated people driving down their road and wandering on to their properties. 

Behrens said she wants to reconcile her neighbors’ concerns by adding fencing and conducting light studies to ensure large events won’t disturb the neighborhood. 

“I commend you for taking a shot and trying to save the farm and do something commercial with it,” commission member Dan Vogel said.

The commission tabled the matter for one month and advised Behrens to work with the town planning staff to reduce some of her requests and create specific limitations for large events.  

“We don’t want to micromanage, but we want to have reasonable boundaries where you can test out what you want to do,” Town Chairman Lester Bartel said.

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