Retreat can’t accept reservations until town rewrites zoning code

Abloom Farm owners told to put their plans on hold while board updates permit guidelines
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

The owners of a retreat and wedding barn venue in the Town of Saukville can’t accept any more reservations unless the town rewrites its zoning codes and issues permits for the facility to continue operating.

Dale Stenbroten and his wife Katy Rowe have been running the 17-acre Abloom Farm Resort, 2839 Hwy. 33, since last June as a “residential tourist facility,” similar to an Airbnb, for retreats, weddings, family get-togethers and corporate events.

They bought the property from the John and Elizabeth Feith family, which called it Tranquility Tree Farm. But after a story on the retreat was published last month in the Ozaukee Press, it came to the attention of the couple and town officials that they needed permits to operate as a business.

Wanting to expand the retreat’s operation from four bedrooms in the main 4,600-square-foot house to four more bedrooms in the barn, Stenbroten came to the town Plan Commission on Feb. 14 and discovered that since the property is zoned for agricultural use, he needs a conditional-use permit to operate as a bed and breakfast inn. Hotels are not allowed under the town’s master plan.

“This thing has been flying under the radar for months,” commission member Tom Ravn said.

Stenbroten said that he had asked a former town clerk if he needed permits when the couple first began to operate and were told they did not.    

But supervisors discovered that the town ordinances have no definition for a bed and breakfast inn or how many rooms are allowed. They also discovered  that other definitions within the code are lacking, making the town codes out of compliance with state law.

Commission member Todd Korb suggested that a moratorium on conditional-use permits, especially Strenbroten’s request, be put into effect until the ordinances can be updated. “I’d like to get this clarified before we take any enforcement action” against Stenbroten, Korb said.

“Our normal approach is to be as gentle as possible,” said Supr. Mike Denzien, who sits on the commission.

“But this is a whole other magnitude,” Ravn said. “This is an ongoing operation.”

Stenbroten said he had several reservations on the books for the coming months. “The summer is starting to fill up already,” he said.

Commission members said they would allow Stenbroten to honor reservations he had already accepted but directed him to not accept any new reservations until the situation was clarified.

On Tuesday, the Town Board took up the matter and directed the commission to draft a definition of a bed and breakfast inn. The board considered an across-the-board moratorium on all conditional-use permits, but a review of town ordinances showed that some conditional uses are well-defined.

“But we have a lot of conditional uses we don’t have any definitions for,” Denzien said.

The Town Board voted that a resolution be drawn up that would put a moratorium on any conditional use that is ill-defined in town ordinances. “When one of those come to us, then we’ll have to work our way through it,” Denzien said.

A resolution to that effect is expected to be voted on next month. 

Once a bed and breakfast inn is defined, Stenbroten will be able to apply for a conditional-use permit, officials said.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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