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Balancing citizen and business rights PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 17:42

Residents of the hamlet of Little Kohler in the far northwest corner of Ozaukee County may soon get a bit of relief from a persistent nuisance. It’s about time—they’ve had to put up with the aggravation for years.

The nuisance derives from the popularity of a tavern near a cluster of homes. The bar doesn’t have adequate parking for its many patrons, who end up parking their cars, trucks and motorcycles along Highway H, sometimes intruding on private property, sometimes creating hazardous congestion on the county road.

It’s government’s responsibility to deal with the problem, but the Fredonia Town Board, which has jurisdiction over Little Kohler, has done little until now, except to enact a permit system several years ago to limit the number of live performances the bar can host, to respond to the residents’ complaints.

No doubt it’s an uncomfortable situation for town supervisors. On one hand, they see something desirable—a local business that is thriving, with a hard-working owner who has brought success to the Little Kohler Haus, a historic establishment (subject of an Ozaukee Press feature story several years ago) that for most of its more than 80 years of existence was a sleepy roadside watering hole. They seem to feel that, as articulated by Supr. Mark Schubert, “You can’t run a guy down for running his business the way he wants.”

On the other hand, they are getting legitimate complaints from constituents about a business that is annoying its neighbors and making travel on Little Kohler’s “main street”—Highway H—more dangerous than it should be. 

A vexing conflict, to be sure, but resolving it is what local government representatives are elected to do. Almost all towns, villages and cities have to face it at one time or another. When a business, whether it's an industrial operation plaguing neighbors with overloud equipment noise, noxious fumes or heavy truck traffic or a tavern whose crowds can overwhelm a neighborhood, infringes on the rights of citizens to lead relatively undisturbed lives in their homes and yards and be safe in using nearby roads, the public should come first.

It is fortunate for the residents that Highway H is a county road, because now the county government is involved and is providing the impetus for mitigating at least some of the problem. 

The county’s Traffic Safety Commission’s response was to propose a ban on parking on the north side of the road between Highway E and Kohler Drive, a distance of just over a quarter of a mile.

Town Board members thought that went too far. Supr. Jim Stemper argued against the no-parking zone, but in doing so helped illuminate the problem, pointing out that the cause was bar customers who ignore the rights of property owners. “It was a little country tavern,” he said, “but now it can draw 200 to 300 people to an event.” 

The Town Board proposed the compromise of banning parking on both sides of Highway H for a distance of about half of what the county commission recommended, and last week the county’s Public Works Committee went along with it.

If the parking ban is approved by the County Board, enforcement will be up to the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department, which could improve the residents’ plight in other ways.

It’s no secret that part of the neighbors’ irritation stems from the disturbance made by bar patrons when leaving the establishment at late hours, especially the many who ride motorcycles and like to punctuate the evening’s fun with a detonation of unmuffled, sleep shattering Harley exhaust noise. The presence of deputies might dampen some of that exuberance.

It’s likely that most people would cheer the success of a small business like the Little Kohler Haus, but would agree that success should not come at the expense of the peaceful enjoyment of their properties by residential neighbors.

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