Residents irked by landscaping business

Complaints about noise, smoke, debris prompt town to delay approving permit
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Lakeshore Road residents expressed their frustration about a landscaping business operating out of compliance during a conditional-use permit public hearing at a Town of Grafton Plan Commission meeting Jan. 6.

More than a dozen neighbors complained about noise, smoke, brush buildup and landscaping equipment being stockpiled at 341 Lakeshore Rd., where Spring Trim 4 Seasons has been leasing space for several years.

“There’s noise and skid loaders running until midnight,” one resident said.

On Nov. 24, the town filed a civil complaint against the landscaping business for operating without a conditional-use permit after neighbors made multiple complaints about the operation.

The complaint accuses Spring Trim 4 Seasons of “stockpiling landscaping equipment, burning of brush, debris and wood, loading and unloading of trucks and the operation of skid loaders and other landscaping equipment.”

In July, the town issued a cease-and-desist notice to owner Nick Behl unless he applies for a conditional-use permit in the agriculturally zoned district. According to the complaint, the business has continued its landscaping and snow-removal operations since that time.

Behl told Ozaukee Press last month that he runs his business out of Milwaukee but leases space in Grafton to store equipment and uses about 10 acres for a tree nursery. He said he has since reduced his debris and brush pile and only operates a skid loader on the property.

“It’s frustrating, but I’m not trying to fight the town to use the property. I want to stay in Ozaukee County, and I don’t want to move my stuff,” he said.

Behl applied for a conditional-use permit in November, but his $1,500 check for a permit fee bounced, officials said. Behl said it was a miscalculation in his banking account, and he has since paid the fee.

During the hearing, which lasted nearly two hours, Behl said he doesn’t want to be a nuisance to his neighbors.

“This is new to me, and I’m trying to get it right,” he told the commission. “I need to get  my act together.”

Town officials said his business could continue as a tree nursery, which is growing about 350 trees, but the landscaping business would be more suitable outside of a residential area. Behl could be retroactively fined for each day he is operating without a conditional-use permit, which could range from $50 to $250 per day, depending on the judge’s ruling on the civil complaint.

Town Chairman Lester Bartel told Behl he should downsize his business and hire a lawyer to help him through the legal process.

“You have a lot on the line, and you need someone to  help you,” Bartel said.

The commission unanimously agreed to table its decision on the conditional-use permit application. Officials also told Behl to refine his plans because the material presented to the board was not detailed to their specifications.

“I want to get this right, and I don’t want to get it wrong,” Behl said.

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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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