Minocqua Reps Deliberate Sutton Road Fate

20 Aug

On August 19th, 2008, the Town of Minocqua held its Board of Supervisors meeting.  On the agenda was a discussion and decision regarding the development agreement between the Town of Minocqua and Gerald Kozey; and a re-consideration of the town’s position on Re-Zone Petition# 26-08 /Kozey.  Re-Zone Petition #26-08/Kozey, authored by Gerald and Constance Kozey, owners; and Jim Rein, agent, requests the rezone of over 800 acres of District 1-A Forestry land adjacent to Sutton Road to District #15 Rural Residential.  Initially, a developer’s agreement, which called for widening and paving of at least a portion of Sutton Road, in addition to creating a permanent snowmobile trail, was to be submitted in coordination with the town’s support of the rezone.   Following advice from their legal counsel, the Board of Supervisors voted to not accept a developer’s agreement as it could, in effect, bind the actions of future Boards of Supervisors.  Instead, the Board of Supervisors recommended that the Oneida County Planning and Zoning Committee approve the rezoning of approximately 25% of the 840 acres in question in a phase-by-phase development process.

Minocqua Board of Supervisors Listens to Presentation by Jim Rein

Minocqua Board of Supervisors Listens to Presentation by Jim Rein

In the deliberations preceding the approval of a 25% rezone, the Minocqua Board of Supervisors stated that with Minocqua’s inevitable growth, the new populace is going to have to live somewhere.  Susan Heil, Town Supervisor and Minocqua Planning Commission Chair, asserted that home seekers are apt to find properties close to the conveniences of downtown Minocqua desirable and Sutton Road’s proximity to downtown Minocqua makes it a logical place for development.  Joe Handrick, Minocqua Town Chairman, pointed out that while he generally supports Forestry land (and is sometimes referred to as a “Tree Hugger” by another board member), the Kozeys could opt to put a gravel pit on their property under current Forestry zoning.  Handrick denied that the board is using scare tactics to sway the public to support the board’s decisions.

Public opinion in support of the rezone included Bob Rynders who maintained that the town of Minocqua is dying and young people are moving away, leaving Minocqua populated by retirees.  The rezone of Kozey’s Sutton Road property into rural residential 5-acre lots, Rynders voiced, is an attractive way for Minocqua to create jobs and expand its tax base.  Snowmobile club members pointed out that tourism is vital to the survival of Minocqua and without the upkeep and development of snowmobile trails – like the Sutton Road trail proposed by the [defunct] development agreement – the town could revert to its state in the 1960s where area businesses rolled up their sidewalks in the winter, leaving only two bars open in the whole town.

Public opinion against the rezone included arguments that the over-saturation of available properties on the market, especially in the current economic climate, devalues everyone’s properties and it is fiduciarily unwise for the town to recommend the rezone when so many properties in the area are already for sale.  Others in attendance urged the town to first tackle the issue of creating non-polluting industrial opportunities to more broadly stimulate the local job market rather than pushing a short-term employment growth patch that initial development may or may not offer.  A perspective was offered that the degree of opposition to the rezone can be partially attributed to insufficient opportunities for public input in changes to Minocqua’s Land Use Plan.

It is this author’s opinion that the town of Minocqua lacks a clear mission with regard to how it intends to weather this economic climate and raise future revenue.  Does Minocqua want to re-position itself as an area of business and residential sprawl which would increase tax inflows but also increase service outflows?  If so, then the rezone of Kozeys’ property on Sutton Road seems imminent.  However, if Minocqua is interested in building upon an already-successful tourism industry, which attracts plenty of young people, complimented by its already-established retiree-base, then toying with the pristine “Northwoods” attraction of Sutton Road at this juncture is not prudent.  Indeed, soon after the Board of Supervisors Meeting was called to order, a report was submitted stating that in June 2008, despite inclement weather, the town experienced an increase in room tax revenue.

The Town of Minocqua’s Five-Year Outdoor Recreation Plan updated August 2008 was distributed at the Minocqua Board of Supervisor’s meeting.  It states that “Minocqua is Wisconsin’s premier destination area for vacation and recreational opportunities.  In the past 20 years an influx of new residents, commercial development, and expanded medical services have changed the economic structure of the community, but tourism remains the cornerstone of the local economy.”  Will snowmobile clubs suffer if Sutton Road remains as it is?   Will summer adventure-seekers suffer if Sutton Road changes?  Will changing Sutton Road make tourism-dependent businesses in downtown Minocqua more accessible from the west or will it prompt a bypass of the town altogether?

Documents submitted to the Minocqua Board of Supervisors by agent Jim Rein include plans for a “New Sutton Road” which would not follow the path of the current Sutton Road.  Questions yet to be answered include the environmental implications of paving, widening and restructuring Sutton Road, and the coordinating development of over 200 acres of rezoned land.  How will “New Sutton Road” affect watershed into neighboring Malby Lake, Blue Lake and the Tomahawk River?

Photographs of a “Walk Down Sutton Road” documenting Sutton Road in its current form were submitted during the meeting by the public and were reviewed only after the meeting adjourned and by only one board member, Minocqua Town Supervisor John Thompson.

The author of this article lives on Blue Lake and is not a retiree.


4 Responses to “Minocqua Reps Deliberate Sutton Road Fate”

  1. joe handrick August 31, 2008 at 1:34 am #

    very well written article. nice job!

  2. Jim Hadfield September 3, 2008 at 2:30 am #

    Paving the old Sutton Farm Road?? Heresy!!!
    IMHO, it was (and probably still is) a great little road to drive down, and a very little known short cut. I can’t begin to count the times I been up and down it.

    If I could only remember who owned the sugar shack that was on that road. Was it Guppie’s uncle?

  3. DanO October 9, 2008 at 10:17 pm #

    Wow you got Joe Handrick to comment thats sweet!


  1. New Subdivision Planned for the BLMA « Blue Lake Free Press - August 21, 2012

    […] a hole in the marketplace by offering lots carrying $21,000 price tags, something not provided by Kozey’s Sutton Road development, for example.  Discussions moved into the need for more subdivisions in Minocqua, when […]

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