Location, traffic concerns puncture proposed tubing business

Board denies variance for location deemed too small

A proposal for a recreational business along the Wolf River was shot down Wednesday before it could even get to the Shawano Plan Commission, which had scheduled a public hearing on the proposal.

Wolf River Tubing LLC had been proposing a summer business that would have provided the community and tourists the ability to float the Wolf River by means of a tube, kayak or canoe, either individually or in groups.

Its planned location was 1112 S. Water Street, which is currently zoned for single-family residential use.

The plan commission and Common Council would have had to approve rezoning the property to neighborhood mixed use to allow for the business.

However, the proposal never got that far.

City Zoning Administrator Brian Bunke said he was forced to deny the project because the lot size at the proposed location was too small.

The zoning for neighborhood mixed use requires a minimum lot size of 9,000 square feet under the city’s zoning code. The location proposed was only 7,500 square feet.

“I couldn’t allow it to move forward without a variance on that property,” Bunke said.

Wolf River Tubing owner Jeffrey Kammerer took his case to the city’s Board of Appeals to seek a variance.

The board met just before the plan commission meeting and voted 3-2 to allow the variance.

However, overturning the zoning administrator’s ruling requires at least four votes in favor and the variance was defeated.

A group of neighbors attended the Board of Appeals meeting to oppose the variance, voicing concerns about inadequate parking and the traffic congestion the business would cause.

Representatives from Shawano Pathways also attended the meeting to speak in support of the business.

With the variance defeated, the public hearing and agenda item were scrubbed from the plan commission’s agenda.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” Kammerer said after the vote. “I’m trying to help the Shawano community. Everyone thinks it’s for my gain and my benefit financially. No one does anything around here or puts themselves at risk financially without trying to get some financial gain out of it. Moreso, it was for the community. I’m a physical education teacher in town that wants to see kids just get out and enjoy themselves.”

Kammerer teaches a Challenge by Choice class at Shawano Community High School that includes kayaking and canoeing as part of the curriculum. He said in his rezoning application that the business would promote healthy lifestyles and wellness alternatives, as well a offering recreational opportunities.

Kammerer said he understood the concerns raised about parking and traffic, but said those issues already exist with other events, such as Little League games.

“There’s cars up and down the roads, no matter what kind of event,” he said. “If it’s a popular event, there’s going to be traffic.”

Kammerer said he wasn’t sure whether he would continue to pursue the idea.

“I have to take a little time and think things over,” he said.

Nancy Smith, executive director of the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce, also attended the Board of Appeals meeting. She said she had no comment on the vote, but noted the chamber does support this type of business.

Smith said she hopes a new location can be found and said there is a demand for it from people who want to recreate on the Wolf River.