City reviewing possible agreement with tubing business

Proposal would let business operate on public park land

The city is reviewing a possible agreement with a proposed tubing business that would allow the for-profit enterprise to operate on public park land, but there are a number of questions to be addressed before it moves forward.

The proposed business, which would provide customers the ability to float the Wolf River by means of a tube, kayak or canoe, would be owned and operated by Jeff Kammerer, who was unable to get approval for the business at an alternate location this summer.

That original proposal did not include the use of public park land.

The original location, 1112 S. Water St., was shot down by Shawano’s zoning administrator and Board of Appeals last month after being deemed too small to support the business.

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.

Neighbors also objected to the location over parking and traffic concerns.

The location being proposed now, at 1013 S. Water St., just north of the Community Gardens at Lieg Avenue and Water Street, is only about a block from the site initially proposed.

“It’s known as the old Putz property,” said Park and Recreation Director Matt Hendricks. “There’s an old garage there used as storage right now.”

The Shawano Park and Recreation Commission Wednesday had its first discussion of a proposed agreement that would let Kammerer use the property for his business in exchange for some compensation to the city.

“It’s expected, should this go forward or should this happen, the city would receive monies from the business in order for this to operate,” Hendricks said.

The amount hasn’t yet been determined.

About a dozen people from the area attended Wednesday’s commission meeting to voice their questions and concerns, with their chief objection being the lack of available parking for the business.

There were also questions about whether the public would still have access to the park and its amenities, how wildlife and the shoreline would be impacted, what it might mean for the existing trail system that goes through the property, and how the city could justify a for-profit operation on public land.

Currently, the city has agreements with several nonprofit organizations, including the Ski Sharks, farmers market and soccer club that make use of park land, but there is no concessionaire agreement with a for-profit business.

Hendricks said, however, it’s not uncommon in other park systems.

He noted that a bait and tackle shop operates in a New London park and that many city pools and beaches elsewhere have concession agreements with food vendors. Those businesses, Hendricks said, typically are related to recreational activities.

He said the commission will have to decide whether the business being proposed by Kammerer would be complementary to the park.

The commission Wednesday ultimately decided to table the proposed agreement until next month’s meeting and directed staff to explore whether the tubing business could instead be located at Sturgeon Park and whether there could be an off-street parking lot designated in the area that could serve not just the tubing business but also the nearby community gardens.

Kammerer, in an interview Thursday, said he has heard a lot of community support for his proposed business, even from neighbors who object to the proposed location.

“They say it’s a good idea, but not in their backyard,” Kammerer said. “That’s pretty much the theme of anything new.”

As for the chief concern raised by neighbors, which was the question of parking, Kammerer said it’s not possible to plan for the maximum parking needs that could occur.

“If you plan for maximum capacity for any park, half the city would be parking places instead of houses and yards,” he said. “There’s tournaments and a lot of other activities that happen in town where city streets are being filled and neighbors are being cooperative to get through the event or the tournament or what may be going on.”

Kammerer said he hopes those who support the proposed tubing business will attend future meetings to speak on his behalf.

“I’ve had a lot of great comments and a lot of encouragement to keep going and make this happen,” he said. “I really need some positive voices of people who are willing to speak.”

Shawano Pathways was at the Board of Appeals meeting last month to support his proposal.

Other than that, committees are mostly hearing only the negative side of the story, Kammerer said.

“The committees are just hearing the negatives,” he said. “I could use some help or some positive feedback at the next meeting if the community would like to see this being offered.”