Thursday, June 29, 2017, the large gathering room at the Cornucopia Community Center was filled with resident voters and summer home property owners to learn about, question, and share concerns, regarding the possible ownership by the Town of Bell of 95 acres known as the Swenson property on the Siskiwit River and 5 additional acres owned by the Doreau’s that is on the River adjacent to the Swenson land. Township chairman Matt Lazorik introduced Tom Gordon of Bayfield Township as the meeting moderator. Mike Friise of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and Erika Lang of the Bayfield Regional Conservancy were there to address questions and comments submitted after a power point presentation of facts about the properties and the grants that would purchase them. Anyone requesting and able to open a copy of the power point program may do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The program covers some questions and answers not included in those registered by persons attending the meeting. The minutes from the hearing with the questions, comments, and answers from the floor are included below.
Registered voters of the Town of Bell can vote yes or no to give authority to the town board to purchase the properties for this purpose.
Voters must appear in person at a special meeting of the Town of Bell on July 11 starting at 6 PM to vote. There will me no absentee ballot voting.
Town of Bell
Notice of Public Hearing
Siskiwit River Access, Protection and Land Acquisition
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Community Center – 7:00 p.m.
The hearing regarding the following was called to order at 7:09 p.m..
Officers present were Matt Lazorik, chairman and MaryBeth Tillmans – Clerk
- Grant to the Bayfield Regional Conservancy from DNR Knowles-Nelson
stewardship program for the acquisition of two adjacent parcels in the Town of
Bell, for the Siskiwit River Access and Protection, for conservation and public
- Grant to the Town of Bell for the Great Lakes Coastal Estuarine Line
Conservation Acquisition grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
- Town of Bell land acquisition from the BRC for the two adjacent properties
along the Siskiwit River – Special Town Meeting with a vote of the
Town of Bell electors on Tuesday, July 11 at 6:00pm. to 7:00pm to decide if the
electors want to give authority to the town board to purchase the properties for
Tom Gordon of Bayfield Township was the meeting moderator. Mike Friise of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and Erika Lang of the Bayfield Regional Conservancy were there to address questions and comments. Kurt Nelson did a power point presentation of the facts of the property.
The following is the questions(Q), answers(A) and comments(C) from the hearing:
- David Trudeau (Q): If the Town of Bell takes ownership, will the town have the say so
on the management and the development of the property?
Mike Frisse (A): The question is who has authority over the property, if the town takes ownership
of it? The town can do what it wants within the guidelines that were described
in the power point. There would be no camping, no motorized vehicles and
those kind of activities. It would be up to the town to work within those
- David Trudeau (Q): If Bayfield County takes ownership, will the Town of Bell have any say so
in the terms of management and development of the property, within those
Mike Frisse (A): The county will be under the same restrictions as the town would. He does
not know what the relationship is between the town and county, but would
presume that there would be some cooperation and coordination and there
would be discussions between the town and the county on this matter.
- Janice Olson (Q): She was given this question:
To the DNR and NOAA (Grantors):
The Town of Bell has been informed, by Bayfield Co. zoning , that a Trailhead permit is
required for the activities required by the grant ( hunting, trapping, hiking, fishing and
cross-county skiing etc) . The current zoning of the property of the submitted grants is
zoned R-1, which does not allow public access for these activities. Are you able to award a
grant to an entity (ex: BRC, Town of Bell, Bayfield Co.) that does not meet the
requirements of the grant , because the current zoning does not allow this?
Erika Lang (A): She read an email that both grantors sent to the town board membes.
Pam Foster Felt of the DNR, said the grant can be given per stewardship rules.
The zoning may affect the appraised value, but it would then be accounted for
by that method. Zoning does not prevent their funds to be used for it.
The Wisconsin Coastal Management ( NOAA) – No it does not matter. The zoning of the
parcel as it is related to the CELP grant award.
And the county answered that property can be protected through means other than
zoning changes. As far as trailheads are concerned, they can permit a very limited area,
as well as 40 acres or more. A portion of the parcel can be permitted for the trail use,
if they have a meets and bounds description of the area to apply for the permitted use.
Zoning is mute point. It does not matter that it is R-1. The grantors both knew it
was R-1, when the grants were applied for. Trailheads have everyone confused.
Trails are allowed without a trailhead. It is the actual putting in of a parking area that
would need to be rezoned. It is just that little area, as long as there is a meets and
bounds description. It would have to be rezoned. Rob Schierman from Bayfield County
recommended it be rezoned to RRB.
- Janice Olson (Q): So if the grants are awarded and the town purchases this and wants to put in a
parking lot, we need to rezone.
Erika Lang (A): Just the parking area is the only thing.
Janice Olson(Q): So the process that the town needs to go through needs to be fair and legal?
It cannot be rammed through. Because it is the town and the town would need to
go to all neighbors.
Erika Lang(A):Yes, it needs to be fair and legal. The town does not need to go to all the neighbors.
It is all the adjacent parcel owners and anyone within 300 feet, according to the permit
rules. An example would be to put it at the corner of Siskiwit Falls Road and Stage Road.
It would be the Hydes , Gordon Anderson and the Swensons themselves to the north
and the west of it.
Janice Olson(Q): So if the approval does not go through?
Erika Lang(A): Then you just don’t put in a trailhead.
Janice Olson(Q): So there is not a trailhead.
Erika Lang(A): There is still public access.
- Janice Olson(Q): If the town chooses to do absolutely nothing, the BRC still will put in their
advertisement that this is a conservation property, so it will be open to the public?
Ericka Lang(A): The BRC can work with the town on this. If it is sensitive to putting it in the trail
guide, they would not put it in. They want to be really sensitive to this. The land
owners wishes were some limited trails, but at that point and time, they won’t own
it and so it will be up to the town as to how they want to honor the land owners
wishes. The BRC will no longer be the intermediary between the land owner
and the town.
- Jackie Eid(Q): At the January 16, 2017 Bayfield County Forestry and Parks Committee meeting,
Ericka Lang did a presentation at that meeting and in the minutes it does say that
she did discuss the access points. Kurt Nelson, who did the presentation, did go over
the fact that the future property owners would have to adhere to the guidelines provided
by both grants awarded. Another statement that was made was that maintenance
expenses support is expected from the Wis. Coastal Management Grant also. Can
we be guaranteed that if there were any maintenance that was needed to be done, that
a grant would be applied for and that we would receive that money?
Mike Friise(A): Future grants would be available for any development of any sort of a trail or
public access that the town choose to do. They would not grant dollars for maintenance.
Jackie Eid(C): For trespassing, currently it is the responsibility of the people out hiking, traveling
skiing, etc. to know where the boundaries are. With the hunting issue, there is a
high potential for a hunter and hiker confrontation. Hunters that are harassed can
file harassment charges. The other is trapping. It is illegal for people to tamper with
the traps. There is potential for conflict all fall. This is a concern for her.
Jackie Eid(Q): Can anyone on the panel tell her how many acres are in the Town of Bell?
(A) No one could answer this.
Jackie Eid (A) There is 38,387.845 acres in the Town of Bell. Of that acreage 27,377.919 acres
are currently open to the public. That is 135 parcels of town, county, state and federal
lands, plus 78 acres of county forest crop. We have 11,009 acres that are privately owned
and not public. Over two-thirds of the town is already open to the public.
Ericka Lang(A): It was the land owners wish to make this a public access. If it does not end up in
public access, it will end up in continued private hands and land owners won’t have
any control over how it is used or if it is completely fenced off.
- Angie Tenebrini(Q): Documentation on the web says that this is a prime property for someone to
buy. If the town or the county does not take ownership, could someone potential y put a
hotel on it? How could this happen, if this the current owners are saying they don’t want
this to happen? If a private person purchases it, can that happen?
Erika Lang(A) She does not have anything in writing from the current owners guaranteeing what
they are going to do. They have been patient for two and a half years waiting for this
process. She does not know what they will decide come this fall. If they decide to
parcel it and put a few houses on it or if they decide something different. She
said they are conservation oriented. They could pass away tomorrow and someone
else could be making that decision. So, they have no guarantees.
Angie Tenebrine(Q) So , we have no guarantee if we don’t do it, that Bayfield County will. They are
interested because they have applied for grants as well.
Erika Lang(A) They are interested only because they know they also can accept the grant from
Wisconsin Coastal Management. The BRC cannot accept that grant. The BRC can
only accept the state grant and gift it to either the town or the county. They are kind
of an intermediary.
- Allan Hahn(Q): His wife and him own an adjoining property. His question is about hunting on the
property. It was stated that hunting will be allowed as stated by the grant. Can the town
regulate hunting on the property?
Erika Lang(A): With her conversions with the DNR and what happened at Houghton Falls, there
is a bow season only. A person has to get a town permit. She thought this could be an
option for the Town of Bell.
- Jackie Eid(C): Back in February, at the previous public hearing Pam Foster Felt , from the DNR was
present and said hunting, trapping and other things had to be allowed, that there were
certain restrictions that the town could put on, but they could not prohibit.
Erika Lang(A): That is right, but they could prohibit gun like Houghton Falls did and only have bow.
That is an option. People have hunted on the property in the past.
- Chuck Perry(Q):A question about hunting. He has always had written permission from Dorothy
to hunt and fish on that property. He has hunted and fished there for years. He is
concerned, if that might be restricted. He understands that there are hunting regulations,
that everyone has to follow. He would be concerned if there were additional restrictions
placed upon that property so that people could not be able to use it as Dorothy has
always allowed them to do. Is there any chance of that being restricted from fishing
Erika Lang(A): The DNR would not fund it if it was completely restricted. It is up to the town
to further define hunting with the DNR. But, no.
- Phyllis Peri(Q): If the town does not vote to support this and it goes to the county, is it true
that the DNR can come in and say we are not going to give the money?
Erika Lang(A):If the town only asks everyone about the ownership question , that does not
tell the DNR anything. You could get a lot of yes questions, like we would like the
town to own the property , but that does not tell the DNR that you would like them
to release the other half of the funds. So the town has half the funds and not the
other half. The town could have half the NOAA funds without the DNR funds.
Phyllis Peri(Q) If the people in this area decided as private individuals to develop some type of
consortium and then purchase that path and say it is still private ownership, would
the town still get that grant?
Mike Friise(A): The title would have to be held by a public entity, such as the town or the county.
The town could not get either grant.
Erika Lang(A): A private land owner cannot allow public access. The Swensons have, but they
don’t have to. The BRC does not have one conservation easement that they hold that
allows public access.
- Scott McCafferty(A): Concern is if this is advertised and used by the public, that is could be
trashed. Does it have to be advertised or can it stay our little secret.
Erika Lang(A): It is decided by you. Erica googled it and there are a lot of web sites that the
Swensons did not put up. It up to the town to be aware and contact webmasters and
other people. The BRC would be very open to working with the town on their part.
They do not promote things on Facebook. They can think about how they want to
put it on their website. It would be up to the town.
- Richard Dunn(Q):What are Dorothy’s and Dennis’s heirs selling the 100 acre for?
- Bill Kruse(Q): Who is responsible for the trash pickup and the maintenance? If people
use the property and leave trash on his property and he puts it back on the Siskiwit property,
how much trouble will he get into? Who is responsible for the trail to be sure that the
trash from the trail does not get into the neighbors yards?
Erika Lang(A): The town or the county, depending on who owns it. He would have to call
the town or county.
- Deb Possi(Q): Through this process, there has been a lot of frustration in the town with the
communication on this project. The town of Bell wrote the grant for NOAA. It was coming
from the Town of Bell.
Erica Lang(A): Yes
Mike Friise(A): Yes
Deb Possi(Q): People did not receive a copy of the grant or discussion within the town until a
town citizen asked for an open records request for the paperwork that has to do with it.
They received immediately a copy of that grant from the town clerk and then later received
the costs from that grant. It was not until last week that the town received the cover
letter for the grant. On the cover letter, signed by Michael O’Bryon , it says if there are any
questions or required any additional documentation, please contact Erika Lang from the BRC.
How could that grant been from the town? How could a grant written by our town people
and the town board, not even know about this letter, when all the information was to go to
them? If this is how it started out, how is the conservancy going to be to work with? How
can we work with them and build a trust and working business relationship when
something like this happens.
Erika Lang(A): On Oct. 4th, she attended a board meeting with all the board members and
that night she put all the files and the cover letter on the desktop on the town hall
computer. It was given to the town. She does not know how it was shared.
- Susan Keachie(C): Everyone has to remember, they elected the board members to represent them.
They make decisions for us. A lot of people seem to think that putting this area into
conservation and making it open to the public is going to replicate the ice cave
episode. Some businesses did profit from it and it did put Cornucopia on the map. The
idea that this would attract more than ten or twenty people a day or on a weekend
and that people won’t pick up their trash is being blown out of proportion.
- Yvette Fleming(C): At the October meeting, Erica mentioned that the town board agreed to work
in partnership with the BRC to follow the process through to whether NOAA would
be granting the town a grant along with DNR grant to the BRC. At that time when the
town signed the cover letter and presented the materials to the BRC to be mail by a
deadline date, it was discussed at the table, which is open to the public, who would
sign, whether it was the town chair or the parks and land chair. It was decided the parks
and land would do it, because it falls under parks and lands. That is why Michael
OByron’s name is on it. From the first BRC presentation, the town board was in complete
discussion and unanimous vote taken to follow the process through to a conclusion.
- Art Hyde(C): Him and his wife Angie live along the river across the street from the property. They
are affected the most by this. They do not like it. They moved in five years ago and it
has changed. They are in the process of buying the property that they live on. Eighty percent
of the people that come to the Swenson property, come to their side. They do not want to
post it, but things are happening. They listen to people screaming at night, dogs coming into
their property, and people cutting flowers off their plants. They pick up trash left by
people. They would not like to post it, but if it goes into conservancy and becomes public,
it will be posted. The sheriff will be called. They consider everyone in the room, Town of Bell,
neighbors of theirs. If they lived where he lives and this was going on, and you did not want
it, he would vote no. That is what neighbors do for each other.
Angie Hyde(C): Would not like the county to get it. She would like the Town of Bell to have that
option to decide what to do.
- Karen Trudeau(C): If it is special to our area, we should be in charge of it. We should get it as
a town and we can do nothing or decide to do something with it later.
20 Ernie Korpela(C): Ask the town what covenants or requirements have been made by the granting
agencies for the DNR for that property. This grant and purchase is forever. What do you want
this property to be in 200 years? Do you want us to own it or them? He said let’s own it
and manage it to this public’s interest.
- Richard Florence(c): How do we protect the Siskiwit River and Lake Superior? Does this grant
help or hinder it?
Mike Friise(A): He has worked with Bayfield county on the sediment delivery into Lake Superior.
The acquisition of a riparian property that keeps the natural vegetation, would be
a benefit to the water quality. He would like to see something that works for the
town and the quality of the lake. He has worked with Yvette on the grants for the
break wall path, the restrooms and the funding for the Corny Beach.
- Susan Keachie(C): There is an active group of supporters for this project, that are volunteers.
They have outlined what they are willing to do to help the town maintain and manage
the property. The management plan presented is a draft. It is not cast in stone. We are
able to work with the grants and the property owner to development a management
plan that works for our town.
- Jackie Eid(C): There is a resident in the area that is not here tonight. This person thinks this may
be a great place for senior housing. There have been pieces cherry picked out of our
comprehensive plan. There is an economic and housing element in it. Her neighbor
would like to see the apple orchard on the property revived.
- Sara Norton(Q): Of all of the grants applications received, what made this application stand out?
Mike Friise(A): The ecological significance and cultural significance is what stood out for it to be
advanced in its competitive process to NOAA. It was highly regarded there too.
- Ellen Akin(Q): Is it going to be a voice vote or paper vote?
Matt Lazorik(A): It is going to be a paper ballot vote on July 11th
- Marcia Perry(Q): Does Houghton Falls have a leash law? Could we have a leash law? Could
there be signage?
Mike Friise(A): The parcels with these problems are typically those that have absentee
owners, where the regulations are left to their own. He is aware of circumstances where
the neighbors actually embrace the local ownership of it because they can have more
say on what happens. It will be more managing of those uses. Some could be signage.
Houghton Falls and Pikes Bay have worked on managing user impact.
Marcia Perry(Q): Do they allow dogs on the trail.
Erica Lang(A): Yes, on a leash.
- Erica Lang(C): The BRC can help with the posting of private property. Ex: You are entering private
property. They have empathy for what everyone is saying.
- Roger Lindgren(Q): Question about concerns of adjacent land owners, specifically Elm St..
There was some discussion earlier, when Kurt mentioned during the presentation, that the
present owner of the property may take that out of the project. It is there something that
can be done in writing that might guarantee that that would happen?
Erica Lang(A): Yes, she spoke with the property owners and they are willing to take that off the
table. She does not know if that will change people’s minds. They are willing and want to
make sure that this is what the town wants. The BRC would have to go back to both grantors
and say it is now a half acre less or whatever it is and get that a surveyed and everything.
There is a little bit of steps that they will have to take. They have heard all of you that are
sensitive to the Elm St. access and they are willing to work with you. That would be
feedback that she can take back to them tomorrow.
Roger Lindgren(C): There is some concern that things could change in the future. The DNR
might change its mind about what is required. We said this today, but tomorrow we
might say something else. What the town is willing to do with the land management plan,
can that be memorialized in the documents so that there is no question in the future
that that is what the town agreed to do?
Mike Frisse(A): In terms of the expectations of the grantors, those would not change. As long as
the management plan, within those sideboards of what was the situation at the time of the
award, then you be fine. He knows that in the stewardship, it has tweaked the rules , like
in particular related to hunting , trapping and fishing, but those were not applied
retroactively to awards that were made prior to that.
- Ernie Korpela(Q): He can sympathize with the Hyde’s having problems with parking and so forth.
It does create some problems. Is there any possibility that the town could work with the
Hyde’s to move the access to the parking lot so that it minimizes the impact on them?
Erika Lang(A): So if the town would choose to own this and the if the town chooses the trailhead,
she thinks the town should work with the Hydes about where they think it should go. She
does not think it makes sense where the cabins currently are and that that would create
more problems. She talked about putting it on the corner of Siskiwit Road and Stage Road
making more sense and posting the bridge area as no parking. First, you do not have to have
a trailhead and second, you can say where you want the trailhead.
- Yvette(Q): Mike Frisse talked about the ecology of the area. That is one of the reasons NOAA took
this grant opportunity. Can you tell more about the land itself and the preservation aspect of
this 100 acres to the water shed to the estuary on the Dorau property? More about the value
of the land per say, not for a recreational place, but as a preserve of our national resources.
Mike Frisse: The nature of the estuary system, the habitat that it provides and as was mentioned
the benefits of the water quality were exemplified in the grant. Reducing sediment , providing
fish habitat, spawning habitat, forage fisheries, and bird migration stop overs are all
considerations and the quality of life for the community.
- Mark Possi(Q): He owns two properties next to the project. Who does he call when he finds
people trespassing on his property?
Erika Lang(A): The town or the county, depending on who would own the property.
Mark Possi(C): This is already a problem and this project has not happened yet. He does not
know how many times he has had to tell people to get off of his property. He feels it
is not being protected, but exploited. He asked about the septic tank in the kettle hole.
Erika Lang(A): She will talk to the property owners about the tank.
The hearing ended at 8:42p.m..
MaryBeth Tillmans – Clerk