Monday, February 2, 2015

An update on controversial Lake Michigan shoreline golf course issue

Readers of this blog know I have been posting information about citizens living near a private, corporately-owned nature preserve that would be clear cut, filled and otherwise altered into a high-end golf course along Lake Michigan, in the Town of Wilson, south of Sheboygan.

Additionally, the preserve owner and golf course developer - -  Kohler Company - - wants from the Wisconsin DNR a lease of 33 acres in the adjoining Kohler-Andrea State Park  - - for $1 a year/99 years - - to fill out the project.

It's an authentic David v. Goliath battle, made tougher because the company is closely allied with Gov. Scott Walker, and he, in turn, has instructed the DNR to behave with a chamber-of-commerce mentality.

The citizen conservationists have organized Friends of the Black River Forest, named after a river which runs through the nature preserve and is already so stressed that it's on the state's federally-approved list of impaired waterways.

The group is also seeking input from experts willing to lend a hand with the various environmental and related matters which normally accompany a project of this magnitude - - assistance which is especially needed to keep the Lake Michigan shoreline as pristine as is possible, and against the formidable odds which are presented by the project's dynamics.

As the project moves inexorably towards permit applications, and other interactions with multiple levels of government, Friends of the Black River Forest has sought, and received numerous documents about the project through the Wisconsin open records law.

Below is information from the group that was also sent to the Town of Wilson Board. You can read a press release, summary of the issues and see links to documents, here.
Friends of the Black River Forest is a group which has concerns regarding the proposed Kohler championship golf course. Its members are studying environmental issues and know that this project will have a huge impact on the town's quality of life and natural resources.

The scope and possible impact of this project lends itself to this Board sharing information with the residents, and the residents giving input to the Town Board.

In the interest of the residents, Friends of the Black River Forest has written three letters to Chairman Gartman and the Board. (Exb A)

Chairman Gartman has not acknowledged the receipt of any correspondence from these constituents. When asked about the progress of the project, the Chairman states he cannot comment on an issue that is not before the Board. 

The town supervisors say they have had no information on the project since July of 2014. There have been no updates given to the town on the status of the CUP application or current project activities.

On behalf of the Friends of the Black River Forest, Attorney Westerberg requested all correspondence between David Gartman, the Kohler Company and its representatives. Upon review of the correspondence between David Gartman and the Kohler Company we find the following concerns:

On February 26, 2014 David Gartman met with Herb Kohler at David Gartman’s home at 5509 Moenning Rd. at noon. Mr. Gartman is told in an email from Jess Barley “I don’t
believe you’ll need any documents or materials.” (Exh B)

Mr. Gartman did NOT discuss the details of this meeting at the next Town Board meeting on March 3, 2014. (Exh C)

At the March 17, 2014 Town Board meeting David Gartman gave a brief overview on events to date on status on Tented Forest. Herb Kohler was in attendance at this meeting. 

The Hospitality Group from the Kohler Company requested to not move forward with the Conditional Use Permit for Tented Forest. Supervisor Rostollan questioned the granted liquor license and any restrictions that apply.

Attorney Westphal indicated the license expires June 30, 2014. It was Kohler’s hope to present a plan of development for the land before that time. (Exh D)

On March 28, 2014, David Gartman sent an email to Jess Barley asking him to review draft agenda for upcoming Town Board Meeting. (Exh E)

On December 17, 2014, Michael Belot sends David Gartman an email: David, I hope you are well. Do you have time to catch up briefly tomorrow? Please let me know what works. (Exh F)

There have been two Town Board meetings since Dec 17th. The conversation between 
Michael Belot and David Gartman has not been discussed. (Exh G)

These raise reasonable questions about transparency. The Town residents need to know what Mr. Gartman discussed with Herb Kohler and if this meeting was shared with the town supervisors.

In the interest of town government transparency, Mr. Gartman should explain why project information cannot be shared either with the Board or the residents. FBRF asks that an explanation be provided at the next Board meeting.

It is difficult to understand why the Chairman ignores hundreds of constituents' contacts and conducts business privately with a developer.

FBRF awaits a response on these concerns as well as a written response to their letter of June 5, 2014. (Exh H).

Friends of the Black River Forest P.O. Box 804
Sheboygan, Wisconsin 53082


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