Event venue

Appeal to stop Oconto’s wedding/event venue appears to be heading to court

OCONTO — An appeal of the Oconto City Council’s decision to allow a wedding/special event venue to operate on a three-year trial basis will now apparently go straight to circuit court.

Dale Thomson’s appeal was originally filed with the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which was scheduled to be heard Thursday.

An agreement between Thomson and the city released Thursday by the city indicates that such an appeal, however, is apparently outside the powers of this council.

This is because the decision was made by the city council as a legislative body, rather than an administrator, zoning administrator, planning commission or building inspector.

The agreement states that Thomson and the city have agreed to cancel the hearing and that he can take the case to circuit court.

The parties also stipulated that if a court determines that the council had jurisdiction to hear the case, both parties agree to proceed as if the council had dismissed the appeal, or if it determined that the hearing should have taken place. and that the parties were not. authorized to enter into the agreement, a hearing would be postponed.

As of Friday morning, no action had been filed in circuit court.

The agreement was reached after discussions between City Attorney Frank Calvert and Thomson’s attorney, Frank W. Kowalkowski.

Thomson, through his lawyer, appealed the council’s 4-1 decision on Feb. 8 to grant the three-year trial period for the site.

Thomson’s house on Robin Lane is adjacent to the northeast side of the property at 1240 McDonald St., owned by Riley Sowle and Anita Jensen.

The couple approached the city more than a year ago to hold weddings and events in the old barn they had renovated, but last summer determined that the costs for the bring to the commercial code were initially too high.

They pivoted and requested permission to hold events on the west side of the barn, which is adjacent to the Oconto River. After numerous meetings with the town committees, as well as three council meetings, the trial was granted.

Sowle and Jensen had received broad support from the community to establish their operation, called Oconto Riviera, with residents and business owners telling the council it would bring more visitors and business to the community.

But neighbors in Robin Lane and Holtwood Way had objected, raising concerns about excessive noise and traffic on McDonald Street, and saying a business should not be allowed in a residential area.

As part of the trial period, they would be allowed to host up to 25 events in 2022, 50 in 2023 and 60 the following year. Along with other requirements, the trial allows the property or an event to be reviewed to assess the impact on neighbors and can be revised or terminated before the end of the trial period.

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Contact Kent Tempus at (920) 431-8226 or [email protected].