Opposition mounts for Lions Beer Garden

Falls citizens voice displeasure at Common Council meeting
by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor

NINE SHEBOYGAN FALLS RESIDENTS spoke against a Sheboygan Falls Lions Club plan to build a German-American Museum and Beer-Brat Garden at the site of this house formerly owned by Goldie Lorge on Broadway Street adjacent to Settlers Park, during a Sheboygan Falls Common Council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 18. - Falls News photo by Jeff Pederson NINE SHEBOYGAN FALLS RESIDENTS spoke against a Sheboygan Falls Lions Club plan to build a German-American Museum and Beer-Brat Garden at the site of this house formerly owned by Goldie Lorge on Broadway Street adjacent to Settlers Park, during a Sheboygan Falls Common Council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 18. - Falls News photo by Jeff Pederson Nine city residents voiced strong opposition to the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club’s proposal to build a German-American Museum with a beer and brat garden adjacent to Settlers Park, during a Sheboygan Falls Common Council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Sheboygan Falls Memorial Library.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, city residents living in the neighborhood of the former Goldie Lorge property at 206 Broadway Street spoke in opposition to a preliminary plan to construct a German-Americanthemed beer and brat garden and museum on riverfront land adjacent to Settlers Park.

Although a formal plan has not yet been submitted to the city, Lions Club members laid out their tentative plans at a Sheboygan Falls Plan Commission meeting on Sept. 30.

The preliminary plans call for the club to purchase the Goldie Lorge property, demolish the current house and construct a German themed building to serve as a museum drawing on the history of Green Bay Road north-south transportation route established in 1830s, which ran from Chicago to Green Bay drawing a large continent of Yankee and European, especially German settlers, to the area and the immediate vicinity of what is now Settlers Park.

Tentative plans call for the beer garden to feature a selection of premium German beer and wine, as well as a light menu of selected food items and occasional musical entertainment with limited seasonal hours not to be open past 9 or 10 p.m. at night.

The plan met public opposition at a Plan Commission meeting on Oct. 28, as three citizens living in the neighborhood surrounding the property spoke out against the project, citing heavy traffic, lack of parking, potential flooding and location within a residential neighborhood.

A total of 15 community members attended the Nov. 18 Common Council meeting, with nine appearing before the council to offer comments.

Robert Koeppen of 220 Buffalo St. spoke against locating the beer garden in a residential area, while citing other possible locations for such a plan.

“I live in the neighborhood and I am opposed to the beer garden,” Koeppen said. “I am a person that likes to find ways to solve problems and I would like to be able to offer solutions to this problem.

“Big Jimmy’s and Richard’s have been suggested as possible locations for this beer garden, but the Lions Club does not seem very open to those ideas,” he said.

Koeppen suggested that if the project was proposed to be located in another residential area in the city, such as River Oaks, the reaction from neighborhood residents would be the same.

“If this was proposed in River Oaks, there would be a huge public outcry from the residents,” Koeppen said. “They would fight it to the end. If it would not be acceptable in their neighborhood, why would it be acceptable in ours?”

Cindy Adam of 104 Broadway Street suggested that the Lions Club is developing the plan to help a member of the club.

“I don’t understand why the Lorge property deserves to be torn down,” Adam said. “It could use some renovation, but I think it could be renovated and serve as a fine home for someone.

“I think we need to address the elephant in the room, since a relative of a Lions Club member had owned this property,” she said. “It seems that the Lions Club is pushing this through to bail out a fellow member. That doesn’t sit well with me. I would not be opposed to having that location be a German Heritage Center, something that would appeal to families. Right now, there are 18 places in Sheboygan Falls where I can buy beer. We don’t need another one in my neighborhood.”

Sue Dulmes of 225 Buffalo St. cited a lack of parking as one of the main reasons she is against the plan.

“I think parking would be a big problem, especially for those of us that live in the neighborhood,” Dulmes said. “We already deal with parking issues during Oktoberfest and the Fourth of July [Ducktona] at River Park. The street parking around our neighborhood is always taken during those events.

“It will be the same with this, only more that just two weekends,” she said. “We won’t have any street parking spots available. It is already very busy with traffic and adding this would make the neighborhood horrible.”

Adam Corrigan of 114 Broadway St. spoke about an incident that occurred at the Goldie Lorge property on Nov. 15, in which a beer garden sign was displayed on the garage and an outdoor party with Lions Club members in attendance was held into the late hours of the night.

“I believe the Lions Club has personal intentions for doing this,” Corrigan said. “The Lions Club also put a big bruise on their face with the disrespectful display that they put on last Saturday.”

Laura Koeppen of 220 Buffalo St. said that the project does not fit with the Lions Club mission statement.

“The Lions Club has done and is doing a lot good things in the community, but I don’t think a beer garden lines up with their mission ,” Laura Koeppen said. “Also, no one from the Lions Club has reached out to the neighbors. Instead of hanging up the beer garden sign and hanging out in the driveway with beer and polka music on Saturday, they could have knocked on doors and introduced themselves to the people in the neighborhood and talked about their plans with us.”

Beth Sadler of 229 Broadway St. spoke about how the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club’s plan compares to the German beer gardens in the Milwaukee area.

“I am very familiar with the beer gardens that have been referred to in the Milwaukee and Wauwatosa area,” Stadler said. “I can say that the traffic is horrendous in those areas and it would be even worse here in Sheboygan Falls.

“There are also soil elevation changes and the proximity to the river that need to be addressed,” she said. “This is a big project hat is being shoehorned into a very small space and it appears to me that it is being poorly executed. There are other possibilities and other locations where something like this could work, but not at that site.”

Colleen Zimmerman of 104 Walnut St. addressed the council about safety in the area.

“We have children age 3 and under, so safety and familyfriendliness is very important to us,” Zimmerman said. “We are at a crossroads with this. We need to decide if we should invest more money into our house for updates or should we move on to somewhere more family centric. What you decide will have a big impact on what we decide to do.”

Linda Gregorie of W3133 County PP, who grew up on Buffalo Street and is married to a Lions Club member, spoke passionately about the recent tension over the issue.

“The community is being torn apart over this,” Gregorie said. “After this past weekend, I am embarrassed to be a wife of a Lions Club member. Everyone involved in this needs to act like adults, with compassion and respect.

“I believe in the Lions Club, as they have done many good things for our community,” she said. “I just don’t think a civic organization like the Lions Club should be involved in a beer garden. Hopefully, we can get to the bottom of this, respect each other and not bash anyone, because we have a great community.”

Robert Thill of 213 Broadway St. presented the council with a petition signed by 41 neighborhood residents opposing the project.

“I walked around in a threeblock radius in the neighborhood and got 41 people to sign a petition opposing the beer garden,” Thill said. “Not one person in the area wants its. It’s not safe, traffic is terrible and it just doesn’t make sense in a residential neighborhood. All of our concerns are basically the same. We don’t want it here.”

Thill also noted that his son had received an anonymous letter harassing him for statements he had made in opposition to the project on Facebook.

“I wasn’t going to speak today because part of my family’s been harassed,” Thill said. “I’ve gotten letters, anonymous, no return address, no signatures, no nothing. I never thought of that in Falls.”

After distributing a copy of the previously mentioned anonymous letter to members of the council, Mayor Randy Meyer stepped away from his position as mayor to make a comment on the matter as a citizen of Sheboygan Falls.

“I am going to do something unusual and make a public appearance as a citizen of Sheboygan Falls,” Meyer said. “The anonymous letter address to Mr. Thill was gutless and will not be tolerated. Sheboygan Falls is just better than that. We’re all better than that. So I’m asking for people to look deep into their hearts and ask what kind of people we want to be.”

Meyer stated that when the Lions Club submits a formal rezoning application for the property, neighbors in the area will be contacted and a public hearing will be set up.

“We have not received a formal plan at this stage,” Meyer said. “There was a preliminary discussion of the project at a Plan Commission meeting and that has been it so far.

“A public hearing will be set when we receive a rezoning application and from there the Plan Commission will meet to consider the plan and will make a recommendation to the City Council, which will then take a final vote,” he said.

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