Beach use rules an issue in Elkhart Lake

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

ELKHART LAKE – The impact of tourism growth – and the forms it takes – is being felt on the beach.

The village beach, to be specific, and the Village Board began addressing that issue Monday.

On the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, the board approved an increase in the beach pass fee for non-village residents who live in the school district from $10 a year to $30 for two years.

That would mean all passes for the restricted beach would be twoyear passes, which would simplify the pass system, Village Administrator/ Clerk/Treasurer Jessica Reilly noted.

A larger issue left unresolved was how to deal with visitors to the village who obtain passes for the beach – intended only for local residents.

“The beach is getting busier all the time,” Reilly told the committee, meeting before Monday’s board meeting.

“Our ordinance is clear that you have to be a resident of the village or the school district or their family,” to use the beach, she pointed out.

The problem, she pointed out and several trustees agreed, is people who rent space in their homes to visitors, through sites such as vacation rentals by owner and airbandb, and allow them to use their resident beach pass.

“The problem is that people who advertise (on those sites) list that they have beach access,” Trustee Terri Knowles acknowledged.

Reilly noted that there are about 40 or so properties in and around the village that are listed on the rental web sites.

Many owners, she explained, obtain passes to the village beach for themselves and then allow out-of-town guests to use them, in violation of the village ordinance. She noted that a number of village residents who do not rent to visitors still do the same for out-of-town guests.

Reilly suggested that the village could adopt a system of putting names and addresses on the beach tags to help limit the abuse of their use by non-village or school district residents.

“I’d like to see more conversation on rentals,” Trustee Richard Sadiq responded. “It’s bringing people into the village who go to other businesses as well.”

“But they have their own beach at Fireman’s Park,” Trustee John Schott responded. That beach, which is owned and operated by the fire department, is open to the general public with a daily permit fee.

Former Trustee Michael Wolf commented that the village beach and the governing ordinance had been created “because all the other beaches were private. It was for taxpayers, residents, voters, however you want to put it. If you rent a house or a room (in the village), you don’t rent the entire village out.”

“After 10 years that this has been going on, to just cut it off seems pretty harsh,” Sadiq said of the permit restrictions.

The committee tabled any action beyond the fee increase to allow for further discussion and study.

The Administration and Finance Committee, on the advice of the village attorney, tabled a request from Cellcom to amend their lease agreement for the cell tower.

Reilly explained Cellcom wants to install a different antenna array and agreed with the village’s request to pay an additional $300 in rent.

Kapur and Associates, the village’s consulting engineers, reported that the Cellcom change would max out the capacity on the villageowned tower.

Verizon also leases space on the tower.

Village Attorney John St. Peter suggested that the village contact Verizon to see if they want to change or upgrade their antenna before there is none available, noting that the village might be able to negotiate a larger rent increase that way.

Reilly updated the Public Works Committee on the water utility inspection report.

She said that several deficiencies were noted in the report. Village staff can address most of them, but the issue of some cross-connections may be beyond them.

Public Works Director Pat Zorn is certified to inspect and correct such issues on residential properties, but not business, industrial or commercial properties. Reilly said the village may need to hire outside help to comply in those areas, a cost that was not budgeted.

“We don’t know what the cost would be, so we’ve asked the DNR if we can do half this year and half next,” Reilly said of the cross-connection checks.

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