TOWN OF SPOONER– A seasonal 200-site RV campground has been proposed for a 540-acre parcel alongside Spooner Lake, and a new conditional use permit (CU­P) for it has been filed with the Washburn County Zoning Department.

The committee had said during the CUP hearing last month that it could not consider the original application because it did not contain enough information. The new one has more details about the site layout, the camp sites, and the positive impact the developers see the campground having.

The project is attracting a spectrum of reactions, from fears it will overwhelm and be detrimental to Spooner Lake, to it will be a needed economic boost to the township and area without harming the lake.

The Gene Thompson Trust and Thompson Family Partnership, as the property owner, filed the original CUP application on November 16. The application was presented to the town of Spooner board on December 8, and the board recommended, on a vote of 2-1, that the county zoning committee approve it.

The board has limited scope when it comes to approving or denying such a project. It is at the county and state levels that the project’s conditions are set and approvals are given.

“We believe that the seasonal campground is compatible with the surrounding residential uses and will provide an opportunity for more families to enjoy the natural resources in a responsible manner,” potential purchasers of the property and campground developers Steve Austin and Michael Hershberger said in a letter to the zoning committee that is part of the application. “We believe that the property is an outstanding location for the proposed conditional use.”

The camp sites will be at least 1,200 feet from Spooner Lake and at least 300 feet from neighboring properties and roads. The main entrances to the campground will be off Mann Road and Cty. Hwy. A.

The application site plans show where the campsite, trail, septic, shower, picnic, and park areas will be situated. The sites average 50 feet wide by 80 feet deep and will have water, 50-amp electrical service, and POWTS (Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems). The water will be shut off from late October to May, depending on the weather.

The camp site density will be .37 sites per acre, and land use permits will be obtained for any accessories such as decks, patios, and sheds, the letter said.

Two storm shelters/shower houses will be built. A restaurant/grill will be built on the campground that will serve mainly as a clubhouse for the campground residents, with limited seasonal hours. The plan is a change from what was outlined at the town board meeting, when the restaurant/grill potentially was going to be alongside Spooner Lake and open to the public.

“We believe that the proposed seasonal campsite will be a positive to the public interest and consistent with the Washburn County Code,” Austin and Hershberger said in the letter.


When the zoning committee deliberates on whether to approve a conditional use permit, it has to consider eight specific factors:

> The location, nature, and size of the proposed use.

> The size of the site in relation to the proposed use.

> The location of the site with respect to existing or future roads giving access to it.

> Its compatibility with existing uses on land adjacent thereto.

> Its compatibility with the immediate and surrounding environment and the possibility for reclamation, if needed.

> Its impact upon and harmony with the future environment and the future development of the district.

> Existing topographic and drainage features and vegetative cover.

> Its relationship to the public interest and the purpose and intent.

Wisconsin Act 67, which became law in 2017, requires standards for conditional uses be “reasonable and, to the extent practicable, measurable.” Denials of a CUP must be based on “substantial evidence” and not just “personal preferences” and “speculation” about what might occur with the project.

Austin and Hershberger outlined how they envisione the campground would be beneficial to the area:

> “Promote and to protect the public health, morals, safety, and general welfare of the county. – We are providing a safe and outstanding Natural Resource experience to those who would otherwise not have access while protecting the environment. Campers will be subject to a series of detailed rules and regulations.”

> “Encourage the use of lands and natural resources in Washburn County in accordance with their character and adaptability. – the property will be sensitively developed to retain the rural character of the location, providing significant setbacks from Spooner lake as well as neighboring properties. Special attention will be given to preserving the wetlands and all POWTS will comply with applicable regulations and regularly tested.”

> “Promote orderly development. – The site will be developed in a systematic approach, paying special attention to the topography and other natural features. The development will minimize vegetation disruption.”

> “Secure safety to health, life, and property. – Each of the sites will be sewered and be subject to a series of detailed rules and regulations. We will have on-site professional management and local professional contractors to keep up the grounds and physical plants.”

> “Prevent highways from economic suffocation by encroaching uses; the campground is seasonal in nature and will have access from both a county and town road.”

> “Preserve land values and ensure a quality environment for future generations. The campground will have significant setbacks from Spooner Lake and the neighboring properties. The campground will provide a safe and outstanding Natural Resource experience to those who would otherwise not have access while protecting the environment. Stormwater and erosion control plans will cover all areas to be improved.”

The zoning committee will hear the request for the conditional use permit on Feburary 23.

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