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Door County Camp Sues for Permission to Replace Obsolete Dining Commons

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DOOR COUNTY CAMP SUES FOR PERMISSION TO REPLACE OBSOLETE DINING COMMONS


DOOR COUNTY, WI – Friday, August 14, 2020


Camp Zion, a year-round Christian camp that provides enrichment for children, their families, and adults, has filed a complaint asking a federal court to decide where it may locate a new dining commons and fellowship center to replace a 35-year old, obsolete facility.


The Camp brought the action after the Door County Zoning Board of Adjustment rejected its plans for the second time in 5 years. After a 5-hour hearing July 7, the Board issued its final decision July 14.


“We planned the building in the exact area the County designated for institutional use,” said Camp Director Dale Stewart. “We located it exactly where County staff agreed is the best site, and designed a short, elevated walkway that is ideal for special needs children and the elderly and meets Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.”


“It was disheartening to see Board members speculate about multiple possible sites far away in woodland-wetland areas that would burden the camp and our guests, destroy hundreds of the beautiful trees we love so much, and force the building to stand out rather than blend in with the Northwoods setting that makes this place so special.”


In its decision, the Board said locating elsewhere was not an unnecessary burden or hardship because the disabled could be transported in vehicles.


“They really don’t understand,” Stewart said. “A huge part of camping is just being together. We’ve seen it many times over the years – spontaneous conversations on the way to meals and events open hearts and minds and spark lifelong decisions and friendships. The goal of ADA and Camp Zion is giving special needs children and the elderly the same access to those experiences as other guests, not isolating them with repeated rides in a separate van to a separate entrance.”


“Forcing the elderly and special needs campers to ride in vehicles would create more traffic, not less. And buying a properly equipped van, then training and paying staff to transport them could easily cost twenty percent of our annual budget, not to mention the disruption to scheduling and hardship on the guests themselves.”


“We keep fees as low as possible so that children from all families can attend,” Stewart explained. “Our donors sacrifice to make up the difference. Those funds should be helping children. We can’t keep spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to guess where the Board might allow us to build.”


A northern Door County fixture, the Camp has provided Christian youth, family, and adult recreation and enrichment since 1946.


The current 94-person dining facility was finished in 1986. In 2001, the Camp began strategic planning for a future facility in response to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, new building codes, growth nearing the Camp’s maximum capacity, and trends in camping and youth interest.


Over the next 15 years, the Camp spent more than $300,000 acquiring land and designing a modern facility that would serve guest needs, minimize impact on neighbors, and harmonize with the environment.


In 2015, the Camp applied for permission to build the new facility near the 1986 structure. The Town of Liberty Board approved the plans and the Door County Resource Planning Committee granted a permit to build. However, several area residents appealed to the Board, which overturned the Committee’s decision.

Rather than challenge the Board’s decision in court, the Camp has spent the last 5 years and an additional $300,000 responding to the Board’s concerns.


Besides the usual impact studies and management plans, the Camp again purchased more land, conferred with County officials and neighbors, retained leading design and engineering firms, designed a low-visibility structure on a site designated for institutional use, reviewed the site with County zoning staff, and chip-sealed both the main road and a new access road the Camp built for neighbors in 2008.


When the Board rejected its plans yet again, Camp leadership determined that a judgment and resolution by the courts is the only alternative to yet more delay, expense, and uncertainty.


“We’ve already been damaged by years of delay, enormous development costs, and attorneys’ fees. We simply can’t afford 5 more years and hundreds of thousands more dollars guessing where the Board might let us build.”


“We desperately need modern facilities that accommodate all campers together,” Stewart said. “Mealtimes and other group activities are as essential to the Camp Zion family as they are to any other family. Now more than ever, young people and our other guests need to unplug from their media and connect with themselves, their family and friends, and their savior, Jesus Christ.”


“Camp Zion strives to be a good neighbor and has broad support among area residents and businesses,” Stewart said. “Camp is a positive force that makes significant contributions to the community and local economy. We’ve been here almost 75 years and, God willing, we will be here another 75 years building lives and relationships and proclaiming the life-changing power of new life in Christ.”


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