Town turns down pay-to-hunt plan

Residents raise concerns over safety, noise and property values; Plan Commission agrees
Ozaukee Press Staff

A proposal to allow hunting for a fee on a 65-acre parcel in the Town of Belgium drew about 50 people to the town hall last week, most voicing opposition to the idea.

The Plan Commission On Nov. 14 voted to deny Dan Large’s conditional use permit request to allow a pay-to-hunt operation on the southeast corner of Lake Church and Silver Beach roads. That recommendation will be forwarded to the Town Board.

Large and his wife Annie own Pheasants @ Large, a pay-to-hunt operation near highways KW and A in the town, and were looking to expand to his recently purchased property.

Hunts, Dan Large said, would usually involve groups of four to seven people and 25 to 30 birds. He expected about 20 groups per year would use the property.

Large, 55, said he has lived in the town most of his life.

“I have never done anything and I never intend to do anything to hurt this town,” he said.

Many residents, however, claimed in letters or in person that the proposal would do just that.

Mark Bednarek, who lives on a parcel on Silver Beach Road that the proposed pay-to-hunt land surrounds, said his family already wakes up to gunshots on the weekend and doesn’t want strangers walking on his property picking up birds.

Pheasant hunting may legally happen all year long, and the town does not have authority to override the Department of Natural Resources’ rules.

Janice Poss, who lives on Sauk Trail Road, said she has to stay inside during the gun-deer season and doesn’t like the sound of gunfire. She said she heard a neighbor target shooting for three hours.

“The noise is tremendous. It’s disruptive,” she said.

Pat Hillegass, who lives on Sliver Beach Road, said he accepts that people can do what they want on their own property without hurting anyone else, but this proposal violates that premise.

“It’s clearly harmful to everybody who has property around there,” he said.

The sound of shotgun fire, he said, is jarring.

“The sense of comfort you have for being outside is diminished and it’s gone,” he said. “It’s nothing against Dan. It’s just to me, this only hurts the community.”

Dave Shaw, who lives on Homestead Drive, agreed that the noise would be a nuisance. He said he can hear traffic from the highway 1.8 miles away and trains three miles away.

“There’s no way that’s not going to be noisy like crazy. And it’s going to radiate a long ways,” he said.

Town Zoning Administrator and Plan Commission member Charlie Parks advised that conditional use permits connect to the property and not the person. Shaw referenced that point.

“That parcel — who says the next guy that buys it isn’t going to have round-the-clock hunting?” he said.

Kevin Peiffer, who lives on Lake Church Road, asked if the town ever got a complaint about Large’s hunting operation.

Parks said he never heard any.

Linda Risch, whose family owns land next to the proposed hunting area, is worried about safety.

“I do not want to get a phone call in the middle of the day anytime of the year that one of the people that was working on our farm driving a tractor got shot,” she said. “That is the issue I believe that we are talking about here, is the issue of people possibly getting hurt.”

Plan Commission member Dennis Dimmer asked what kind of property is within a mile radius of the center of both Large’s operation and his proposed area.

Parks said all the land near Pheasants @ Large is zoned agricultural, while 23% of the area near the proposed hunting grounds  is 23% residential.

“We’re starting to get into a little more of an abutting use issue,” he said.

“Our job is to think about the future. The land’s going to be here long after we’re gone. We want to do right. We want to do no harm.”

Plan Commission member Matt Fuller said the noise issue is the main consideration. Even if the proposal is denied, he said, the noise won’t go away. Hunting is still allowed in the lake off the shoreline, and the state has rules to regulate it, and Large himself can still hunt on the property with his family and friends.

“It is a hunting community, and there are regulations in place to control safety,” Fuller said.

Plan Commission member Jeremy Risch said he turns down requests to hunt on his property. He used to get one or two per year, but that has ballooned to 20 to 30 in the last decade.

“It’s just kind of a safety issue for us and the land that we have and the people who work there,” he said.

Parks said there’s a fragile balance between those who like shooting and those who don’t.

“Mutual respect for one another’s property is just key for it,” he said.

The town, he said, has spent much time discussing the freedom to farm, and its ordinances are worded with farmland preservation in mind. But, he said, the town needs to consider the wishes of those in residential areas who moved there before the hunting land proposal came forward.

“Something like this, we need to think big picture. Is this in the best interest of the town going forward?” he said.

The vote to recommend denial of the conditional use permit was 7-1. Fuller voted against, meaning he supported Large’s request, and Larry Bares was absent and excused.

Plan Commission Chairman Tom Winker, who is also the Town Board chairman, said, “My charge is for the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the town.”



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login