LAKE HALLIE — Whether Heather Marble is able to establish a restaurant in the former Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall might not be up to the Village of Lake Hallie. The neighborhood around the building, called the Stafford Addition, is governed by a covenant that forbids such development.
Marble has requested that Lake Hallie’s Plan Commission rezone the property at 4668 133rd St. from residential 1 to highway commercial, allowing her to operate a business there. But an approval by the village won’t necessarily override the covenant.
A covenant is a private contract between landowners that regulates what the land can be used. Because the covenant is private, the village can approve the rezoneing request, but area residents could raise legal challenges to Marble’s right to use the land the way she wants.
If residents do challenge, Marble would need to get a majority of the Stafford Addition’s residents to sign a petition that would change the covenant. Currently Marble is seeking signatures to do that. So far, Marble said she has collected around 50 signatures.
“So it’s about half and half,” she said.
But the need for the petition will depend on whether the neighbors choose to oppose the development. If the village approves the rezoning, any dispute would be between Marble and the surrounding property owners.
The Plan Commission is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday, April 13 at the Lake Hallie Municipal Building to discuss the matter.
Director of the Chippewa County Planning and Zoning Department, Doug Clary, will attend Monday’s meeting and plans on recommending the Commission deny the request.
“Let’s not get involved until the covenant is changed,” he said. Clary has cautioned the Plan Commission that approving the request could potentially draw the village and county into a legal dispute. “It’s a Catch-22.”
The covenant dates to 1952 when the area was first being developed. Residents at the time agreed to disallow any development besides residential homes. Then, 20 years later, the community amended the covenant to allow a churches in the area. That’s how the Kingdom Hall came to be there. But the contract still prohibits any sort of business venture in the area.
Marble said she has retained a lawyer who has advised her that once the rezone goes through, the covenant won’t be a problem.
But Clary has given other reasons to deny the request, too.
“The area is predominately residential and there is adequate land within the village already zoned for this type of use,” he recommended to the Plan Commission last month.
That’s why Marble has circulated another petition throughout the village as a whole.
“It should be up to everybody not just the neighbors,” she said.
Marble made her initial presentation to the Plan Commission last month. The body tabled the matter to give Marble more time to come back with a more detailed plan.
According to the rezoning request submitted by Marble, the Blue Marble Pub would not require exterior changes to the building for the most part. But she did indicate that adding a deck for outside seating could be a possibility.
Inside, she plans on a 30-foot long bar area with a large kitchen and plenty of space for restaurant-style seating. There could also be a small arcade and pool tables.
Marble will present more complete plans at Monday’s meeting.
Should the request be approved, the matter would still go before the full village board later this month.