September 26, 2023 at 5:50 a.m.

Jennrich drops ball on TRH suspension


By RICHARD MOORE
Investigative Reporter

It’s been seven weeks since the Oneida County zoning committee suspended a Crescent Lake tourist rooming house permit for multiple and ongoing violations and directed zoning staff to come up with a list of proposed house rules to address the concerns of upset neighbors, but, with the 60-day suspension fast approaching an end, no such list exists.

At this past Wednesday’s zoning meeting, zoning director Karl Jennrich said he had communicated with the owner of Crescent Lake Getaway, Troy Venus of Weston, but they didn’t come up with a list of specific actions Venus would carry out to ensure compliance, as an August 2 vote by the committee directed Jennrich to do. 

Meanwhile, the neighbors are still upset over what they say are ongoing short-term rentals despite the permit’s suspension, one county board supervisor said he also received a complaint that short-term rentals were ongoing, and zoning committee chairman Scott Holewinski decided against letting a group of Venus’s neighbors speak — though one did anyway — telling them to email Jennrich instead, even though they were in the room and had traveled to Rhinelander from Minocqua expressly for the meeting.

After the permit suspension on August 2, Jennrich told the committee this week, he informed Venus that he was to immediately cease any short-term rentals of the property. Jennrich said Venus replied that he was removing his listings from Airbnb, VRBO, Bookings.com, and a website, that he reimbursed the current renters for the remainder of their stay starting from the date of the permit suspension — they were allowed to finish out their vacation at the home at no charge, Jennrich said — and that he had canceled short-term bookings for the remainder of August. 

However, Jennrich said Venus informed him that he had a contract for a long-term rental agreement starting August 6, and Jennrich said Venus relayed to him in an email that those visitors would likely prompt more complaints from the neighbors, though they were renting for a month.

“These folks travel to the area often and have been offered to rent the home to share with their family,” Jennrich read from Venus’s email. “Therefore, you'll likely be getting notice that there is still activity at the home throughout the suspension. Yes, there is, but we have done everything that we have been asked of us and tried to salvage some business for the next two months.”

Jennrich said Venus provided the department a valid long-term contract, and Jennrich said he believed that Venus was now compliant with the permit. Long-term rentals of 30 days or more are allowed in single-family residential neighborhoods.

After Jennrich’s opening remarks, Holewinski homed in on the list of rules Jennrich had been directed to develop with Venus.

“I don’t remember details of the whole thing, but you were instructed to sit down, take the public comments on what they felt were violations, and come up with some plan that Mr. Venus would follow to continue renting which wouldn’t bother the neighbors,” Holewinski said. 

Holewinski said he recalled that the lake was a small, 16-acre private lake.

“There were concerns about overfishing it and I remember and, I don’t know, trapping fish or some darn thing,” he said.

Jennrich pointed out to Holewinski that the DNR, not the zoning department, regulates fishing on private lakes. Still, Holewinski said, there were other infractions the department did have jurisdiction over.

“I guess the question I would ask, because of the complaints, are you making for your renters a rule that says no discharge of firearms and a certain time for fireworks, and are you giving them information so that the neighbors all know who to call when they have a problem and each person will be getting that?” Holewinski asked Venus, who was at the meeting. Holewinski also asked Jennrich: “Is that written down somewhere?”

Jennrich said he didn’t have any such thing. Holewinski reiterated the point.

“I thought when we suspended it for 60 days that you would work with him and get something that, ‘okay, here’s the violations and here’s how I’m going to change what I’m doing so I don’t upset the neighbors on that lake,’” he said. 

Jennrich said if that was the understanding of the committee then the agenda item should be tabled and he should discuss it. Holewinski pressed on.

“I thought you would take the complaints like the firearms shooting and the fireworks that night and things like that and put some rule down so the neighbors understand what happens and he understands what happens,” he said.

The motion from August 2 was read and it was exactly what the committee understood it to be: “I thought that was what was going to happen,” Holewinski said.

For his part, Venus said he believed he intended to stay in compliance, both with permit and state requirements, that he had updated the house, and that there had been no weekend rentals for the past couple of months. 


Mr. Roach’s neighborhood

Supervisor Mike Roach appealed for neighbors to talk with neighbors.

“The law is pretty clear that you can’t have change-over in those six, seven nights,” Roach said. “And that’s hard to police. So when you get a bunch of neighbors that are mad, and you have to try to talk to your neighbors. … I believe you have to go talk to people. You have to go tell them what’s going on. If they’re saying we see different people coming and going, it’s hard to police, but you have to work at it, otherwise we lose and then we have government put in more rules.”

Simply put, Roach said, the committee wanted Venus to cooperate with his neighbors.

At one point, supervisor Bob Almekinder said he had received a call saying Venus was still offering short-term rentals, but Holewinski said there was no way to monitor it, and even such a things as taking license plate numbers was not fool-proof because those coming and going could be house cleaners or relatives.

Jennrich asked the neighbors in the room who have complained to email him specific concerns and said he would address them with Venus in a separate meeting. But Jennrich also told the committee that the neighbors did still have concerns about what they contended were ongoing short-term rentals despite the permit suspension, and he asked Holewinski if he would hear from those in the room.

Holewinski demurred.

“Well, they can submit it,” Holewinski said. “They can email you [Jennrich] their concerns.”

The committee did have a public comment agenda item near the beginning of the meeting during which nobody spoke, and Holewinski did not say he would allow the public to comment during the agenda item, which he does not have to allow. 

However, the committee has had a past practice of doing just that, that is, allowing those with comments to wait until the specific agenda item to discuss them. Not Wednesday.

After directing the neighbors to submit any concerns they had to Jennrich, one woman sitting with the neighbors who did not identify herself rose to speak anyway. For one thing, the speaker said, Jennrich doesn’t get back to anybody.

“Karl was gone for two weeks out of the month,” she said.

As for that long-term contract, the speaker said, that didn’t pass muster, either.

“He’s saying that he had somebody in there from August 6 until September 6,” she said. “We have cameras pointing to his driveway that show the vehicle was otherwise gone before September 6.”

The speaker said the neighbors wanted to see the committee take a stance that people have to follow the rules, or have their permits revoked.

“Rules are put into play for a reason,” she said. “You cannot pick and choose what rules you want to follow. He didn’t follow rules all along. He wasn’t following rules on August 2 when we had the original public hearing. And then days later he magically found a long-term rental, which was not there for more than 30 days.”

He was disobeying his short-term rental to begin with, the speaker said. She then addressed Roach’s comments that everybody should just be more neighborly. 

“You said, ‘talk to your neighbors,’” she said. “The thing of it is, the reason we are all here today is because we each individually tried to talk to him first and he fed us a bunch of baloney — to this person and to this person, to this person and to me and to her and to him,” she said, pointing to each of the neighbors in the room.

Soon enough, the speaker said, the neighbors came to the conclusion that the new “renter guy” was lying to them all. 

“Now we’ve had enough because we’ve tried to establish a neighborly relationship with him, but he wants nothing other than money to come out of his rental business,” she continued. “He doesn’t care about the fact that these women have lived in their homes for 30-plus years. He saw property for sale, he saw dollar signs and he jumped on it and now he doesn’t care who he steps on otherwise. So the reason we’re here today is not so he can propose another business proposal full of lies, but to make a point that rules are put into place for a reason. And if you do not follow them, there are repercussions and punishments to follow.”

With that, Holewinski said Jennrich would work on the directive and would “bring us back stuff on this.” He then moved on to the next agenda item.


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