by Emmitt B. Feldner
For The Beacon
SHEBOYGAN – Despite misgivings from one supervisor, the County Board Tuesday unanimously approved a driveway request for the Kohler Co.’s proposed Straits Chapel on the Lake Michigan bluff in the town of Mosel.
The board reclassified 3,000 square feet of wetlands on the 150-acre Kohler Co. site from shoreland-wetland to shoreland district to allow the company to build a driveway for the chapel, scheduled to open in 2020.
Supervisor Jim Baumgart, while supporting the project, expressed some concerns.
“Certainly a chapel is always welcome, but a couple of things in the process concern me,” Baumgart stated.
He noted that Kohler received permission to fill two small wetlands on the property off Lakeshore Road north of Playbird Road.
“That could have been bypassed if they moved the chapel over a little,” Baumgart contended. “They did a good job but I don’t like to see wetlands destroyed.”
While the chapel would not be located on wetlands, the company’s preferred driveway location through a woodland area crosses two wetlands.
An alternative driveway would avoid the wetlands by going through a farm field. But the company said the alternative would not “create the experience Destination Kohler desires,” according to documents filed with the state. It would also require significantly more tree removal, Kohler contended.
He also expressed concern about the chapel’s proximity to the bluff along the lakeshore.
“I just worry because we didn’t look at those bluffs as close as we could. We do have those bluffs that are being eaten away,” Baumgart noted.
Kohler announced plans for the chapel, which will seat up to 150 people, last month, with the goal of beginning construction this summer.
The chapel is intended “to host weddings and life celebrations in a tranquil setting with breathtaking views,” Christine Loose, Vice President Lodging and Wellness for Kohler Co., said in the press release announcing the project.
It will offer a panoramic view of the lake through a center 22-foot tall window flanked by two 8-foot tall windows.
Kohler’s other wedding facilities at The American Club and Whistling Straits are booked two years out, according to documents filed by the company with the state.