GRAFTON — A longstanding
business in the town of Grafton had its permit renewed last week,
but not precisely as requested.
Hoppe Tree Service, located at 1009 Arrowhead Road, came to the Plan
Commission last week to renew its conditional use permit, requesting
amendments to the previous permit to add a building to shelter
vehicles and equipment and to increase the number of employees
allowed to the business.
“They cited the crisis with the emerald ash borer as part of the
reason for the (employee increase),” town Engineer Kevin Kimmes
While the Plan Commission did approve the two-year renewal of the
conditional use permit and the building Hoppe Tree Service
requested, the expansion of employees to allow 20 was removed from
the motion before approval, after lengthy discussion.
The village staff’s recommendation was to allow up to 20 employees
for the business, but only 10 allowed on the property at one time.
The current town code dictates that level three landscaping, which
Hoppe Tree Service is, has a 10-employee limit.
During the public hearing for the permit, two neighbors spoke
against the renewed permit, including comments about the number of
Jeff Stay and Roy Swisher, who are residents near Hoppe Tree
service, spoke about the business and its employees being disruptive
in the neighborhood.
“August (Hoppe) is gaming you. He says he needs to open up to 20
people – he already has, he’s just not telling you,” Swisher said.
“There’s over 20 personal vehicles on the property,” Stay agreed.
“I find it to be completely unacceptable to approve and extend the
permit for two years, when they’re violating the permit that’s
already there,” Stay said.
When asked by the Plan Commission, Hoppe owner and operator August
Hoppe told them he did have 18 employees.
Town Chairman Lester Bartel looked up the documents from the last
Hoppe permit renewal and found that staff approved 12 to 15
employees. Staff last week noted that employee limits on landscaping
businesses in residential zones were impacted in the last two years
by an overhaul of the town zoning code.
“I’m going to have to lay people off, this is going to be a major
thing … If this was a true issue, I should have been informed of
that,” Hoppe said.
“If you don’t allow me to have – I’m asking for the meager increase
to 20 – I have to lay off my employees,” he added. While the Plan
Commission did eventually approve the permit renewal with the
previous 15-employee allowance intact, they did not take action
increasing the permit’s allowed employees.
Bartel said later last week that the town would have to further
define the employee limit with Hoppe Tree Service, to determine how
to move forward with the business currently having more employees
“I understand the predicament you’re in, but in my mind, we’re bound
by the code,” Plan Commissioner Patrick Stemper said.
The Plan Commission briefly discussed that in this case, a variance
to the ordinance would not be appropriate. Increasing the employee
limit would require Hoppe to apply to have the code changed to allow
for greater numbers.
Other concerns raised by the neighbors included noise and large
equipment from the property, a festival held once a year that
included loud music and drinking and the business’s gate, which was
a stipulation of Hoppe’s existing permit to be locked outside
business hours to control entry.
“We have a good relationship with most of the neighbors, other than
the two you heard from … Since 1986 it’s been the perfect place to
have a business. We try to be good neighbors,” Hoppe said.
One of the neighbors speaking in the hearing said he had seen young
people coming and going from the property, and it constituted an
“attractive nuisance.” Both neighbors commented they had frequently
seen the gate left open. When asked by the commission, Hoppe said
the gate was likely not consistently shut, and had not been shut in
several months since it was damaged in an accident.
“It’s hard to get our people to buy into the last one out, lock the
gate,” Hoppe said.
Bartel told Hoppe he had to get the gate fixed. Having been damaged
in May or June, there was no reason for it to not be fixed or
replaced, and once fixed it needed to be closed to prevent nuisance
access to the property, as the permit required.
“I can’t understand how someone who runs a business the size,
efficiency, operation and scope of yours, can’t lock the gate,”
The permit and staff report on Hoppe Tree Service also addressed the
Hoppe Tree Service property’s history of firearmsrelated issues.
There have been complaints in the past of excessive firearms use at
the property, which was found to be members of the Hoppe family not
involved in the business. The use of the land as a firing range not
occurring was tied to the conditional use permit.
“The use of the property as a recreational shooting range, outside
of hunting as allowed by the DNR, is strictly prohibited from this
day forward,” Kimmes said.