TOWN OF GRAFTON — Golden Belles’
proposed bed and breakfast and event space is stalling in the Town
of Grafton, as neighbors came out in numbers Wednesday concerned
about what the business would do to their neighborhood.
Kira Behrens came to the Town of Grafton Plan Commission meeting
Wednesday requesting a permit to turn her farmstead at 1235 E. Sauk
Road into a residential business. The Plan Commission, after two
full hours of public comment and discussion, voted to table the
matter until next month. Behrens was advised to meet with town
planning staff to go over her application, and either scale some
things back or come up with specific limitations on the large events
many neighbors were adamantly opposed to. “We don’t want to
micromanage, but we want to have reasonable boundaries where you can
test out what you want to do,” Town Chairman and Plan Commission
Chair Lester Bartel said.
Behrens is seeking to run an organic farm — which is allowed by
right on the agricultural-zoned property — and to use the property
for hosting events, as well as a bed and breakfast aspect out of the
five-bedroom home. The bed and breakfast and event space require a
permit because such business uses are allowed only conditionally on
an agricultural property.
The farm would sell its produce through a farm stand Behrens plans
to build on the site, and possibly supply local restaurants or sell
at farmers markets. One of the events Behrens mentioned that she
hopes to host on her property is farm-to-table dinners with 40 to 50
people in the garden.
“I commend you for taking a shot at this, and trying to save this
farm, and do something commercial with it,” Plan Commissioner Dan
Behrens’ plans for the property include many improvements to the
sites, as well as additions and changes to the various buildings.
Documents she submitted to the town for her permit application
indicated various sizes of events that could be held, with up to
four total each week. Event sizes ran from fewer than 15 people to
up to 150 people or more.
“That’s my biggest concern,” said neighborhood resident Steve Betts
of large events. “Because we’ve all been through it before. It was
loud, it was bright and there were cars burning in and out of
Betts was referring to a family wedding held on the property by the
previous owners, which was mentioned by several residents. There
were also several mentions of loud music and sound coming from the
farm in the last week, and they said the noise was incredibly loud
“I don’t have any issue with the agricultural use … or the bed and
breakfast. … (But) with the frequency of events planned, there won’t
be much chance for peace and quiet on East Sauk Road,” said resident
Behrens clarified that the recent noise was a sound test; the
loudest noise neighbors heard was much more than the volume level
she selected as a maximum. She told the commission that a sound
technician performed the test and calculations, so that the maximum
volume she intended on the property, heard from the distance of
neighbors’ homes, was roughly the same decibel range as a
“Will you hear music (with events)? Of course you will, but it’s at
the same noise level as the ambient noise you’re already hearing,”
Behrens specified during discussion with the Plan Commission that
she is not planning many large-scale events. For the immediate
future, there would not be any more than 100 people in the barn,
because code requires she install fire safety and sprinkler systems
to hold events that large. Behrens said many events would be small.
She has a background in business, working with various types of
executives, and many events would be only a few people attending for
business workshops or strategic planning sessions she would host.
Larger events were in her proposal because she has been approached
by friends, contacts and nonprofits about hosting larger events on
occasion, and she did not want to preclude those possibilities.
“I was encouraged (when making the application) to put in everything
I might do in the next two years,” Behrens said. “I’m still trying
to be a farmer. I also know you can’t make a living growing organic
While most of the residents who attended the public hearing voiced
no concern over the farming and bed and breakfast, about 10 people
spoke publicly against large events, and the noise, traffic and
light pollution such events would cause. Some also spoke about how
weddings and similar events could lead to drunk people driving down
their road and wandering around their properties. Behrens told the
commission she was happy to work with the neighbors’ concerns,
adding fencing, doing light studies and other items to make sure
events on her property were not a disturbance, but she did not want
to incur great expense before she had permit approval, and knew she
would be able to move forward.
The Plan Commission is expected to take up her application again in
February. Bartel said that in the coming weeks, whenever a revised
version of the Golden Belles permit application was completed, the
town could make it available for residents to review.