Treehouses, mini golf course among ideas for flea market property

GNAW BONE — A couple will ask the Brown County Board of Zoning Appeals this week for permission to put a miniature golf course, petting zoo, indoor antique mall, primitive campsites and treehouse lodging on the former Olde Time Flea Market property.

Jeff and Patty Tracy are asking to be approved for a private recreational development. They are buying the flea market property on State Road 46 East on contract from Charlie Placke of Brown County Travel Trailers Inc.

The total land area, in three parcels, is 58 acres. The Tracys’ business operations would take place on all but the easternmost 5 acres, according to paperwork on file with the Brown County planning and zoning office.

Right now, the land contains many awnings for flea market vendors, a large building and a farm implement sales space outdoors. At times, food trucks have been set up on the property.

The couple plan to continue operating the outdoor flea market but want to rearrange the awnings to “make a more appealing look and use of the property.” They intend to make the building into an antique mall.

The grounds around those structures are where passers-by will notice the most changes, if the couple’s request is approved.

The farm implement business has been given a 90-day notice to move out, the Tracys’ letter to the zoning board says.

Their vision is to operate a petting zoo directly behind the antique mall, to invite a local wood carver to demonstrate his craft on weekends, to build a mini-golf course with a “rural and rustic” theme along the front of the property and to build a primitive campground at the back of the property across Gnaw Bone Creek.

In addition to non-electric campsites sites, they’d like the campground to include several treehouses and cabins.

“This is a great and exciting trend that has begun around some very prominent national and state parks around the country and we believe it would fit very well within the hills of Brown County,” the couple wrote in their letter to zoning board members. “Not only can visitors now come ‘see the leaves,’ but they will now be able to come ‘sleep in the leaves of Brown County.’”

Their plan is to build a communal bathhouse and two new restrooms to serve the property, which will be connected to the Gnaw Bone sewer system.

Property visitors also will be able to enjoy a playground made of repurposed materials and “corn crib gazebos … decorated with a rural theme and Edison lighting,” the couple’s proposal reads.

The flea market and antique mall, wood carving demonstrations and petting zoo are envisioned to happen in the first phase of construction, with the other attractions going up later.

They’re calling the proposed development Gnaw Bone Creek Trading Post.

The antique mall — which could open as early as Feb. 1 — is envisioned to operate year-round, with the outdoor attractions operating seasonally. The couple wrote that normal business hours will be from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., “with an occasional variance on holiday weekends or special events.”

The property, in two parcels, had been advertised for sale for $899,866. Patricia Robbins signed a conditional purchase contract with Placke in December for $675,000, with a $125,000 cash down payment at closing.

The land currently is zoned general business, with “floodway fringe” and “floodway” overlay, according to Planning Director Chris Ritzmann’s staff report.

General business zoning does not allow a “public camp.” Flea markets are allowed with a special exception. The county’s ordinance does not specifically mention a miniature golf course or petting zoo.

“Private recreational development” can encompass many uses. It’s a term that was just recently defined in the Brown County zoning ordinance, though various PRD requests had been approved throughout the past 15 years. The definition is “the provision of recreational-related products or services by private enterprise for a fee, with the long-term intent of being profitable, including but not limited to wedding venues.”

If you go

What: Brown County Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24

Where: County Office Building, Salmon Room, East Gould Street