The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has swooped in and placed concrete barriers to block a new driveway access off U.S. Highway 51 for the Minocqua Brewing Company (MBC), after the company created the access without DOT permits.
The new construction also violated federal disability requirements and infringed on existing parking on the property, according to Bryan Rose, the DOT’s north-central regional communications manager.
In late October, town of Minocqua officials became aware of construction taking place at MBC and contacted the DOT. According to Minocqua town chairman Mark Hartzheim, the preliminary plan for the MBC property was to close off two accesses that existed more to the northern part of the property, and to create a new access off Hwy. 51 on a more southern point, which would create a one-way traffic flow through the property, with traffic exiting onto Front Street on the other side.
MBC owner Kirk Bangstad removed the existing accesses and created the new one, the problem being that he did not have final approval from the DOT or any of the needed permits to do the work.
“That’s DOT right of way — the highway access, the curb, the sidewalk, that’s all DOT right-of-way,” Hartzheim told The Lakeland Times. “They [the DOT] kind of looked at this in a preliminary fashion and said, ‘Yes, we would likely approve this, but you need to apply for a permit prior to doing any work.’ So we saw the work happening and … the public works director contacted the DOT to check with them, and we did some checking and sure enough, no permit.”
Rose said the department had been working with Bangstad since last winter regarding potential changes Bangstad wanted to the driveway locations on Hwy 51, but he confirmed that the DOT had not yet issued permits for any work to begin.
“During the week of October 24, 2022, non-permitted construction in the right of way occurred at this property,” Rose said. “The work included removal of two driveway entrances and construction of a new entrance, including removal and replacement of curb and gutter and sidewalk.”
Rose said there were other violations in addition to the lack of a permit.
“This work resulted in a driveway entrance that does not meet ADA [Americans with Disability Act] requirements,” he said. “The new driveway entrance is also located within existing marked parking stalls.”
Rose said the DOT has notified Bangstad that MBC has until May 15, 2023, to obtain a new access permit and to reconstruct the work to be ADA compliant.
“If compliance with the town, county, and state permitting is not in place by May 15, 2023, WisDOT will remove the non-permitted driveway and install curb and gutter and restore the sidewalk at the property owner’s expense,” he said.
Additionally, Rose said, because the work was non-permitted, the agency installed concrete blocks across the entrance behind the sidewalk to ensure that the new entrance would not be used and to ensure safe, on-street parking.

Yes, I won’t comply
While Bangstad has until next May 15 to obtain a DOT permit and rectify the other state deficiencies, he still hasn’t fulfilled a host of clearly understood local permit conditions that were established in December 2021, nearly a year ago, and that Bangstad agreed to, Hartzheim told The Times this week.
“From the town’s standpoint, that south access, to be utilized, is going to require him to enter into the revocable occupancy permit with the town, which he stated at a public meeting that he would do,” he said. “So he has made these promises that he would pave the parking lot and that he would enter into that agreement. He also said at that meeting that he would put an escrow agreement together for the work, and he didn’t enter into that, either.”
Overall, Hartzheim said this week, Bangstad has still not provided six parking spaces called for in the approved site plan (the town waived one of the seven spaces that normally would be required). The town chairman also said no curb has been installed along the east property line, which was a requirement for the town’s waiving of a 5-foot setback requirement along that boundary.
“As such, there is no waiver of the 5-foot setback,” he said.
As for the revocable occupancy permit, Hartzheim said that permit makes it clear that the only permissible use of the access is for vehicular and pedestrian access into the applicant’s property.
“[Bangstad] stated to the town board on June 7, 2022 — when he was requesting to be allowed to open the business before the conditions of the business permit were met — that his attorney reviewed and approved the permit and applicant would be promptly signing off on it,” Hartzheim said.
The town’s revocable access permit also requires the applicant to have proper access permits from the DOT, which Bangstad did not obtain, and there was more, Hartzheim said.
“The applicant’s use has violated clearly understood permit conditions that do not allow outdoor displays, sales, service tables, tents, and the site layout establishing one-way traffic flow in the approved site plan has not been met,” he said.
Then, too, Hartzheim said the town is particular about a standard county requirement to require exterior garbage dumpsters screened from view, and that hasn’t happened, either.
“During the permitting process, applicant’s agent stated that no dumpsters would be placed outside the building,” he said. “However, two dumpsters have been placed in the parking lot, neither of which is screened.”
Additionally, Hartzheim said, at the meeting last June 7, the town, at Bangstad’s request, gave Bangstad approximately four additional months to complete the work associated with the conditions of the approved business permit. 
“The owner further suggested an escrow account be established to ensure that the owner meets the permit conditions,” he said. “While the owner did go ahead and open early, he did not make good on entering into an escrow agreement.”
Indeed, during that town meeting last June, Bangstad had asked the town to waive parking requirements altogether, which was denied but which led to the agreement to put money into escrow.
Supervisor Brian Fricke framed the town’s concerns as a trust issue, and observed that everybody had settled on the parking and the permit conditions back in December of the previous year.
“I worked with you [Bangstad] back then and I worked hard to get you the six spots and at the time you were like, ‘Well thank you for doing that,’ and now you’re coming back and doing this,” Fricke said. “I’m not in favor of taking that parking lot out of there.”
Fricke said that everyone agreed back in December what would happen and, six months later, Bangstad wanted something else.
“If I make a motion on this that says, well, ‘OK, feel free to open as long as the 13 conditions are met on this, minus the blacktop,’ what’s to say that three months from now you aren’t going to come back with something different,” he said.
Money in escrow, Bangstad replied.
“You can take it from me and we can sign an agreement with the town that says if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do then you can take that money,” he said. “That’s how transactions are done when there are trust issues.”
That led to the escrow motion. With everyone in agreement that the parking requirements would not be waived, a second Bangstad request was considered.
“I am agreeing with the town that I will not want to open until the stormwater management is in and the gravel is compressed over the top of it,” he said. “I want the town to allow me to put the blacktop and the curb cuts in at a later time.”
The town voted to allow Bangstad to open and to have time to complete the blacktopping and curb cuts by October 31, with the escrow to be negotiated.
As Hartzheim reiterated this week, the escrow never happened, October 31 has come and gone, and the array of permit conditions remains unmet.
“Obviously there are multiple conditions of his business permit that aren’t being met,” he said. “That’s up to the county to enforce. The county is going to need to step in and enforce those conditions.”
Hartzheim also questioned why Bangstad would not sign the revocable occupancy permit.
“All that permit does is outline what that access is to be used for,” he said. “It’s just to be used to gain access into his parking lot and it spells that out, that it can’t be used for anything else. Why he is refusing to sign that is unknown to me. It may suggest that he is intending to do other things with it, if he is not agreeing to only use it for its intended purpose.”
Richard Moore is the author of “Dark State” and may be reached at