The Wisconsin Dells City Planning Commission voted to hold off on a recommendation to deny a local motel renewal of a workforce housing permit, in a room with its fair share of controversy.
The motel, Fairview, first failed to meet inspection standards in 2017, when local building inspector Kheli Mason noted the significant fire hazard presented by keeping solid foam insulation in the basement next to exposed wiring. Over the next two years, Mason did not notice significant improvement at the property.
“The property has not shown much effort in bringing the buildings and rooms into compliance,” Mason said in her April 2019 report. “At minimum, until the fire load and rigid foam in the basement is removed, I cannot recommend approval of this facility.”
For committee member Lisa Delmore, the recommendation of the inspector was more than enough. She pointed out that issues with the rigid foam in the basement first came up on Mason’s report in 2017, and still has not been addressed.
Delmore’s concern rests with the international student workers who would be housed at Fairview, if the permit ends up renewed. These students, coming to the Dells on J-1 exchange visas, often stay in places such as the Fairview Motel as a way of saving money.
In fact, co-owner Asli Hizli was once a J-1 international worker herself, and she stood to give an impassioned defense of her place of business at the meeting.
“So they expect me to do everything in two months when I am trying to get ready to open,” Hizli said, on the brink of tears. “That’s not fair.”
Hizli’s main issue rested on her claim that she did not receive any documentation that her permit would not be renewed until it was too late to do anything about the issues. Over the course of the meeting, she openly dissolved into tears as the committee discussed the fate of her business.
“We feel they are trying to shut us down because of the school,” Hizli said, before her attorney, sitting next to her, advised her to stop talking.
Committee members were confused by Hizli’s claim, but she did not speak further on the subject at the meeting. When asked to clarify her statement upon leaving, her attorney responded with a quick “no comment.”
Ultimately, the committee voted to give the Fairview Motel staff a week to attempt to correct any of the issues presented in the Mason’s report. If they pass the inspection, from both Mason and the fire department, they will be permitted to open for the season. If not, Hizli can come before the committee at its June 10 meeting.
However, one committee member remained unsatisfied with this middle ground. Chris Lechnir was the only member to vote against the proposed second chance for Fairview. When asked why, he replied that after the number of already-failed inspections, he didn’t see the need for another shot at one.
“They’ve had three years to fix it, and they haven’t fixed all of it yet,” Lechnir said on his way out of the meeting. “I think it’s a safety issue. So instead of approving and hoping they get it fixed, I’d rather they get it fixed and then approve it.”