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Mt Olympus plans to build up to 52 cabins for summer workers at the site of the former Big Chief go-karts off County Highway A in Wisconsin Dells.

The Wisconsin Dells Plan Commission on Wednesday approved a conditional use permit and the site plan for the house for the resort and theme park’s employees.

Adam Makowski, general manager for Mt. Olympus, said the plans for the cabins replace ones for turning the former Copa Cabana Resort into dormitory style housing. “We’re not going to do that. We’re looking at this instead,” Makowski told the Events in a telephone interview.

As originally discussed with the city’s planning and zoning administrator, Chris Tollaksen, Mt. Olympus planned to build a two-story, dormitory building on the site, but changed to the cabins. Makowski said the reason for the change was cost and Mt. Olympus could do the construction. The cabins could be built for about 40 percent of the cost of the two-story dormitory building, he said. The cabins would each house four students and each would have a bathroom with shower facilities, Makowski said. The size of the cabins fits what is allowed under the city ordinance, he said, and those living in them will also have use of a common area building with a kitchen and lounge area. Plus, he said, Mt. Olympus plans to put in a soccer field or basketball court on the property. The cabins will be spaced about 10 feet apart.

Makowski told the Events that he did not know the exact cost of the project but it would probably be between a half to a million dollars, depending on how many cabins they make.

The site will be good for employee housing, Tollaksen said, adding that it will give a good quality of life for the employees. He noted that Mt. Olympus could convert the cabins to a campground in the future. The site is next to the former American World campground that is now part of Mt. Olympus and where the resort is building some camping cabins.

Employees will have their own space, Makowski said, giving them a “vacation lodging feeling.” The resort wants to have happy employees, he said.

In his report on the plans, Tollaksen said, “This area is well suited for work force housing as it is off the main commercial corridor, but still close to the jobs. This site also has the benefit of not being near any residential uses, so there is no concern for impact on neighboring residences.” He noted that the workers should be crossing Highway 12/Wisconsin Dells Parkway at a stoplight “It would seem that concentrating the Mt. Olympus employees relatively close to the park would decrease the pedestrian traffic on other parks of Wisconsin Dells Parkway. Mt. Olympus has also been very involved with the J-1 student consortium, which has worked with the police department to focus on training the J-1 students on traffic safety,” his report said.

In recommending approval of the site plan, Tollaksen’s report called for a contingency that, “The storm water is evaluated and addressed if necessary.” Noting that the site already has quite a bit of pavement on it, Tollaksen report said, “increased storm water does not appear to be an issue. However, with runoff from this site likely traveling through a gorge that is utilized for the Duck rides, water runoff should be evaluated prior to construction to ensure there are no issues off site.”

Another contingency put on approval of the site plan for the project is that “Any site plan issues identified during the building permitting and construction phase are address to the satisfaction of the City Zoning administrator and building inspector.”

The commission also put two contingencies on approval of the conditional use permit for the project, specifically that “the permit is issued to Mt. Olympus and is not transferable,” and that “the facility shall be properly maintained and managed to prevent it from becoming a nuisance.”

Some of the cabins will be built by the summer, Makowski said. “We want to have good majority done.”

The commission also approved a conditional use permit for Mt Olympus to use the former Continental Motel on Wisconsin Dells Parkway again this year for summer workers.

Makowski told the commission that even with the new cabins, the resort will need the 23 units in the motel. He noted the city has not had any issues with Mt. Olympus use of it and that it has not been an eyesore.

When it received the permit first, the resort said long-range plans were to remodel and upgrade the motel for guests.

The resort began using the motel for employee housing in August 2011. The city approved the use then with some reservations because the motel was considered prime commercial property. Because of that, the city only granted the resort a one-year conditional use permit to house workers there. For that reason, it has had to come back to the city for another permit this year.

Mayor Brian Landers suggested putting an ending date of Sept. 30 on the permit, but Makowski asked for a little extra time so students in the motel would not have to be moved to other housing before their employment ended.

A Sept. 30 date is not critical, Tollaksen said, and the permit was approved with an expiration date of Oct. 31, 2013.