4/23/2019 7:30:00 AM 'Pier' pressure at Minocqua Town Board meeting Hartzheim to Meyers 'Sing it to somebody else. I'm getting sick of it.'
Kayla Houp of The Lakeland Times
At its April 16 meeting, the Minocqua Town Board discussed an update from the Oneida County Planning and Zoning department regarding the status of a pier system on the northwest side of Thoroughfare bridge, but tabled making a decision on recommending enforcement of the county's pier ordinance.
Karl Jennrich, Oneida County Planing and Zoning director, was unable to attend the meeting to provide the update, but did send updated information on where the county stood regarding the piers.
"The question is the county is being challenged on whether it can even regulate piers, so there's litigation currently involving this in the county," town chairman Mark Hartzheim said. "And the county's position is the owners of the pier system have the ability to use and maintain the piers at their own risk."
Hartzheim said that, essentially, if the court ruling came down in favor of the county, then owners would have to cease use of the piers and remove them. However, the county is taking the position that, until the matter is resolved by a judge, it's still permitting the use of the piers.
"He (Jennrich) says that the piers can't be rented out because the property is not zoned appropriately, and that the owner or the agent has represented that the piers aren't being rented," Hartzheim said. "This will tie in Administrative Review Permit (ARP) request later because, obviously, if you're gonna promote that property, you're gonna promote that the people can use the piers."
"I don't think the perception of the committee was to go ahead and do what you want while we're waiting for a ruling," town supervisor Billy Fried said. "Most people know I've been a proponent of the county not to be regulating piers, but if you're gonna regulate something, do it right." He said that there was a county meeting the next day, where there would be a review of what's going on so that the committee was clear on what direction the county was taking.
"I think the court case that's pending right now is really not whether the county can regulate piers," realtor Mike Meyers said. "It really comes down to whether the county can regulate them unlike kind to the state statutes."
According to Meyers, there's "nothing in the pending litigation that says the counties can't regulate piers" but that they just can't "regulate them inconsistent with the state statutes", which "are the primary power in regulating piers."
Moreover, Meyers said that the issue really just came down to configuration, and that Oneida County is claiming that no pier can be wider than 20 feet.
"There's two issues with that," Meyer said. "The ambiguity of the ordinance and two, whether or not it's statutorily allowed."
Meyers said that the Thoroughfare property in question has 1,750 feet of frontage and that the state ordinance allows "two piers for the first 50 feet and one pier for every additional foot."
"The county is taking the stance that there's 900 feet there, instead of 1750," Meyers said. "It's irrelevant. Most of your zoning conflicts with piers deal with the number of piers on a particular parcel on people overreaching their statutorily allowed number of piers."
Meyers said that the reconfiguration process was going to be "ugly in that situation" because, instead of having one boardwalk out to those piers, which are all statutorily allowed according to Meyers, there would have to be a minimum of three boardwalks to accommodate the number of piers needed.
"It's going to result in something that's not gonna be as pretty as what's existing at the current time," Meyers said.
Hartzheim said that the board wasn't going to be deciding whether the piers were installed illegally, but that Oneida County had determined they were installed illegally.
"I think the county is taking the reverse approach than they should. I think they should enforce their ordinance," Hartzheim said. "They're telling you you can use the piers and they're telling you it's illegal at the same time." Hartzheim said that it made no sense to him as a regulating body how the county could take that approach.
"I'll make a quick comment on that," Meyers said. "The piers went through the state forms to make sure they met all the state standards for the installation of piers."
Meyers said he thought the board needed to understand the "progression" rather than saying the piers were built and all of a sudden the county says they're illegal. He claimed to have visited the zoning department three times with maps and had left maps with them.
"At some point you need to allow the justice system to make a determination rather than sitting up here as a town board trying to over guess the legal statutes on the situation," Meyers said.
Hartzheim said that the board wasn't trying to do that and that, if the county has an ordinance, they should enforce it.
"I will disagree with you on, and I think the county zoning staff would disagree that you came in proactively, showed them all your maps and your exact plan of attack," Hartzheim said. "Because that's not what I hear from them. I hear that you were in there a couple of times, but what you built is not what you talked about and showed them. And I think the zoning staff would say that, too."
Hartzheim reiterated that the legal issues weren't what was meant to be discussed tonight.
Fried said that he got the feeling the town wanted to see things enforced and not just left hanging out there, because it gave the wrong public perception.
'You just did it'
"Well, why can't I build a boathouse?" Meyers asked. "Reasonable. Because the state statutes don't allow it."
"Our statutes didn't allow what you did," town supervisor John Thompson said. "You just did it."
Meyers asked whose statutes Thompson was referring to.
"Oneida County. You didn't get a permit, Mike," Thompson said. "I know the game you're playing. I get it. I get it. Mike, no, listen. I get the game you're playing. I get it, OK? But don't put the halo over your head and say, 'I went through all the proper channels', because you didn't."
Meyers said that his first argument to the county the day they brought this up was up was, "why would you not require a permit."
"After all the times I've been in there, and you're telling me I did it wrong. How can you guys not provide a perit or provide some sort of map like the state does that would give you some sort of clarity to the ordinance?" Meyers said. "I agree the county should require a permit for piers, and this wouldn't be an after-the-fact problem."
Hartzheim asked if the board wanted to make a recommendation for enforcement to the Oneida County Planning and Zoning department.
"I don't think you have the authority...," Robert Rynders said.
"We can recommend anything we want," Hartzheim clarified.
Meyers asked if Hartzheim thought the attorneys involved in the case would "ideally have the expertise to make the decisions."
Hartzheim said they were arguing something different.
"Can I finish?" Meyers asked.
"No, I'm going to finish. They're arguing something different. There's going to be a trial. There's a whole litigation on that. That's what the attorneys are arguing," Hartzheim said. "The county has said these piers were installed illegally and they should be removed. We have a right as the town this is happening in to make a recommendation that."
Meyers asked if Jennrich wrote and stated the piers were illegal.
"Why are they in court then? There would be no case if they were legal." Hartzheim said.
"There is no pending case against those piers, I'm sorry," Meyers said.
"I'm sorry, but you need to read your mail a little bit more because the county's position is still they were illegally installed and the piers themselves are illegal," Hartzheim said.
Meyers said that his client, William Campbell, wanted his day in court and that right now they're trying another case. After that case is decided, Meyers said, they'll make a determination on their decision with the Campbell case.
"For clarification," town supervisor Bill Stengl said. "Are there citations issued?"
Meyers said there weren't as the county had withdrew them.
Stengl said that it was an Oneida County zoning issue and that the most they could do was voice their displeasure and ask that the county enforce the zoning laws and regulations they have in place.
Hartzheim said that the department had pointed out they would take the town's recommendation under consideration if they chose to make on.
"I'll make one last comment and that's that the county knows all the facts of the situation. The attorneys that are litigating the case know all the facts." Meyers said. "I don't feel as a town board you guys are fully educated on the situation."
Hartzheim said that he had explained his concerns and asked the board if they'd like to make a decision, or move on to the next agenda item.
Fried said it would be better to move on because he felt the board needed clarification with the county.
"You can't have a public comment be your education to where things are," Fried said.
The board tabled the discussion and decided to table the next item, a discussion/decision regarding a driveway permit application submitted by Meyers, agent for William Campbell, for town approval to install a driveway to access the pier system on the parcel owned by Campbell. As the board was preparing to move on, Meyers elected to make one last comment.
"So, the area where Mr. Campbell is asking for access to his property over there, apparently the town proposed an ordinance that fall that the area is limited to on-side street parking on that straightaway?"
"There's no parking on that location, correct," director of public works Mark Pertile said. "By ordinance."
"And that's the same area as the boat landing," Meyers clarified, asking if that had followed the last time he brought a parking issue to the board. "Why that particular straightaway? How many miles of road does Minocqua have?"
"Mike, you wanna sit here and play games and act like the innocent victim all night? Let's get real here. You think we're a bunch of idiots up here?" Hartzheim asked.
"I'm just curious why." Meyers said.
Hartzheim said they outlawed parking on both sides of that street because Meyers had told them they "couldn't stop him from parking there."
"And I emailed you back saying we are going to consider outlawing parking along both sides of that street if that's the way you were gonna do it," Hartzheim said. "And that's exactly what you did. Why do you think we made no parking on both sides of the road there?"
Hartzheim said that it was because Meyers had said, "you can't stop me."
"Don't give me that smirk. Don't play Mr. Innocent like you don't know what's going on. You know exactly what's going on. And you've known what's going on with this fiasco from day one," Hartzheim said. "All the different ways you represented this. 'Oh, we'll never need a driveway there, just for construction,' 'Oh, the owner's gonna settle into this house, that's gonna be his residence', 'we're never going to rent those piers out.' You know. Sing it to somebody else. I'm getting sick of it."
In other decisions, the board:
Had the first reading of an amended ordinance regarding parking regulations an awarded a road gravel bid
Authorized the removal of an area reserved for a future town road from Oneida County
Had a first reading of an amended ordinance regarding all-terrain vehicle use on town roads
Approved a motion, 4-1 regarding an administrative review permit for an application by Mike and Beth Meyers for William Campbell, owner, to rent the dwelling at 9240 Thoroughfare Road as a tourist rooming house. The board approved it "as presented."
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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