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July 10, 2020

4/20/2020 10:37:00 AM
Final answer on Carlin Club water given
Houlihan: 'This is the end of the line'
Brian Jopek
Lakeland Times Reporter

Earlier this month, the attorney for Supperior NMW LLC said its court battle is over.

That's in reference to failing attempts over the past few years by the company, with a partnership that includes Trig Solberg, to get the necessary permitting to use water from a well at Presque Isle's Carlin Club for bottling purposes.

The company has a water bottling plant up and running in Marenisco, Mich., using water from another nearby well.

Vilas County judge Neil Neilsen, during a hearing conducted by phone on March 27, upheld the most recent finding of the Vilas County Board of Adjustment (BOA) from November 2019.

The BOA voted 4-0 then to uphold the interpretation of portions of a county zoning ordinance as it pertains to plans for hauling water from the Carlin Club well in Presque Isle to the bottling plant.

That ordinance interpretation, from Vilas County zoning administrator Dawn Schmidt, concerned an effort by Carlin Club Properties, LLC (Superior NMW LLC) to remove water from the well.

In the wake of not only Neilsen's March 27 decision but also two BOA hearings and other court dates the past few years that have consistently gone against the company, Superior NMW LLC attorney John Houlihan of Minocqua on March 31 said the effort to pull water from the Carlin Club well in Presque Isle and truck it to Marenisco water bottling plant has ended.

"Obviously, we were disappointed with judge Neilsen's ruling," he said. "We thought that based on his ruling of April, 2019, when he had indicated that the Vilas County ordinance is very liberal and permissive regarding non-conforming properties that the taking of this (Carlin Club) water would have fit into the way this ordinance reads."

During that April 2019 court hearing, Houlihan said Neilsen cited specific court results from other states "that he thought were very similar to our case" before he ultimately ruled as he did and sent it back to the BOA for its November hearing.

"He remanded the whole matter back to the BOA claiming they proceeded on incorrect theory of law and he wanted another hearing on it," he said. "We thought, based on that ruling, we were in a good position to maybe have the board of adjustment rule in our favor. Obviously, they didn't."

Consequently, Houlihan said, Neilsen ultimately went along with the BOA's ordinance interpretation.

Dan Bach, the attorney representing the Carlin Lakes Association in its litigation against Superior NMW LLC for the past few years, said he felt the BOA "did a really thorough job."

"They applied the correct legal standard that was applied to them on remand to respond to specific questions judge Neilsen was asking them to respond to," he said. "They looked at the evidence, they discussed the evidence as well as the legal standards and I thought they did a thorough job and they got it right."

Carmen Farwell, one of the Carlin Lakes Association members who at times has also been a spokesperson, said Carlin Lake property owners "are delighted that Judge Nielsen confirmed the unanimous decision of the Vilas County Board of Adjustment."

"It's been nearly six years since this trucking business was proposed and we have believed all along that it would violate county zoning regulations," she said. "Now, the company has been heard six times in district court, twice by the Board of Adjustment, and once by Wisconsin Court of Appeals. Isn't it time for them to accept that the trucking of water from a lakeside well is definitely not allowed?"

Houlihan told The Lakeland Times last week that time has apparently come.

"We feel this is the end of the line on it," he said. "At this point in time, I do not see us proceeding any further on it."

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at

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