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'There is no question of ownership'


Old surveys, deeds, plats raise questions



WHAT'S HAPPENING NEXT? Fontana — After an independent attorney makes a determination on the lakefront ownership issue, both the village and Chuck's and Gordy's may create an assessor's plat to settle the dispute once and for all. An assessor's plat can be used when there is uncertainty on boundaries between two or more property owners, according to the Wisconsin Department of Administration's website. Community Development Authority Director Bill Turner said Robert Leibsle, who is attorney representing Chuck's Lake Shore Inn, suggested the assessor's plat. "Bob (Leibsle) had a suggestion that we not only get an opinion, but that we also get an assessor's plat, which is approved by the Plan Commission and Village Board," Turner said. Turner also received a letter from John Maier, who is representing Gordy's group. Maier endorsed the idea of creating an assessor's plat. "Everyone is being cooperative," Turner said. Currently, the Chicago Title Company is searching through deeds and other title transfers. In the next month, Hank Gempeler, of Foley and Larnder, Madison, is expected to issue an opinion to the board on lakefront ownership. Village Attorney Dale Thorpe said the assessor's plat would only be created if all three parties can agree on the boundaries.
August 04, 2010 | 09:03 AM
Fontana — Inside of Gordy's Boat House, Tom Whowell unfolded a 1990 survey of the lakefront property, which states he has riparian rights on Geneva Lake.

In order to receive a permit, Tom said he needed the survey to prove to the Department of Natural Resources that he had those rights.

For years, questions have arose whether Gordy's and Chuck's have riparian rights — access to Geneva Lake.

Last week, the village's Community Development Authority approved spending up to $5,000 to have attorney Hank Gempeler, of Foley and Lardner, make a determination on whether the lakefront businesses have the rights to the water. CDA Chairman Bill Turner said he hopes to hear Gempeler's determination within the next 30 days.

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During a special session CDA meeting, Turner said there was a "fiduciary" responsibility to examine the ownership issue because of an upcoming referendum. In September, voters will decide whether to spend $2.8 million on improvements to Lake Street, including a new lakefront building.

The most recent investigation began when resident Lou Loenneke wrote a letter to the village questioning whether the lakefront businesses have a right to the water.

Both Tom and Carol Whowell, co-owner of Chuck's, have publicly criticized the CDA for singling out their businesses. Both Chuck's and Gordy's are operated as separate businesses.

In addition to the survey, Tom has bills of sale, title insurance and building permits that have been issued to his family as lakefront owners.

"There are some 50 to 100 examples in the minutes, dating back to the 1920s, that state we are the lakefront owners," he said. "Some CDA members are poor historians."

At the Boat House, Tom scanned through pages of handwritten notes copied from minutes and quoted a motion where his father was given a permit for his "lakeshore property."

"There is no question of ownership," Tom said.

Loenneke has reviewed county plat books and said they tell a different story.

"I question why do we have conflicting evidence at the county. That is what's confusing," Loenneke said.

Tom said the property had riparian rights before his family owned it. Loenneke agrees with Tom on that issue. However, Tom is frustrated the issue keeps coming up.

"It's like a school teacher explaining what four plus four is for 55 years and the student is not learning it," he said.

Part of the problem is that Lake Street has never been platted, which Tom said needs to be done.

"We want to plat the road as a team, the Gordy group, Chuck's group and the village," he said. "We wanted the village to work on the plat, not the riparian rights."

Tom said he thinks the issue is being brought up to ensure the September referendum is defeated.

Loenneke said he isn't trying to defeat the referendum. Instead, he wants to find the truth to the ownership of the lakefront.

"That's so far wrong," Loenneke said.

Shawneeawkee

Bruce Jensen questions the ownership of lakefront and whether the Whowells have access to the water in his book, "Shawneeawkee Friendly Fontana."

"Shawneeawkee Friendly Fontana" he questions the ownership of the lakefront and whether the Whowells have access to the water.

In the book, Jensen said he outlines specific dimensions that show the lakefront businesses end about halfway across Lake Street.

He said over the years, deed descriptions have changed. Jensen also said the current rights don't match the original plats.

"My information in the book is based on specific deeds," Jensen said.

However, Whowell said the book is filled with inaccuracies.

"The book is his personal opinion. He suggest ridiculous things," Tom said. "It's not true and accurate and much of the lakefront history is not in the book."

Jensen and Whowell have known each other since grade school. The two also were in the same Boy Scouts troop.

When Whowell was village president, Jensen was a vocal member of Fontana Residents for Open Government.

FROG sued the village and eventually entered into an agreement that required the village to go to referendum's for certain projects.

Whowell said he's not sure why Jensen has questioned his lakefront ownership. Jensen said the issue has nothing to do with an old middle school grudge.

Jensen said Tom should be looking to resolve the ownership issue.

"I think the reason he is outraged is he's scared the real facts will come out," Jensen said.

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