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Village awaiting opinion on lakefront ownership


Whowell describes CDA's handling of issue inept, disgraceful



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October 06, 2010 | 08:46 AM
Fontana — The drama surrounding the lakefront ownership issue may soon reach its climax.

In August, the CDA authorized spending up to $5,000 to have Madison-based attorney Hank Gempeler research titles and other documents to determine whether the Lake Street businesses have riparian rights to Geneva Lake.

For years, questions have been raised on whether the owners of Chuck's Lake Shore Inn and Gordy's have the riparian rights to Geneva Lake. Chuck's is owned by Carol and Jamie Whowell and Tom Whowell is one of the owners of Gordy's.

CDA Chairman Bill Turner said Monday morning that attorneys representing Chuck's and Gordy's plan on meeting with Gempeler in the near future.

Gempeler was expected to issue an opinion before the Sept. 14 lakefront referendum. Then it was expected by the Oct. 6 CDA meeting. However, village officials will have to continue to wait to hear the attorney's opinion.

On Monday, Turner said Gempeler expected to provide a written report to the CDA and Village Board. However, it is unclear whether the report will be made available before the meeting.

Trustee Thomas McGreevy asked if the cost of the investigation will exceed the $5,000 the CDA originally agreed to spend. Turner said Gempeler is aware of the investigation's budget.

Conduct unbecoming

The Community Development Authority has handled the lakefront ownership issue in an "inept" and "disgraceful" way according to Whowell.

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In August, the CDA began investigating whether Chuck's Lake Shore Inn and Gordy's has riparian rights to Geneva Lake.

On Sept. 20, Whowell wrote a letter — with the subject line "conduct unbecoming" — to Bill Turner and the CDA criticizing how it has handled the issue.

"You and your committee should be embarrassed to sit in your chairs," Whowell wrote.

In the letter, Whowell reiterates that there isn't a question of lakefront ownership; he has the riparian rights.

"We have all the legal documents that prove we own it. Our survey says we owns it; our bill of sale says we own it; Chicago Title Company says we own it," he wrote. "No magical document is going to appear that proves otherwise."

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The investigation of lakefront ownership began when Fontana resident Lou Loenneke wrote a five paragraph letter to the village questioning the ownership.

Loenneke wrote that he reviewed information that has been collected by Village Attorney Dale Thorpe and that he has "an even stronger feeling that the village does own the rights to the lakefront."

"Lou Loenneke's letter is nothing more than a groundless rumor — no facts, no evidence, just 'a feeling.' On this basis alone you authorized spending 3-5 thousand dollars of legal time to investigate Lou Loenneke's emotional stability," Whowell wrote.

Whowell also wrote that Gordy's and Chuck's have already spent more than "3-5 thousand dollars of legal time each in preparation for the extended nonsense you have begun."

The CDA authorized hiring Madison-based attorney Hank Gempeler to research the ownership issue. As Gempeler was investigating the issue, Turner drove to Madison with Loenneke, Bruce Jensen and attorney David Rasmussen to discuss the issue with Gempeler. Jensen has raised questions on the lakefront ownership issue in the past.

"That is an extraordinary insult to the position of impartiality," Whowell wrote.

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