Silencing critics or saving cash
December 29, 2010 | 09:05 AM
Fontana — Lou Loenneke and Bruce Jensen think the village president is trying to muzzle them and stop discussions on the lakefront ownership issue.
Village President Arvid "Pete" Petersen said the two already have cost the village money, and by sending more information to Village Attorney Dale Thorpe, they are jacking up the bill.
On Dec. 16, Petersen sent Loenneke and Jensen a letter stating they can't submit information directly to village staff. Jensen had faxed a letter from the Wisconsin Historical Society to Thorpe. Loenneke has questioned the lakefront in the past.
"You are incurring unauthorized charges that will be billed back to you," Petersen wrote. "In the event you wish for the village to review material, you must submit the documentation to the village clerk, file a cost recovery agreement, and then village staff will take transmittal responsibility to any professional they feel is necessary."
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. Tom Whowell, a former village president, is one of the owners of Gordy's. Riparian rights allow the business owners to place piers in the water.
The village's Community Development Authority hired Madison-based attorney Hank Gempeler to review information regarding the lakefront ownership. In a report, Gempeler said he believes the business owners posses the riparian rights.
However, Jensen criticizes the report as being filled with inaccuracies.
"Jensen and the Jensen documents raise interesting questions," Gempeler's report states. "However, most of the documents submitted by Jensen were not of record and consisted of copies of assessors plats, transportation certificates, photos, renderings, maps and other anecdotal information."
Jensen said his documents are "of record." In a letter to Jensen, Harold L. Miller, a reference archivist at the Wisconsin Historical Society, said the documentations provided our "official records."
"That in itself shows his opinion letter sucks," Jensen said of Gempeler's report.
Loenneke and Jensen said Petersen is attempting to stop any further questions about the lakefront ownership.
"It's a way to muzzle and stop further debate," Jensen said. "They just want to accept Gempeler's letter as it is."
Petersen said when Thorpe reviews documentation that Jensen submits it costs the village money.
"It is not up to any citizen to incur expenses that we have not authorized," Petersen said.
He also said he isn't trying to prevent the two from providing information to the village.
"They can submit information to the village clerk, but they can't incur expenses on behalf of the village by sending stuff directly to our professionals," Petersen said Monday afternoon.
In a letter that Loenneke plans to submit to Petersen, he argues the issue is important and Jensen has received additional important information.
"The information Mr. Jensen received from the State of Wisconsin, specifically indicates that Lake Street is 66 feet wide and a platted road," Loenneke wrote. "This directly contradicts Mr. Gempeler's opinion letter."
Loenneke encourages Petersen to seek a answer to the lakefront ownership issue from a judge.
"I hope you, the Village Board, CDA nad Mr. Thorpe will be very careful and do your due diligence before giving away any piece of the lakefront," Loenneke wrote. "With the potential for significant income and additional boat, buoy and slips spaces available to residents this is an important issue."
Jensen also questions how a cost recovery agreement applies to him submitting documents when the agreement addresses the costs incurred by "applicants."
"Neither Lou nor I are applicants to ownership of the land in question, nor to the lake's riparian rights," Jensen wrote in a Dec. 26 letter to village officials.
However, Petersen said there requests would fall under the cost recovery agreement.
"They are applying for legal opinions," Petersen said. "The bottom line is they are looking for free legal opinions and there is a limit."
Jensen said a declaratory judgement is needed to determine who has the rights to the water on Genva Lake.
"My feeling on this is it needs to go to court to get a legal, proper decision. If it is in favor of the Whowells that is fine its a done deal," Jensen said. "If its in favor of the village that is the way it should be."