Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Bay pier dispute may go to court

by Chris Schultz

October 18, 2012

WILLIAMS BAY -- A neighborhood dispute over lot lines, pier setbacks and shore station permits may well end up before a circuit judge.

On Oct. 11, Chris and Magdalena Pauly, 7N Walworth Ave., and also of Roselle, Ill., appeared before a special appeals board at the Williams Bay Village Hall to appeal the denial of a shore station permit for the Paulys' pier.

Members of the appeals board, appointed by Village President John Marra, were attorney Frank Lettenberger, former village president LaMarr "Sparky" Lundberg, and Michael O'Brien, who sits on the village's extraterritorial zoning review board. None were involved in the earlier decisions to deny the Paulys the pier permit.

The village was represented by Village Attorney Mark Schroeder.

A shore station is a place on a pier where a boat is parked and usually lifted out of the water. The station protects the boat from other boats and keeps it from banging against the pier.

The Paulys asked the village for permits for two shore stations, one on the north side of his pier, the other on the south side. The north side permit was approved.

The permit for a shore station on the south side of the Pauly pier was denied.

During the hearing, Chris Pauly said his wishes were simple.

"I would like to park my own boats on my own pier in front of my own house," Chris Pauly told the appeals board.

Circumstances, however, are not that simple.

The village's denial of the permit was based on drawings of the shore station that showed it would encroach about 2.5 feet into the southern neighbors' 12.5 foot set back.

The neighbors to the south, the DeStefanos, protested the encroachment.

Chris Pauly appealed the decision in September before the village board's parks and recreation committee. The committee upheld the denial.

At the special appeals hearing, Chris Pauly and his wife, Magdalena, represented by attorney Sara Spring, did not deny their shore station was in violation.

Instead, they argued that the harbor commission was ignoring their complaints against their neighbors and that an alternative method of surveying for riparian rights would make their shore station legal.

They also complained that they were being singled out for enforcement actions by the village.

"We make the complaints, and we're the ones who are cited," Magdalena Pauly said after the hearing.

Robert Pegel, chairman of the Williams Bay Harbor Commission, said the village requires a 12.5 foot setback between piers and riparian lines to maintain a 25 foot lane from the shore to the lake for easy boat ingress and egress. Encroachment into that lane might interfere with boats maneuvering and docking.

It also came out in testimony that the village enforces those setbacks only when there is a complaint, and only when the complaining party is affected by the encroachment.

The Paulys pointed out that between 2001 and 2006 they were allowed to install the south side shore station on their pier. The refusals started in 2007, they said.

Chris Pauly said he was cited in 2007 for the shore station, although that citation was later dismissed by the municipal judge. Pauly said that when the ticket was dismissed, he thought the issue was resolved.

After a two-and-a-half hour hearing, the appeals board found against the Paulys and upheld the denial.

Several times during the hearing, Lettenberger said he was astonished that the Paulys and their neighbors didn't sit down and settle the issue amongst themselves.

The Paulys have owned their Williams Bay home since 2001. The neighbors to the south, the DeStefanos, have owned their Williams Bay home since 1986.

Mark DeStefano was at the hearing, but did not testify.

There have been past disputes between the neighbors regarding pier lengths and boat docking. The police were called out at least twice this year to mediate disputes between the Paulys and DeStefanos regarding a buoy and riparian lines between their piers.

According to police incident reports, the disputes were refered to the village harbor commission.

In handing down the panel's decision, Lettenberger said the Paulys had a good attorney in Spring and "you may have very good representation in circuit court."

But Lettenberger suggested the Paulys try mediation.

"Some simple movements can be made with your neighbors and many of these issues will go away," he said.

After the hearing, however, the Paulys said the dispute has gone beyond that. Chris Pauly said he was frustrated with the village's pier permitting process.

Some of the piers, including those owned by the Paulys and DeStefanos have been in the same location for decades. Installed before lots were subdivided and resold, the piers are not perfectly centered on shore lot lines.

The village uses extended lot lines to determine where dividing lines are between piers and to determine setbacks.

The Paulys proprosed that the village change to the Knitter method of determining the littoral property lines.

The Knitter method of surveying follows the curvature of the shore. And the shoreline where the Paulys and their neighbors live curves.

Using the Knitter method of determining setbacks would force the Paulys and their neighbors to reposition their piers, but would also make the two shore stations the Paulys requested fall within setback lines.

The Paulys first made that suggestion in 2008.

Pauly testified he went to the state Department of Natural Resources personally to find out how the riparian rights were determined.

However, the village has a 2008 letter from the DNR that says the agency prefers the extended lot line method simply because the agency determined it was the fairest method of determining riparian rights along that section of shore.

The DNR letter says in part that "no single method would make all elements comply with lot lines."

Schroeder, in closing statements, said converting to the Knitter method of determining reparian rights would create a domino effect of complaints among shoreline property owners.

"To radically change it (riparian rights) now becaue one person is unhappy would have ramifications to all piers in Williams Bay result in multiple hearings before the DNR," Schroeder said.

Chris Pauly also testified that he didn't understand why the village was singling him out for enforcement. He said that the Kramers have a pier just 4.9 feet from the lot line and his neighbors to the south, the DeStefanos, have a pier loading platform that extends into the 12.5 foot setback.

However, neither of those situations violate the Paulys' riparian rights.

Pauly said he brought those violations to the village harbor commission but was told by former commission president Gordon Roth, that unless those violations extended into the Paulys' property, the Paulys could not file a complaint.

According to the village, no complaints have been filed against either the Kramers or the DeStefanos by their neighbors, except for those made by the Paulys.

In an interview Monday after the appeals hearing, village Building Inspector Jerry Anderson said despite the permit denial, the Paulys installed the shore station anyway, Anderson said. He said the Paulys installed the pier in early spring before they applied for a permit.

The shore station on the south side of the pier is still there, Anderson added.

Anderson said the village attorney sent Pauly a letter last month giving him 10 days to remove the pier.

"He's clearly past the point," Anderson said.

Anderson said he's cited Pauly once, last year, for not getting a required permit. Pauly pleaded no contest in municipal court and paid a $111 fine.