Village to raze two structures despite offer to redevelop

By Michael S. Hoey


The Darien Village Board on Aug. 21 approved awarding a bid by Stewart Excavating Inc. for $37,600 to raze two buildings at 31 and 37 First St. owned by Scott Ganser. By doing so, the village rejected a proposal by a Lake Geneva realtor to take over ownership of and rehabilitate the buildings.

Administrator Rebecca LeMire said a raze or repair order was issued in March with a June 2 deadline because the buildings are so old, dilapidated and out of repair that they are dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary and unfit for human habitation. She said the village received no response from the property owner, so bids for the razing of the buildings were solicited. The village received three bids and the one from Stewart was the lowest.

Vanessa Anaya, a real estate broker licensed in Wisconsin and Illinois, addressed the board to make a proposal that would save the buildings. Anaya said she and her partner, whom she did not name, were willing to take over ownership of the building from Ganser in return for taking over all of his liabilities, back taxes and fines. Anaya and her partner would then renovate both buildings, bring them up to code and rent them out by January.

Attorney Brad Lochowicz said the village has filed a court action with a court date of Sept. 7 to back the raze order and award expenses and previous costs to the village including attorney fees. In addition to the cost of razing the buildings, Ganser owes the village $16,449. Lochowicz said he sees no reason the court wouldn’t rule in the village’s favor.

Trustee Ken Truckey asked if any legal issues would result by delaying a decision on razing the building for a month to consider the proposal from Anaya. Lochowicz said no legal issues would result, but the board needs to consider if it had the ability to recover the $16,449 in fines and fees owed the village.

Truckey and William Volmar both said it might be better for the village to see those buildings rehabilitated rather than razed, especially if it can be done on the village’s terms. LeMire said she has had discussions with Anaya and told her the village would want the density of the development reduced and the village would want to be reimbursed for the costs owed to it. Anaya still presented a proposal for six units, which the building already has, and asked for the village to waive $16,449.

Given that, Board President Kurt Zipp moved to award the bid to Stewart Excavating to raze the buildings. The motion was approved 5-1 with Volmar opposed.

Accessory structure

The board approved a conditional use permit that will allow Truckey to add a 2,400-square-foot accessory structure on his property for storage. Truckey and Elizabeth Bauman recused themselves from the discussion and vote.

LeMire said the fact that the applicant is a board member played no role in the approval process. She said the Plan Commission has recommended approval. As zoning administrator, she had some concerns but also recommended approval with conditions.

LeMire said she was concerned the new structure would not match the existing structure, future property owners might use the addition for other purposes like animal storage or automotive repair, and approval might give the appearance to the public is precedent-setting and would allow other property owners to do the same. LeMire said the conditions of the permit would address the first two concerns and she did not believe an approval would be precedent-setting as each applicant for a conditional use permit must go through the process and get approval.

LeMire also said the new structure could be beneficial to the village because many things that are being stored outside on the property will be stored inside the structure and out of sight.

Rate study

      The board approved authorizing hiring Ehler’s and Associates to assist with an application to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for a conventional rate case study for the village water utility. The study will cost $10,500 and be completed by Oct. 15. If the study recommends a rate increase, Ehler’s will help make that application by the Nov. 15 deadline.

LeMire said the village received a letter from the Public Service Commission stating a rate study was required because the water utility has been losing money in recent years. She said any rate increase that would result from the study and subsequent request for increase would most likely take effect sometime in the first quarter of 2018. She also said part of the study will be a long-term cash-flow analysis for the utility, which could be very beneficial.

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