Dispute over garage hits another snag

Homeowner’s failure to pay town $17,500 by deadline places settlement in jeopardy
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

A court-ordered mediation settlement of a long-running dispute between the Town of Saukville and a homeowner who built an apartment over his garage in violation of town codes is in danger of collapsing.

That’s because the homeowner, Reed Horton, of Spring Green in Sauk County, failed to make a $17,500 payment to the town within 30 days of reaching the settlement as required by the agreement. The deadline passed on Feb. 18.

That makes the agreement “null and void,” Town Chairman Don Hamm said Feb. 19 during the Town Board meeting. “He is in breach of the agreement. Now we’ll probably end up back in court,” Hamm said.

On Friday, however, Horton said he didn’t pay the money because the town never inspected the apartment after he had removed appliances from the unit, also required by the agreement. “I had 30 days to take out the appliances, and they were supposed to come out and inspect and they haven’t,” Horton said.

Town Attorney Sara MacCarthy said the town was not required to inspect the apartment, according to the agreement.

“We took a much more reasonable approach. He was allowed to take photos of the apartment (without the appliances) and send them to or drop them off with the town clerk,” she said. “In any case, that’s no reason for him to not submit payment as required.”

Madison attorney Bill McArdell, who represents Horton, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Horton and his wife Jeanne said they received permission from the town’s Plan Commission in 2015 to replace a garage structure at 3150 Highview Rd. that included a second-story apartment above the garage. The original plan showed a “bonus room” over the garage that the Hortons said would be a work space for Jeanne.

When a town inspector showed up, the “bonus room” included a bathroom, kitchen and bedroom, making it a dwelling unit.

The Hortons said a former town clerk told them the amenities were permitted and that tearing out what they had already installed, as the inspector ordered, would be too costly.

When the Hortons refused to comply, the town sued the Hortons last June.

Meanwhile, the Hortons were accruing fines of $100 for every day they were in violation. They faced $75,000 in fines and $12,500 in town attorney fees and other costs.

Horton complained that he was never informed the town was fining him. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of communication from that bunch,” he said.

In November, Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph W. Voiland ordered Horton and the town to go to mediation.

At a January mediation hearing that Hamm said lasted six hours, Horton and his attorney argued the garage and the main house should be considered a single structure because a sidewalk running between them constitutes a “connecting foundation,” making it allowable under town codes. 

The agreement called for Horton to remove an oven and cooktop from the apartment, remove a closet door and pay $17,500 in 30 days, plus put a roof over the sidewalk by July 31. The sidewalk also needs to be inspected.

MacCarthy said she is supposed to write an update on the case to Voiland this week. Another court hearing has not been scheduled.

“We’re still optimistic this will be resolved,” she said. 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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