Lawsuit looms as homeowner, town try to settle spat over kitchen

Board poised to pursue legal action if impasse over garage addition isn’t resolved
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Town of Saukville will take a town homeowner to court in the next two weeks to force him to dismantle a kitchen he built into a second structure on his property if he doesn’t agree to do so on his own before then, an attorney for the town said last week.

“There has been an  ongoing discussion, but there is no resolution yet,” said town attorney Sara MacCarthy with Hall, Render, Killian, Heath and Lyman in Milwaukee. “(Going to court is) what we anticipate doing. But if we resolve it short of going to trial, that’s in the best interest of everyone.” 

Reed Horton, of Spring Green in Dodge County, submitted plans in 2015 to replace a garage structure at 3150 Highview Rd. Town officials say the plans showed the second floor of the new garage would have a large open room identified as a “bonus room,” which Horton described as a work studio for his wife, Jeanne.

But when town Building Inspector Walter Grotelueschen visited the site in May 2017, he discovered that the second floor contained a kitchen, bathrooom and bedrooms, making the garage a dwelling unit in violation of town zoning ordinances. Horton was told he had 30 days to remove the improvements.

Last week in an interview, Horton said when he told the town clerk what he wanted to do in 2015, including putting in a kitchen over the garage, the only advice he received was to go to the county and get a permit for a septic unit.

When he returned later that October, he said he was told he could not install the kitchen or bathroom.

So I spent $16,000 on a septic system. The clerk said nothing about not being able to do it,” he said. “In October they said I couldn’t do it.”

Since then, Horton said the town building inspector visited the property three times but never spoke about the kitchen until May 2017, even though the plans continued to show a kitchen.

“He had to know. I was there in February with him and he could see the water and gas lines” coming into the unit, Horton said.

Horton hired a lawyer and applied for a zoning variance but lost his case.

“They wouldn’t tell us what I had to do to not make it a kitchen,” he said.

Horton said he is willing to continue to fight because he has a special bond with the property.

The property was owned by his grandfather, Paul Reed, who bought it in 1942 as a family retreat for his grandchildren and other family members. 

“At the time it had property on both sides of the (Milwaukee) River and had a suspension bridge across it and had a horsebarn,” Reed Horton said.

The family sold it in 1987 after Paul’s death. When it came on the market in 2014, Reed Horton said he eagerly snapped it up.

“We decided to buy it and get it back into the family,” he said. “We restored the (main) house. It’s been quite a project.”

The property consists of eight acres on one side of the river now and Reed Horton said he looks forward to making it a retreat for his extended family so they can enjoy the same experiences he did growing up there. 

He hopes to use the second structure as a place that could house family members when they come to visit.

Horton and MacCarthy said the two sides are near a resolution.

“Everything is approved except for a kitchen,” Horton said.

The pending lawsuit demands that Horton remove the kitchen.

Asked what that means precisely, MacCarthy said: “Remove it so it cannot operate as a kitchen to the satisfaction of the building inspector — no sink, no oven, no refrigerator.”

Horton sounded agreeable to that contingency — for the most part.

“I told them I would be willing to take out the cooktop and oven but want to leave the refrigerator and microwave,” he said. “I have $200,000 invested in this thing. I have cupboards and everything and I’m not going to start tearing $200,000 worth of cupboards out.”

Told of Horton’s comments, MacCarthy said: “Sounds like a dwelling unit to me. He has to be reasonable. What do you think a judge would decide? It’s a calculated risk” on Horton’s part. “It’s not as if these cases haven’t gone to court before.”

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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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