Village has been after property owner to fix or remove structure for 3 years
A three-year battle of wills between the Village of Saukville and a Foster Drive resident has finally ended with the razing of a dilapidated barn.
Village officials began the campaign to have the barn at 188 S. Foster Dr. removed in November 2007.
At the time, Building Inspector Brian Biernat wrote to property owner Donna Mandt that the village determined the barn was “in serious disrepair” and had to be repaired or removed.
A site inspection showed the barn’s roof was beginning to sag markedly, Biernat said.
“For your own safety, as well as the safety of abutting property owners and the general public, I must order you to either make necessary repairs to the building structure and exterior, or arrange for the building to be demolished,” he wrote.
This April, more than two years later, a follow-up letter was sent restating the village’s insistence that the barn be fixed or razed within 30 days. A final letter threatening court proceedings under the village’s nuisance ordinance was sent by Village Attorney Gerald Antoine on June 29.
The threat of legal action and a possible fine of as much as $500 spurred Mandt to contract with a demolition company.
A razing permit was taken out Friday, and work began this week.
The episode left a sour taste with Mandt. who has lived in the ranch-style home next to the barn for 16 years.
“When I got the letter, my jaw dropped. I was really upset and went straight from the Post Office to Village Hall,” Mandt said.
She said village officials have been avoiding her, and she still does not think the barn needed to come down.
“It is older than the house and it isn’t going to blow down,” Mandt said.
Village records show the 1,728-square-foot home was built in 1965. The property was last assessed at $236,200.
Although the east wall of the barn had started to collapse, Mandt said the building has screened her home from the neighboring Taco Bell restaurant.
“The barn has blocked some of the headlights from the Taco Bell. It is already so bright that I don’t need to turn on lights inside the house at night,” she said.
Mandt said she contacted each of 10 contractors suggested by the village to do the demolition, and none even offered to give her an estimate for the job.
“I live here by myself and I do what I can to keep up the property, clearing all the trash that blows over from Taco Bell,” she said.
“The way this whole thing was handled, I don’t think was right. What more could I do for the village?”
Mandt said she has received several offers from prospective buyers for her property, but said the village’s restrictions on permitted uses
in the Foster Commons entertainment corridor have blocked those deals.
“I thought when you buy a property, you would have more control over how that property is used,” she said.
Village Administrator Dawn Wagner said the village has been patient with Mandt, but insists the neighborhood is better off without the dilapidated barn.
“When the village created Foster Commons as a planned development district, the intent was to encourage and promote immediate development and redevelopment where and when opportunities presented themselves,” Wagner said.
“Within the district are a number of nonconforming single-family residential uses. These properties were nonconforming prior to the creation of Foster Commons. The difference maker regarding Donna Mandt’s property vs. all of the other nonconforming residential properties in the district is that none of the others have a large nonconforming accessory structure literally falling apart in plain view and dangerously close to abutting property owners.”
Wagner said the barn has become an eyesore that is decreasing the value of properties on Foster Drive.
“It is now more important than ever to remove this potential hazard as it has already begun falling in on itself, creating an obvious blight on the district while a neighboring property owner is trying to market his vacant commercial building during difficult market conditions,” she said.
“If you were trying to sell your house and your next door neighbor’s barn or garage or shed was an hazard and potential nuisance, one would expect that you would do everything you could to compel this neighbor to remove the problem and to help protect your investment.”
Wagner said the village believes the removal of Mandt’s barn will increase her property’s value as well as that of neighboring properties.
THE BARN ON Donna Mandt’s property has some serious structural problems, leading Village of Saukville officials to issue an order that the building be repaired or razed. After a three-year tussle with the village, Mandt hired a crew this week to demolish the barn — which is adjacent to the Taco Bell restaurant. Photos by Mark Jaeger