Town wants garage spat resolved in courtroom

Trial requested to settle dispute with homeowner that dates back to 2015
Ozaukee Press Staff

A long-running dispute over a garage the Town of Saukville says was built illegally may be headed to trial.

A May 22 letter from Town Attorney Sara MacCarthy to Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph W. Voiland asks that a date be set for a two-day trial to settle the issue, saying the homeowners never followed through on a mediation agreement. 

The dispute dates back to 2015 when Reed and Jeanne Horton wanted to build a room above a new garage at 3150 Highview Rd. The original plan showed a “bonus room” over the garage that the Hortons said would be a work space for Jeanne.

The Hortons are Spring Green residents who bought the Highview property as a family retreat.

When the project was inspected, the “bonus room” had grown to include a bathroom, kitchen, closet and bedroom, making it a second dwelling unit and violating town zoning codes.

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 them in June 2018.

Meanwhile, the Hortons were accruing fines of $100 for every day they were out of compliance. 

In November, Voiland ordered the Hortons and the town to go to mediation. A nearly six-hour mediation took place in January.

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. 

A compromise agreement was reached that called for the Hortons to remove an oven, cooktop and closet door from the apartment and pay $17,500 to the town within 30 days, plus put a roof over the sidewalk by July 31. The sidewalk also needs to be inspected.

By the time of mediation, Horton was facing about $75,000 in fines, town officials said.

Horton removed the kitchen appliances, but refused to pay the $17,500 because, he said, the town never inspected the work he completed, which he said the agreement required.

MacCarthy said the town wasn’t required by the agreement to inspect it.

“It is patently obvious that the defendants have no intent to come into compliance with the town code or the terms of their mediated agreement,” MacCarthy wrote in the letter to Voiland.  

In the interim, the Hortons changed attorneys.

In response to MacCarthy’s letter, the Hortons’ new attorney, Ronald Stadler, agreed that the sides should meet in court to schedule a trial and restated the Hortons’ belief that the couple never violated town zoning.



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