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Decision could be close on River Club suit

Weickardt, neighbors asking judge for contradictory rulings over debated easement

June 5, 2013

Mequon — Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge Tom Wolfgram, faced with a pile of legal briefs, decided at a motion hearing and scheduling conference on Monday that he will take time to review the filings before either issuing a written decision or bringing the case back to court.

In recent weeks River Club of Mequon owner Tom Weickardt's attorneys, Mequon City Attorney John DeStefanis, and attorney Robert Holtz, representing nine families in the Deer Trail Estates subdivision of the Ville Du Parc neighborhood, have submitted a flurry of filings, with the last coming from Holtz early Monday morning.

The lawsuit itself strikes at the heart of an issue dating back to 2011, when Weickardt submitted plans to develop a 19-lot subdivision and 12-acre park on a 42-acre lot south of Friestadt Road he had purchased along with what was then called the Mequon Country Club. His plans stalled when city officials discovered an open space easement which, depending on which of the lawyers you talk to, either does or doesn't guarantee Deer Trail Estates residents — and potentially even all Ville Du Parc residents — access to the land.

Enjoy the scenic view

Weickardt's suit, originally filed in December, at first attempted to compel the city to enforce Weickardt's property rights against trespassing on the 42-acre lot. In April, Weickardt's attorneys re-framed the argument, requesting Wolfgram to solidify through declaratory judgment an interpretation of the easement that only guarantees the neighbors "the right to enjoy the scenic vista of (Weickardt's) property as open space."

"Mr. Weickardt wants to enjoy the same property rights as any other property owner and determine when and under what circumstances people may enter his property," attorney Christopher Hale said in April.

DeStefanis and Holtz have since filed briefs that contradict Weickardt's claims on a number of points and say that all Ville Du Parc residents may have a stake in the case, that Weickardt's case is based on hypothetical trespassing that hasn't occurred, and that the easement in question needs to be viewed within the context of several similar open space easements governing other lots in the Ville Du Parc area.

"You can't make a determination to what this means unless you're treating the document as a whole," DeStefanis said. "You can't just cherry pick one paragraph and say this is what (the easement) means."

He should have known

They also allege that Weickardt should have been aware of the easement when he bought the land.

"You bought it, and you should have known it was there," DeStefanis said. "If you didn't, take it up with your title insurance company."

On behalf of the nine Deer Trail Estates families — including his own — who recently entered the suit, Holtz has entered his own request for Wolfgram to issue a declaratory judgment in their favor.

His motion says that: all residents of Deer Trail Estates and Ville Du Parc, along with their occasional guests, are allowed onto the lot; and that any amendment to the easement would require the consent of the Deer Trail Estates Homeowners Association, or all property owners in Deer Trail Estates.

An assistant of Wolfgram's said she expects him to issue a decision on the case before his term ends on July 31.

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