Zoning dispute puts residents in the middle

(Published August 8, 2006, 9:49 a.m.)

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

A battle that has been brewing for over 10 years has over 300 residents of Pioneer Estates, W7955 Creek Road, Delavan, fearing that they will lose their homes come a Sept. 1 deadline.

But there isn't a thing they can do. The key players are Pioneer Estates owner Dan Daniels and the Walworth County Zoning Department.

At the end of their rope, the Zoning Department plans to revoke the conditional use permit allowing residents to live in their homes.

There are "quite a few" compliance issues dating back to September 20, 1994, said Michael Cotter, zoning director.

"He just continues to refuse to comply," Cotter said.

After citations are issued, Daniels assures compliance, the Zoning Department dismisses them, then Daniels doesn't comply, Cotter says.

"To imply that we've pretty much blown them off isn't accurate," Daniels says. "The problem is this there is a problem with the interpretation of the ordinances."

Daniels insists he's worked diligently to comply with county regulations, but ordinances are ambiguous, and have changed over time, making compliance impossible.

"These aren't new regulations," Barb Wheelock, Darien town clerk said. "This is not news to (Daniels) that he had to do all this stuff. He's been notified before."

"Oftentimes people say we're too strict, but we tried to work with somebody to our own fault," Cotter said. "Now I'm having to answer to the committee why didn't I sue him (already)."

Daniels disagrees completely and says he's doing everything he can to comply with the county's requests.

"We're trying to work with them and everything seems to be moving ahead in a positive fashion," Daniels said, adding that he believes everything will be "resolved in the near future."

Meanwhile, the residents, who own their homes and rent the land on which it is placed, got the first news of this situation just last week.

"We should've known about this," said resident Geri Holoubek. "They could kick all of us out of our homes."

The Zoning Department sent letters to Pioneer Estates residents to inform them of the issue being on the July 20 meeting agenda, but due to an addressing mistake, none of the residents received the letters.

"I feel disappointed by the county more than anybody right now because they've allowed this to happen," Holoubek said. "We just bought our home last year and had no idea what was going on.

"I'm not excusing (Daniels) either, but we pay our bills and we don't want to be told we have to leave."

While they are manufactured homes, the majority are not the type that can be just moved to another place, she said. In addition, the residents have landscaped their yards and built garages, decks and sheds.

"It isn't fair and it's enough to scare the heck out of you," Holoubek said. "The county is just as responsible as the owner and we're just the bystanders in this."

"I didn't know what was going on at all," said resident Sandie Dingfeldt. "I hope to God (the county) would reconsider this. It's a scary situation.

"What do we do here? We can't move our home. This would leave us homeless."

"They're going to have legal action against Daniels if that's what happens," Cotter said about this possibility. "Unfortunately, these people are directly in the crossfire."

Daniels doesn't see that happening at all, he said. "I take this very, very seriously," he said. "I'm in the position that all I can do is work to fix this situation. "

In the recent past, the town of Darien has requested Daniels' compliance with several ordinance violations, which he has temporarily satisfied, said Dale Wheelock, Darien recycling coordinator, member of Darien Park Commission and member of the Darien Plan Commission.

This item is on the agenda for the next Zoning Department meeting, scheduled for Aug. 17 at 6 p.m.

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