Town board backs residents in zoning dispute

Residents caught in the middle

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

(Published Dec. 21, 2006, 9:38 a.m.)


The ongoing dispute between the Walworth County Zoning Department and Pioneer Estates, W7955 Creek Road, Delavan, owner Dan Daniels, has triggered official support from the Darien Town Board as it continues to leave Pioneer Estates residents living in fear of losing their homes.

The conflict began Sept. 20, 1994, when the Zoning Department issued the first of what has become years of subsequent requests for Daniels to apply and pay for the permits necessary to continue to expand the mobile home park, said Michael Kotter, zoning director.

Residents own their homes, which are placed on property owned by Daniels.

The situation came to a head in August when the Zoning Department threatened to revoke Daniels' conditional use permit enabling residents to live in their homes on the property.

The day before the meeting, Attorney Dale Thorpe, representing Daniels, submitted the approximately 150 back permit applications and over $22,000 in back permit application fees leading to the Zoning Committee rescinding their order to revoke the conditional use permit

In November, the Board of Adjustments denied Daniels' request for ordinance variances that would allow existing homes to remain in place.

The denial led to a flashback of fear on the residents' part and to the Darien Town Board to take a stand.

"On Dec. 5 the Darien Town Board voted to support the residents of Pioneer Estates in every way possible," said Dale Wheelock, board member. "Our major concern is for the people who live there, not the owner."

"The county wants homes moved one to three feet," he added. "This is not the fault of the (home)owners."

Kotter denies eminent eviction actions against the residents and wholeheartedly denies rumors that he is on the verge of sending sheriff's deputies to evict residents and/or turn off their water.

"It's not true at all," he said. "We are not beginning any enforcement actions. They do not need to panic."

Kotter places the blame for the extraordinarily long compliance period on Daniels' ongoing manipulation of the zoning process, saying that good faith agreements were followed by continual failures by Daniels to keep his end of the agreements.

These actions reflect the Zoning Department's unwillingness to let the violations drag on further.

Meanwhile, over 300 mostly retired residents are "living in fear," they say.

"These people are really worried," Wheelock said. "Don't drag these people into the middle of this. These are people on fixed incomes. They deserve to be treated right. The town is the only ones on their side."

"We moved here just three years ago," said Dottie McKay, Pioneer Estates homeowner. "(The county) has known about this for years. We had no idea this was happening when we bought our home."

The McKays have spent a large portion of their savings adding a deck, garage and new floors, as have many of their neighbors, she said.

"We got the right permits from the town for all we've done," she said. "We followed the specifications. We followed the rules.

"What are we going to do if they say, 'OK, this is it, you have to move.' Who's going to pay for this?"

"Where it sits, I imagine Daniels' attorneys will appeal to the circuit court, then file another appeal in February," Kotter said.

"They still have to exhaust their options. This has been a long process and it's going to take a long time to get through all of the courts and committees.

"And Mr. Daniels has a lot of work to do," he added.

Daniels' attorney wasn't available for comment by press time.

"The soonest possible action would take nine to 12 months," Kotter said. "Not that we are angling to do that."

"What (the county) is asking us to do is just as ridiculous as what Mr. Daniels has done," McKay said. "I resent the county for upsetting a lot of old people because they have a vendetta against Mr. Daniels."

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