Town enforces stop work order for lakeshore garage

by Sabrina Nucciarone
Review Correspondent

A special meeting of the Town of Rhine Board of Supervisors was called Monday, July 2 to consider a request from Dan and Jean Waibel to rescind a stop work order and reinstate a building permit to continue repair on a garage that is located on their property at W6650 E. Shoreland Rd., Elkhart Lake.

The details illustrate the challenges of interpreting and enforcing technical rules designed to fairly protect property and environmental rights.

In tandem with building a new house by razing the old one, the permit resolution stated, “…the Waibels will use existing studs and walls (placed in exactly the same locations as before), and return to following the rest of the previously approved plans (which call for a grade-beam foundation and using the same trusses but modified into a hip roof).”

Subsequent correspondence received by the town indicated a remodel of the garage as an accessory building which is different from the original approved permit to repair it.

When the Waibel’s home was razed in October, a stop work order was later issued on the recommendation of the town of Rhine building inspector due to discrepancies found in the wording of what the permit was issued for and what appears to be happening with the garage structure.

The order for the special meeting was to move on whether the board would accept the resolution and let the Waibels rebuild the garage, using the same materials that were removed from the structure and putting it back on the same footprint, given that the concrete piers of the original garage are still in place.

Ultimately, the board rejected the resolution order to rebuild with original materials and the Waibels must take alternate steps to move forward.

According to Town of Rhine Chairman Ron Platz following the decision, the alternatives are to apply to the Board of Appeals for any variance that could give the opportunity to continue the project as is, litigation, or proposal for a new structure.

Anticipating a contentious discussion, all supervisors were in attendance, as well as the legal counsel. Several more people attended this meeting than usual board meetings because of the specific nature of the ongoing construction issue.

The garage – an accessory building– that has been mostly dismantled and moved in a way that has two separate neighbors at odds with the Waibels for alleged damages to their property they feel are caused by decisions made by the general contractor, excavation crews and other professionals meant to guide the Waibels through the process to prevent such occurrences.

The backstory of the plans to “repair” the garage includes remarks made during public comments.

The doors and windows were removed and the sides were removed from a building with roof and rafters. What remains are the makings of a new roof with trusses, minus most or all of the studs.

It is propped up, having been moved closer to the lot line so that any debris and rain from the roof falls to the ground of the property belonging to Greg McComis.

In addition, McComis said destruction of an organic rock wall caused irreparable damage to a natural slope between his property and the Waibel’s.

Prior to McComis’ explanation, Michael Dombrynio requested that the board adopt some sort of ample notification procedure so that in the future, when anyone intends to tear down a home or other structure, adequate plans can be made.

Dombrynio said he found out from the landscaper for the Waibel’s project that their house was being torn down and Dombrynio should mark the trees meant to be cut down.

Dombryno indicated that an unauthorized tree—an 80’ tall 100-year-old cedar tree—was cut down, temporary electricity was staked, and the placement of a portable toilet, and debris related to the construction process were on his side of the property line.

For these things, “I understand it is a civil matter,” Dombrynio said.

During the meeting, after the designated time for public comment of a general nature of the garage and the building process, Platz said that in the near past, he and or board committee members have spoken with all people involved, including the Waibels, the architect, the general contractor, the building inspector, and between themselves as various committee members connected with this project.

“This matter has been going on for quite some time now,” Platz said. “By law, they have the right to build using the original footprint. But this isn’t a remodel anymore. The walls are gone, the windows are gone, and it has been put up on blocks and a stop work order was issued.”

The stop work order was not rescinded because, in terms explained by Platz, “the Waibels must use the existing walls” of the original garage to continue. There was no proof that any or all of the materials from the aged garage could be used without structural reinforcement. It is presumed that some, most, or all of the studs and walls are decayed and will be unusable.

With state statutes identifying the reuse of wood, the old wood would have to be tested. If it doesn’t pass muster, new lumber has to be used. At that point, it would be considered a new build, not a repair or remodel.

The thought that most of the structure was removed and currently is in storage was hard for the board to fathom what could be reused, if anything. If anything old was used, it would certainly need additional structural bracing.

Up to and including the special meeting, the Waibels must decide which direction they want to move. Though they have been involved in the process of building a new home on their property for over two years, Jean Waibel stood before the board saying she wants to build the garage within the footprint. “I don’t believe in variances,” she said.

If she wants to continue with plans for the garage as is, Platz indicated she would have to request multiple variances through the town’s Board of Appeals that address, at the very least, side lot distance, distance from road, and coverage of the yard (pertaining to the footprint).

Even if the Waibels were to address the board of appeals, approval of requested variances is not guaranteed.

Waibel tried to stress to the board that having heard options made by Platz during a previous discussion that was not within the parameters of a town meeting, she wanted to move forward.

With any decision made by the Waibels, no matter what the options were or who made them, Waibel said she agreed with and was willing to accept one of the options.

Platz said the Waibel’s attorney wanted him to sign a document based on an option brought forth during that previous discussion.

Platz said he refused, because any decision made on a possible option is based on town ordinances and has to be made by the board in an open meeting.

“To say I agreed to something is totally inaccurate. At no point in time did I agree to anything, except to bring it back to the board for a decision,” Platz said.

At one point, Waibel wanted to explain unrelated opinions regarding her experience with the town’s building inspector and that part of the process from her point of view by asking if Platz wanted to hear it.

Platz instructed Waibel to sit down.

Neighbors have been contending with the actual construction project for over nine months and other than issues of who said what or didn’t say to whom, the neighbors know there are things that will never be the same on the individual sides of their property lines, as stated by McComis.

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