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County Orders Garage Torn Down

Written By: Jerry Hanson  |  Posted: Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

A large garage costing nearly $500,000 to build, and located in the Town of Washington, Eau Claire County has been ordered by an Eau Claire County Circuit Court judge to be torn down. The Garage sits on a 50 acre parcel, along with the owner's house. The garage is neither visible from any road, nor from any of his neighbors' homes.

According to the owner, when the hearings were held to acquire the conditional use permit for an oversized garage, he was encouraged to make it look like a large house commensurate with the large exclusive homes in his neighborhood.

To the best of the owner's knowledge, all the required permits were obtained by either himself or the contractors working on the building. He wanted a large garage to store his collection of classic cars as well as a lot of other items.

It has heating and air conditioning a septic system, and a well. All of these required permits, which the contractors obtained. The owner said, "Nothing was hidden from the County Planning and Development office. They were told everything, including the size and height of the building.

" It has a 5,000 square footprint, three full stories, with a basement under part of it, and an observation platform atop the roof. Indeed it is a very large garage. With all but the brick veneer to be installed on the front of the building, the project was near completion. According

to the owner, one day, about a month before they would be totally finished, Rod Eslinger of the Eau Claire County Planning and Development Office came onto the property and insisted they stop construction immediately. Mr. Eslinger told the owner that he did not have a permit (permission) to build what he was building, at which point the owner inquired of Mr. Eslinger what he needed to do to comply with the County's requirements. According to the owner, he was willing to divide the lot and put a separate driveway in, but, he said, the county refused to work with him.

The Planning and Development staff and the County board's Planning and Development Committee believe that the owner of the property built a much larger structure than what they had given him a permit to build. In July 2009, The Planning and Development Committee voted to revoke the conditional use permit. The local and appellate courts both ruled in the County's favor.

The owner, under mediation, opted to tear it down. If the garage is not torn down by the end of September 2012, or if it is not torn down to the County's specifications he will face a $50,000.00 fine plus the cost for the County to hire someone to tear it down or to complete the tear down.

Where are the County and town board members that will stop these blatant infringements upon a man's liberty to build what he wants on his own property? No harm would be caused to any of his neighbors to leave the garage there. No one can even see it. This man is a responsible and respected business owner in the community.

The records indicate that the County and some neighbors fear he intends to open some business in the building, or intended all along to build a house. Though the owner planned and designed it to be able to be converted into a house, if the need arose in the future, what he needed now was a garage, and that is what he contends he built.

In reviewing the records of the hearings in this case, it appears that the owner misunderstood the County board's recommendation and the condition that the garage look like a house.

The condition was that it have a similar roof line, shingles, and brick veneer as his house on the same property. Though the owner insists he believed he was abiding by the conditional use permit, the County questioned his motives and has penalized him as if he intentionally deceived the County.

Jerry Hanson is an owner and a writer for the Eau Claire Journal. Email: jerry@eauclairejournal.

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