September 17, 2008

State Sues to Protect Shores Development May Harm Lakes, DNR Says


Waukesha -- For the second time in recent months, the state has filed suit to protect a Waukesha County lake against the perceived threat of encroaching shoreline development.

A civil action filed last week seeks to block plans for new residential development on property east of Oconomowoc, between Okauchee Lake and tiny Garvin Lake.

That follows a suit filed in July to stop a restaurant from operating less than 20 feet from the shores of Silver Lake, just south of Oconomowoc.

In both cases, the development was approved by local government officials. But the state Department of Natural Resources deemed that both projects threatened Waukesha County lakes.

Todd Ambs, water division administrator for the DNR, said his agency monitors local development plans -- and takes legal action when needed -- to ensure that natural resources are not put in jeopardy.

The state's earlier suit stemming from the Silver Lake restaurant is still pending against the City of Oconomowoc.

The new suit names Waukesha County as a defendant and asks a judge to overturn the county's decision allowing the residential development near Garvin Lake.

According to the suit, the development in the Town of Merton could "adversely impact water quality, aquatic and wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty."

Robert Stockdale, owner of the property, said the land between Okauchee Lake and Garvin Lake has been in his family for 85 years. He dismissed suggestions that his plan to sell the property for redevelopment would put either lake in danger.

"There's nothing in danger," he said. "If you're trying to make something out of nothing, it's just not going to fly."

The suit identifies the prospective buyer as Garvin Lake LLC, a company led by James Hock, and says that the buyer hopes to divide the site into four residential lots for sale to builders.

An attorney representing Hock declined to comment on the suit, which alleges the project would violate shoreline and floodplain rules.

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