Waukesha County appeals judge’s decision to build Moor Mud Baths


WAUKESHA – The historic Moor Mud Bath building will remain a subject of legal debate in courtrooms for some time following an appeal from Waukesha County authorities.

As expected following a mid-October ruling by Waukesha County Circuit Judge Lloyd Carter, the county recently filed a notice of appeal stating that it will continue to argue the city acted inappropriately. and outside its jurisdiction by upholding a ruling that obstructs the structure’s demolition history.

This action extends an already two-year-old legal battle between the town of Waukesha and the county and a two-decade debate over the value of the historic property which was also known as the Grandview Spa – a building belonging to the county which local historians wish to keep but which the county is seeking to demolish.

Following Carter’s decision, Erik Weidig, the company’s lawyer for Waukesha County, said the county was considering all of its options, including an appeal. The appeal was officially filed on December 15.

Weidig, who earlier said he “respectfully disagreed” with reviewing Lloyd’s certiorari, did not immediately respond to questions asking for details of the appeal, which would be heard by judges of the Court. of Wisconsin Appeal.

County’s claim of hardship

However, the March 2020 trial clearly addressed the county’s grievances, both with the city’s decision-making process regarding property, as well as how the city conducted itself in an appeal process to the courts. aldermen in February 2020.

Specifically, the county had challenged the Waukesha Landmarks Commission’s denial of a so-called “certificate of suitability” that would have allowed a structure designated as historically significant to be demolished if circumstances warranted.

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“The city’s historic designation places significant obligations on the county, with respect to property and the building, including an obligation to maintain the building,” the county said in the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, the county claimed it had established a “hardship,” a justifying standard in requests to demolish properties listed as historic.

He has spent more than $ 500,000 on the building, including $ 17,500 in annual maintenance costs, since he stopped using the building for his health and social services department in 2013, according to the lawsuit. . Another million dollars is expected to be spent to replace the roof in the near future if the building is left standing.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleged that the aldermen in February 2020 failed to act sufficiently as a judicial panel when they considered the city and county’s arguments regarding the demolition certification.

He noted that two aldermen who had been publicly open to the demolition of the old compound – alluding but not naming Aaron Perry and Joe Pieper – recused themselves while others, including Cassie Rodriguez, who had spoken publicly. against demolition, did not.

County officials also argued that the potential sale of the building – including a proposal that was rejected by the county in 2016 – was irrelevant to the county’s position in favor of the building being demolished.

Carter disagreed with the county’s view, including the claim that the city had in fact imposed a special condition by denying the certificate of desirability to raze the building.

He said the city’s hopes that the county would make a good faith effort to sell the property to a developer were only part of the whole decision – including the broader concerns of the historic commissioners.

Carter ultimately ruled against the county, saying the city acted appropriately and within its jurisdiction in denying certification for demolition.

Progression of historical disagreement

The complex, located at 500 Riverview Avenue, was operational at the end of The era of Waukesha springs, a period of important tourism for the city which lasted for half a century.

The building, which housed the basement mud baths, is still part of the Moreland Boulevard County government campus, where it most recently housed the health department offices before it was released in 2013.

Since that time, in fact for more than a decade earlier, county officials have actively considered demolishing the 111-year-old building, despite resistance from historic groups who want it preserved as the last “intact” complex. “from the early days of Waukesha. .

In 2016, the Waukesha Landmarks Commission, an organization affiliated with the city that declared the site a historic monument in 2001, refused to withdraw the historic designation and, in October 2019, refused the necessary action known as the “certificate of relevance ”which would have allowed the demolition of the structure.

This sparked an appeal to the Waukesha Common Council, with the aldermen serving as a sort of court of appeal in February 2020. The alderman voted 8-5 to uphold the monument commission’s decision to deny certification.

This joint council action, not the demolition plan itself, was the subject of a county lawsuit a month later in Waukesha County Circuit Court, which resulted in Carter’s decision.

Waukesha City Attorney Brian Running, who previously praised Carter’s decision, admitted he was anticipating the county’s latest state-level appeal.

“The appeal is certainly not a surprise,” Running said, noting that an outside lawyer, not his office, is handling the case on behalf of the city. “We felt the county probably had no choice but to try.”

He expressed confidence that the appellate judges will follow the same reasoning as Carter if the arguments remain the same.

“Since the Court of Appeal will be doing a de novo review, I expect the same arguments will be presented there as in the Circuit Court, by both parties,” Running said. “Judge Carter had no difficulty in concluding that the city had acted correctly in this matter. His thoughtful and detailed decision covered all the issues in depth, and I see no reason why the Court of Appeal would see the question differently. “

Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli.

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