Fowler Lake Village saga continues at marathon council meeting
Council delays action until next month

By Ryan Billingham - Enterprise Staff

Nov. 20, 2014

Alderman Matt Rosek, center, speaks to an attorney representing Fowler Lake Village LLC about his concerns over the project. Aldermen, left to right, Mike Miller, Charlie Shaw and David Nold look on with City Administrator Diane Gard. 
Ryan Billingham/Enterprise Staff

OCONOMOWOC — The Fowler Lake Village debate provided some fireworks yet again at the Oconomowoc Common Council meeting Tuesday night when two lawyers — one an alderman, one representing the interests of the Fowler Lake Village development — locked in a verbal debate that resembled a cross-examination on a television court drama.

The outcome of the 3 1/2hour meeting was less dramatic, however. The fate of the often-maligned development was delayed again until the council’s next regular meeting Dec. 2.

Over 20 people addressed the council, nearly all of them opposed to the project. Attorney Kathryn Sawyer Gutenkunst from the firm of Cramer, Multhauf and Hammes of Waukesha spoke about the project and handed the council a letter from her firm describing the challenges her clients, Rockwell LLC and Fowler Lake Village LLC, have faced in the past two years.

“Two things struck me when I got here tonight,” Gutenkunst said. “The mayor said we should all be respectful of others and we should be respectful of people who don’t have opinions that may not mirror image our own, yet when I arrived here tonight I was met with comments that I will only describe as unbecoming of the city and I find that really disheartening.”

Attorney Kathryn Sawyer Gutenkunst from the firm of Cramer, Multhauf and Hammes of Waukesha answers questions about the Fowler Lake Village project in a heated exchange with
Alderman Matt Rosek, also a lawyer.  

Ryan Billingham/Enterprise Staff

She summarized the letter by saying it has cost time, money and effort including 24 months of interest developer Jeff Seymour has had to pay on the land he owns that would have been swapped for the parking lot behind City Hall.

She said her clients have “spent hundreds of thousands of dollars,” have always wanted the developer’s agreement to go to the council, and have asked the city to put it on the agenda.

Gutenkunst said the council might be surprised by that, apparently referring to the removal of the agenda item by the city just hours before its Nov. 4 meeting.

At that time, Mayor Jim Daley said he didn’t know what the developers were going to do but that they requested the developer’s agreement be pulled from the agenda as they consider the plan.

Gutenkunst said the city asked the developers to remove the agenda item citing a lack of support for the plan.

As Alderman Matthew Rosek pressed Gutenkunst about who called her firm to remove the agenda item, she repeatedly said she did not take the phone call and that the attorney in charge of the file, James Hammes, was at a budget hearing elsewhere in the county.

Alderman James Larsen again pressed the issue, asking Gutenkunst repeatedly who made the call, but the attorney answered each time that she did not take that call and would not assume who it was that called.

Daley then tried to clarify what had happened. He said he spoke with the developers about a lack of support for the plan and asked them if they might consider changing aspects of the plan, which may have led to the removal of the item.

“I don’t think it is anything nefarious,” he said. “I just want to clarify.”

Rosek’s earlier resolution was an attempt to force an up-or-down vote on the project by repealing council approval of a memorandum of understanding made between the city’s Community Development Authority and the development group.

A memorandum of understanding is a document that is not legally binding, but that outlines the framework in which two parties will proceed in the development process.

Rosek said he originally proposed the resolution because the developers had backed off the deal, according to the city, and he wanted to act to avoid a return to the debate in the future.

A motion was made and approved to postpone the agenda item until the next meeting with the mayor’s assurance that the developer’s agreement will be first on the agenda.

At that time, the council will vote to approve or reject the development agreement.