Court rules against abandoned Clark Station
Owner has 60 days to remove underground gas tanks

By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff

Nov. 14, 2017

 Grafton officials say there is no evidence that the buried gas tanks at the Clark Station on Washington Street are leaking.
News Graphic file photo

GRAFTON — If the owners of the abandoned Clark Station on Washington Street don’t close out the underground gasoline tanks they left behind, the state will do it for them.

The Clark Station at 1020 Washington St. closed around May 2016; after that, the property was left unmaintained and fell into disrepair.

At a hearing in February, Village Inspector Tom Johnson said that an investigation of the property began in mid-November 2016, leading to the hearing and conclusion that it was a public nuisance.

The owner of record, Lakeland Real Estate Investment in Franklin was notified of the hearing and given until mid-March to clean up the property afterward. When no action was taken, village staff cleaned up the property, but not the interior of the gas station, which they did not have access to. The village also did not have authority to deal with the underground gasoline tanks, which were referred to the state Department of Justice.

“Knowing that the state Department of Justice was looking to take action, we wanted to see what happened,” Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said.

Thursday, Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams issued a default judgment in favor of the Department of Justice, which was represented by Assistant Attorney General Bradley Mortl.

According to the order for default judgment, Lakeland was given notice by personal service Aug. 7, failed to answer or respond to the state’s complaint and violated state regulations and an order from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to deal with the three underground gas tanks.

According to the judgment and order, Lakeland must permanently close the three tanks in accordance with state requirements within 60 days of the judgment, placing the deadline on Jan. 8, 2018, and pay $25,540.20 in forfeitures and penalties. If Lakeland does not close the tanks in 60 days, the order gives the Department of Natural Resources or other appropriate agency authority to close the tanks and place a lien on the property for the cost of the closing.

The order only addresses the underground gasoline tanks, though that being addressed could open the way for other developments with the property. In discussions over the past year, village staff commented several times that redeveloping the property is problematic because of the tanks.

While the abandoned property could have been foreclosed on, staff said no one, even the bank, wanted to claim the property with the potentially expensive environmental problem of the gas tanks unresolved.

“In no uncertain terms, we (the village) did not want to inherit any environmental issues with the property,” Thyes said.

Thyes said the village did not have any action currently planned, but the property and the state’s progress dealing with the tanks will be monitored moving forward.

<<EARLIER: Deadline passed for owner, Grafton officials forced to clean up gas station