Lisbon may sell Haass land
Town board seeking brokers

By Kelly Smith - Special to The Freeman

Feb. 15, 2018

 An old barn remains on the Pauline Haass Farm near the corner of Lake Five and Hickory roads that is owned by the Town of Lisbon. The town is seeking proposals from real estate agents and brokers interested in selling the property for the town.
Kelly Smith/Special to The Freeman

TOWN OF LISBON — The 65-acre Pauline Haass Farm, which was the centerpiece in a nearly four-year legal battle that cost taxpayers more than $600,000, may be for sale.

The Town Board decided Monday night to seek Requests for Proposal (RFPs) from area real estate agents and brokers who might be interested in listing the property for sale.

Town officials are hoping the RFPs might provide a hint about the land's real estate development value and whether it is a good time to put the land on the market, according to Town Chairman Joe Osterman.

The market value of the land was a hotly contested issue during more than four years of out-of-court negotiations between the town, village of Sussex and Pauline Haass Library Board.

A 2015 appraisal pegged the value of the farm land at $650,000 or about $10,000 per acre.

However, Sussex officials believed the land's real estate development value might be as high as $1 million.

Located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Lake Five and Hickory roads, the farm is about a mile south of the border of Waukesha and Washington counties.

It is on the northern fringes of the ongoing real estate boom in Lake Country.

There is a high-end residential development south of the farm and large-lot rural residential neighborhoods north and east of the land.

The late Pauline Haass, a schoolteacher and farmer’s wife who believed in the need for a local library, bequeathed the land and more than $250,000 in cash to the town in 1985 to be used for “library purposes.”

In March of 2017, the town agreed to turn the farm over to the library board and then buy it back for $175,000 in a complex out-of-court settlement.

As part of the settlement, Sussex agreed to purchase for $175,000 from the library board the existing library building and land on Main Street in the village.

The Village Board’s purchase ended a dispute over who owned the Main Street land.

According to county records, the deed to the land was in the name of the Pauline Haass Joint Municipal Library Board, which was dissolved in December of 2014 after the town terminated the joint municipal library agreement with the village.

With $350,000 in new revenues from the town and village, the library board agreed to drop its legal actions against the town seeking custody and control of the farm as well as the other assets in the Haass estate.

The lawsuit

The library board filed the lawsuit in 2013 after former Town Chairman Matt Gehrke warned the Town Board might terminate the joint library funding agreement between the town and village.

Gehrke insisted that the town’s share of library cost be reduced because town residents used the library less than village residents and the village gained an advantage by having the library in downtown Sussex.

Library Board Director Kathy Klager and Attorney David Haase explained to the library board they had a fiduciary responsibility to protect the land and other assets of the estate because, according to state law, the library was supposed to have custody and control of any assets donated for library purposes.

Library Board President Robert Williams, a former town supervisor, voted against the lawsuit, warning his fellow library board members the legal action would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As of January of 2017, according to public documents, the taxpayers of Lisbon and Sussex paid out about $252,000 in legal fees to lawyers for the library board, the town and the village.

That total does not include legal fees for finalizing the out-of-court agreement or the $350,000 the town and village agreed to pay to the library board as part of the settlement agreement.