Land developers lose court battle

Keith Loria Dec. 15, 2010, 11:00am

Van Hollen

RHINELANDER, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced on Monday that a judgment has been granted against the developers of a large lakeshore condominium project for alleged violations of various environmental laws.

The construction project involves 900 acres of land that surrounds Clearwater Lake and several smaller lakes in Oneida and Vilas Counties.

Richard Gohlke, Lawrence Gohlke, Adam Gohlke and Clearwater Lake Club LLC, all of who are land owners of the Clearwater Lake Club Condominium Association, allegedly engaged in a variety of environmental violations while attempting to sell up to 185 "luxury lake lots" at the site.

Richard Gohlke and Adam Gohlke were found by the court to be the active project developers, while Lawrence Gohlke had acted primarily as a "silent partner" for financial matters.

The lawsuit alleged that the defendants violated asbestos emissions regulations when they demolished buildings at the site of a former Catholic Church camp without providing prior notice to the Department of Natural Resources.

The defendants also allegedly engaged in land-disturbing activities. These included constructing a nine‑hole golf course without developing proper erosion control plans first or obtaining water pollution control permit coverage, as well as grading large areas on the banks of Clearwater Lake without allowing an opportunity for public comment or obtaining the proper permits from the DNR.

The judgment calls for the defendants to pay $158,000 in penalties and costs associated with the litigation.

According to the ruling of Judge Mark A. Mangerson, the defendants' violations occurred primarily for their "nearly unbelievable" failure to employ a true project coordinator at the site. The judge rejected their "no harm, no foul" argument and called their "mistakes were made" excuse a "non-apology."

Mangerson noted that had severe rains occurred during the time they were disturbing land on the site it "could have easily turned potential harm into irreparable harm. Protection of pristine waters in Northern Wisconsin shouldn't be left to Lady Luck."

The court ordered the defendants to pay the penalties, costs and fees by no later than Jan. 24, 2011.

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