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Judge rules for Brown Deer in Original Village suit

Feb. 27, 2013

Brown Deer - After more than a year in the courts, Brown Deer has the go ahead to begin work on the controversial reconstruction in the Original Village area.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Sankovitz made his determination last week, deciding that the entire 66-foot corridor along Deerwood Drive is a public highway and granting Brown Deer the ability to move forward along its construction timeline.

The Village Board recently approved bidding for Original Village projects which aim to improve streets, utilities, landscaping, add curbs and gutters in the area, and lay the groundwork for stormwater management in the area. Construction is tentatively scheduled for May 13 with a mid-November finish.

The Original Village project, slated for 2012, came to a halt after the village entered into a December 2011 lawsuit with area property owners over rights of way.

A number of property owners in the village have lot lines which extend to street centerlines. Several residential and commercial property owners' homes or businesses extend to the right of way as well. Though many property owners along in the area signed off their right of way space for a nominal payment, several others held out and ended up in court when the village filed the lawsuit.

Throughout a number of hearings, Sankovitz ruled that Deerwood Drive, River Lane, Ruth Place, 42nd Street, and 43rd Street are public highways which Brown Deer has the authority to reconstruct with sidewalks and parking.

Tony Reno, owner of Kurt Schulz Deli & Restaurant and the adjoining salon building next door, will lose the four parking spots that have been in front of the deli for the last 35 years. The reconstruction design for the 8700 block of Deerwood Drive calls for curb, which would almost butt up against the front of the deli and three parallel parking spaces on the street. Village officials and Reno may agree to relocate - at village expense - the deli's front steps, which would otherwise end almost on top of the new curb.

"I still feel like (the parking spots are) my property, but I accept the judge's ruling," Reno said. "I'm going to move forward and keep on doing the business we've done for 35 years."

Deerwood Drive property owner Russell Kotlarek, on the other hand, isn't so accepting.

Though Kotlarek says the construction wouldn't impact his property as much as others, he contends that property owners like Reno, along with other residential and commercial property owners in the Original Village, will end up taking a hit on their property values as a result of the right of way acquisitions and reconstructions. From his perspective, property owners should have been compensated for their property through appraisals and sales according to eminent domain laws.

"All these things are pretty real impacts on people's livelihoods," said Kotlarek. "I feel like the constituents are being abused."

He said there has been talk among property owners in the Original Village of appealing the court rulings, though they would need to find a way to fund the effort.

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