339 South Locust Street, Janesville, Wisconsin, 53548-4655

The Real Story

THE CARRIAGE BARN

Condemned, Repaired and defented by Owner

Peg Lautenschlager, WI Attorney General
P.O. Box 7857
Madison, WI 53703-7857

June 11, 2004

RE: WI Statute 66.0413, Razing Buildings

Dear Attorney Lautenschlager;
The WI Statute 66.0413 is being misinterpreted and applied contrary to the intent of the law, thus allowing the unconstitutional confiscation of private property by local government.

As a consequence, citizens in Janesville WI are losing their homes, garages, and carriage barns to demolition by city code inspectors – even though these citizens are able and willing to make the repairs.

These citizens are put into financial and personal crisis with mortgage foreclosure, bankruptcy, and homelessness by a condemnation order and an immediate-vacate eviction order.

How is this practice justified by the code department?

The code inspectors guess-timate that repair costs could exceed a percentage of the tax assessed value of the building. Whereby they declare the repairs are thus “unreasonable” regardless the citizens’ ability and willingness to do the repair. Then they deductively conclude that if the repairs are “unreasonable” then therefore the building is thus somehow “blighted”, “dilapidated”, “an unsafe condition and unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use”. They make this deduction contrary to all other evidence, including contractor actual bids, architect structural evaluations, replacement cost estimates, even when the demolition cost actually exceeds the repair cost, etc. They disregard also the actual value of the building, refusing to acknowledge that the tax assessment is substantially lower. Their first contact is to issue the condemnation order refusing owner option to repair, and also threaten to destroy the building even after the repairs have been made, stating the statute “requires” it.

The actual intent of the statute is to allow the citizen the option (not requirement) to demolish their building rather than to be required to do any necessary repair if that repair expense would be cost prohibitive to that citizen, determined by that citizen.

Instead, the code department is using their practice for “urban renewal” so they don’t have to pay eminent domain purchase of the property to transfer the property illegally from one private owner to another private owner for corporate redevelopment.

These citizens include the retired, fixed income, single moms, and people with disabilities. Coincidentally, the majority lived in the two affordable-housing neighborhoods (Old Fourth Ward and Look West), on the river adjacent to the downtown, the area that the city wants to expand and redevelop. The Riverfront Plan was adopted, funded, and implemented. We need to fix this before HUD on a national level gets involved.

I am suing the city to have the condemnation order against my carriage barn dissolved. Rock County Circuit Court Case Number: 04 CV 136, trial date June 24 and 25, 2004. With an attorney, we could expand this to a class action to get restitution for my neighbors. I am unable to access the equity in my property for attorney fees as the city put a copy of the condemnation order as a judgment against the title. I have incurred substantial expenses and losses fighting this constitutional violation and threat of trespass and private property destruction.

We need a freeze on this practice of code department unconstitutional condemnation, confiscation, and destruction of private property. We need a legislative review and language clarification of Statute 66.0413. We need a state level investigation into the practices of the code department in Janesville WI. We need victim restitution to the citizens who lost their homes, buildings, retirement rental income, and credit rating.

 

Thank you for your prompt and adequate response to this crisis.

 

Sincerely,

K. Andreah Briarmoon

Enclosure:
7 condemnation orders (average 25 per year for 18 years)
4 house photos
Statute 66.0413
“Forgotten Assumptions” of Affidavit Case No: 04 CV 136

P.c.’s: Currently known victims; Representatives; Greg Addie Judy Robson Tammy Baldwin Russ Feingold Herb Kohl Paul Ryan Wayne Wood Chuck Chvala Governor James Doyle Justice Shirley C. Abrahamson Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton WI Departments; Organizations; Institute for Justice ACLU Connie Deer, Legal Action of WI WI League of Women Voters Community Action Program Citizen Association for Rights and Dignity St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Diocese of Madison Wisconsin Realtor Association National Realtor Association Century 21 National National Rifle Association University of WI Law School The Media including; WI Public Radio Wisconsin State Journal The Capital Times Cardinal Channel 27 News Channel 3 Beloit Daily News MS Magazine Wall Street Journal Oprah

Read the State Statutes here