Carlin lake property owners who filed a contempt of court motion alleging Carlin Club Properties violated a court order had smiles on their faces as they departed the Vilas County court hearing where Judge Leon Stenz agreed his order of March 17, 2017 was indeed violated.
"I do find my order has been violated," Judge Stenz declared after about an hour of the hearing in a packed courtroom. "My concern was over activity taken to facilitate eventual pumping and my intent was not to allow anything to happen to facilitate pumping. "I do not buy what was done is only for (water) testing but to facilitate pumping. The sole purpose in the May, 2017 (work performed by Mark DeBrook of Webster Well Drilling) was to make it pumping ready and not simply to test water quality. This is a violation of my order and sanctions are appropriate."
Lake property owners attorney Daniel Bach walked the court though the events leading up to his motion supporting sanctions against Carlin Club Properties. In December, 2016 Vilas County zoning denied an application for an "after the fact" permit that would allow a driveway expansion for trucks, a commercial activity, that would have encroached on an adjacent single family zoning district. Bach deposed DeBrook and learned he made three visits to Carlin Club properties, disconnecting a water line from the existing well and having a new water line connected from an a adjacent property thereby making the existing well non-functional. In May, 2017 DeBrook removed a one horsepower pump and installed a three housepower pump testing its pumping capability and adding a threaded pipe whose purpose is to fill tanker trucks. "This is all set up to go and the court made it clear no new activity and this is in place something the court specifically told them not to do," Bach concluded, reading from the March 17 transcript that "any pump, or preparation of pumping or alteration of land for pumping" was not allowed.
Carlin Club Properties defense attorney Timothy Casper addressed the court indicating they have a duty to mitigate their damages and that "testing was ok and there was no pumping of water for commercial use . . . that the well and casing is exactly the same . . . we want to pump immediately when we win this case." Casper had Bob Rynders, one of the owners of Carlin Club, testify they asked DeBrook to do water quality testing and pumping capacity. Rynders said they put in a water line from an adjacent duplex to the Club disconnecting the current water line from serving the lodge. Judge Stenz asked Rynders if the well is now capable of being used and if it was sufficient for their plans with Rynders answering, "Yes." Stenz also asked when this idea was first thought of and what their investment was. Rynders responded it was discussed in 2014 and have "invested $5 million so far."
Defense attorney Casper asked if this was to be the only source of water for bottling and it was not, but no other water source was identified in court. Bach summed up their view the work done on the site created a well fully operational and ready to hook up to tanker trucks in violation of the March court order. Casper summed up that there was no commercial pumping done and only one day of pumping for testing purposes. Judge Stenz found his order was violated and the work last May was to make it commercially ready for pumping and not simply to test volume or water quality and with "$5 million you had to already determined volume; this alteration was to get ready to pump and this is a violation of my order."
Judge Stenz indicated he would not order the work done to be dismantled and will grant reasonable attorney fee's to the Carlin Lake property owners. A reliable courthouse source indicated due to the testimony admitting the disconnect from the existing well to the lodge, they will have to determine if the "grandfather" status of commercial use of the well remains or has been lost.
Future court dates include motions hearing October 5, final pre-trial October 19, and jury trial November 8-10.