Does the Delavan Lake Sanitary District intend to ruin million-dollar views of the water by building a road through back yards for access to sewage lift stations?
“I have no idea where that came from, the idea of putting a road around the lake,” Gail Swaine, sanitary district administrator, said in a telephone interview. “We have no plans, nor have we ever had any plans to do that.”
He said district officials want to build a permanent road 500 feet long and 30 feet wide across four lake properties on South Shore Drive.
“We’re a public utility that is attempting to put in an access road,” Swaine said.
Some homeowners don’t believe Swaine, saying the 500-foot road is just the beginning.
“It boggles the mind at what they’ve done to homeowners here,” homeowner Donna Surinak said of Swaine and the district’s governing board. “It goes on and on and on.”
Inflaming the situation is a lawsuit in Walworth County Court between the district and Frank Maley, a property owner on the lake’s north shore with a lift station in his yard.
A judge recently dismissed a temporary restraining order that had prevented the district from removing structures on Maley’s land—including a hedge and a wrought-iron fence—that impede the district’s access to its right of way.
Swaine said the ruling means the district can advance plans to install an access road on the north shore to a lift station that needs maintenance. The district removed the obstacles Thursday, she said.
Donna Surinak fears the same tactic will be used on her property and those of three neighbors. She said trees and a stone wall in the right of way might be removed by the district to make way for the road. Swaine has said the sanitary district would explore alternatives to removing the obstacles.
Donna Surinak and her husband, John Surinak, in 2002 moved from Oconomowoc to their Delavan Lake home at 2337 South Shore Drive. John is running in the spring election to unseat sanitary district board incumbent Gerri Green, who was appointed last fall.
The 500-foot roadway is slated to go through the Surinaks’ back yard and the yards of three neighboring homes.
Swaine agreed that discussions about the project have become emotional.
“There’s a lot of politics going on,” she said.
The district’s intent for the 500-foot roadway is to use rights of way designated for sewer line maintenance and repair.
The Surinaks and neighboring homeowner Mark Nichols, 2343 South Shore Drive, say the rights of way were never meant for use as roadways. The other affected properties are 2333 and 2329 South Shore Drive.
Swaine said truck access to the lift station on the eastern-most property is important because it serves more than 50 homes. The district has more than 3,000 customers. If the station was to break down and workers could not quickly get to it, sewage could back up into basements or end up in the lake, she said.
Access to the station now is allowed only with the permission of an adjacent property, she said.
“That’s a very bad practice,” Swaine said. “We have to have access.”
She said homeowners have been bullied by Swaine and the board, and she called the project a waste of tax dollars. Homeowners now allow sewer workers to walk onto their properties for repairs and upgrades, and that practice would continue without an access road, she said.
The district initially planned to lay down a road of crushed granite for about $25,000, but it is now considering a more costly surface of recycled plastic that allows storm water to seep through it and be absorbed by the ground below, Swaine said.
Fay Amerson, urban manager of the Walworth County Conservation Division, said the sanitary district would need county permits from her division for road construction. The area is plagued with runoff problems, and putting in a road gives the district, town and homeowners an opportunity to correct the issue.
Nichols recently refused to grant the district access to his property, Swaine said.
The Nichols property has a brick wall running along South Shore Drive that directs storm water away from his home. The district’s right-of-way begins beneath it.
Swaine said the district wanted to begin its access road at Nichols driveway, instead of at the wall, but he rejected the idea, leaving district officials in a dilemma on how to proceed.