Janesville36.3°

Board revokes permit for Country Courts

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GINA R. HEINE
June 9, 2010
— A Rock County judge likely will decide the next step for the Country Courts mobile home park after the Plymouth Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to revoke the park’s permit.

The owner of the park, E. James Skarda, plans to appeal the board’s decision in Rock County Court, his attorney Jeff Livingston said after the meeting. Skarda has 20 days to appeal.


The board’s decision came after a year of trying to work with Skarda to clean up the mobile home park, at 3113 S. Old Highway 11, and become compliant with local and state regulations.


“It just seems that looking at the past behavior predicts future behavior,” board Chairman Larry Harding said to Skarda. “At every turn we had to fight you to get you to comply. That tells me that the minute we back off it’s going to go backwards again, and we’ll be right back here.”


Neighbors and residents of the park filled the town hall in Hanover to hear the park’s fate. After the vote, park residents questioned what they should do.


Nothing, Harding said.


The town won’t be rushing in to push people out of their homes, he said. Moving residents out is “a ways down the road,” he said.


Rock County social service agencies will be notified of the board’s decision and will assist residents in relocation needs.


The park also is regulated through a state permit, which is issued by the Department of Commerce, Harding said. The state contracts with the health department to enforce the permit’s rules, so health officials likely will be in touch with the state, he said. Harding said the state will probably, “without a doubt,” pull its permit following the town’s revocation.


The health department’s occupancy survey on May 19 showed an estimated 37 people living in 18 units in the park, which has 36 lots.


Actions taken

Board members in September wrote a list of conditions Skarda needed to meet to keep his permit. In December, the board extended the deadline to Tuesday’s meeting.


The board on Tuesday revoked the remainder of the park’s 2009 permit, which expires June 30. Skarda could reapply for a new permit, Harding said, but would have to show he’s met the board’s requirements.


Board members and officials from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office and Rock County Health Department described the problems at the park and challenges they have had in working with Skarda.


Most recently, a trailer was intentionally torn down and burned—including vinyl siding, paint cans, and insulation—creating a fire with 30-to-40-foot flames in the park. In another instance, a trailer that the health department ruled uninhabitable was being occupied, officials said.


Debris had been cleaned up, unlicensed vehicles were removed, gravel was poured in potholes and other infrastructure upgrades were made, Skarda and Livingston said.


But the progress still didn’t meet the board’s requirements.


Skarda told the board that he has been suffering from Meniere’s disease and was in the hospital four times and had surgery twice this year.


“I’m not able to get out to the park as often as I’d like,” he said.


That is the reason, he said, why he didn’t meet with sheriff’s officials by the board’s Dec. 4 deadline. Skarda didn’t meet with sheriff’s officials until April.


Harding said the park is still his responsibility.


“You have an attorney. You certainly could have had them make contact with us and tell us that you couldn’t make the meetings or who was going to represent you at those meetings,” Harding said.


Neighbors of the park expressed concerns about their property values, speeding, loud music and safety.


Amy Bliss of the Wisconsin Housing Alliance advocated on Skarda’s behalf, saying her organization is working with him to bring the park into compliance.


“Our concern is for the people,” board member Keith Neal said, but the board doesn’t issue the license to the people.


Skarda has not shown any concern or respect for the board and its requests, he said.


Board member Bill Orchard said the cleanup in recent months “wouldn’t have happened if the board had not kept after him and after him and after him again,” he said. “If we did grant him the license, I think in six months it would be right back the way it was before.”



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