The group trying to bring a domestic violence shelter to Elkhorn is asking a Walworth County judge to overturn the Elkhorn City Council’s “arbitrary and unreasonable” decision to deny the shelter’s conditional-use permit.
New Beginnings APFV, the organization that wanted to bring the county its only domestic violence shelter to a former medical building in downtown Elkhorn, filed a lawsuit Oct. 23 in Walworth County Court.
The group wants Judge Daniel Johnson to overturn the city council’s decision. The council voted down the application because members said the plan did not fit with the city’s comprehensive plans and there were issues with parking counts and driveway measurements.
The motion to deny the permit succeeded on a 4-2 vote at a crowded and at times contentious Aug. 19 council meeting. Council members Tim Shiroda, Ron Dunwiddie, Karel Young and Tom Myrin voted in favor of a motion to deny the application, while Frank Boggs and Scott McClory voted against that motion.
Officials with and supporters of New Beginnings and its shelter project appeared stunned that disagreements over measurement and zoning details came up as reasons to deny the project for the former Aurora medical building at 20 N. Church St.
In the last seven months, three homicides in Walworth County—no more than 5 miles apart—have a common denominator: domestic violence.
Shiroda, saying he went to the location to measure for himself, said there was no way New Beginnings could fit the 27 parking spaces needed and no way the driveway could be big enough.
Myrin said the zoning for the facility was incorrect.
The court filing says the council’s proceedings and vote, “exceeded its jurisdiction, were erroneous, were arbitrary and capricious and were contrary to state law and the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.”
New Beginnings, both after the August meeting and in the recently filed court documents, stands by its figures, “which were prepared by licensed professionals.” The court filing claims the group had “all its ducks in a row.”
“I believe personally that human lives are more important than property and parking spaces,” New Beginnings Executive Director Heidi Lloyd told supporters outside City Hall after the vote in August.
New Beginnings first appeared before the city’s plan commission Nov. 1, 2018. After that, officials delivered more supporting documentation, surveys and studies when they reappeared before the commission July 11, according to the court filing.
The commission at the July meeting sent the project to the council with a neutral recommendation.
Neither positively nor negatively, the Elkhorn Plan Commission advanced a proposal to bring a domestic violence shelter to downtown Elkhorn during a standing-room-only meeting Thursday.
Between the November and July meetings, Walworth County saw three homicides connected to domestic violence.
Raymond Dall’Osto, the Milwaukee-based attorney representing New Beginnings, told the Lake Geneva Regional News he hopes the judge will order Elkhorn to issue the permit, although the court could also make the council reconsider the matter with new instructions.
The court case does not yet have a hearing scheduled, and the city of Elkhorn has not yet filed a response. The court filing asks the judge to set a briefing schedule and a hearing for oral arguments.