Did members of the Town of Platteville Board discuss and actively work against a proposed residential development, against the state Open Meetings Law?
That is the question that will be asked in Grant County Circuit Court in Lancaster after a formal complaint was filed against the town supervisors Monday afternoon.
In front of Grant County Circuit Judge Craig Day, an intake hearing was held briefly on the matter involving the town board and how it handled the rezone request of George Lazarus, who wished to expand a development first started in 2003. The town Plan Commission had recommended approval of the development, while the town board had recommended to deny the proposal.
The Grant County Board ultimately approved the rezone last month.
At issue in the complaint is whether members of the town board discussed the item at length at a special meeting Aug. 20, one month before the board voted to deny the request, and a meeting where the issue was not specifically listed on the agenda.
Investigators at the Grant County Sheriff’s Office interviewed several people listed in the complaint filed with the court Dec. 19. One of them was David Klar, the Town of Platteville and a former Grant County supervisor, who felt that town board members Dan Smith and Richard Lange had conflicts of interest in the matter because they lived across the street, or owned property adjacent to the proposed development, respectively.
Klar told investigators that the board discussed the Lazarus rezone at length Aug. 20, despite the fact that it was not on the agenda. Klar added that the board got out maps, and talked about their opposition to it.
“The discussion went way beyond just discussing what to put on the next month’s agenda,” the case file stated.
Klar said he was neutral on the actual issue of the rezone, but felt Lazarus had followed all of the rules in applying for the rezone.
Town chairman Dale Hood said in the complaint the unique issue with the Lazarus development, which was heavily debated 12 years ago.
“It wasn’t normal for the board to discuss topics at length if it was not listed on the agenda, but what probably warranted that discussion were the problems they had with George in the past,” the complaint stated as Hood’s reasoning on the discussion Aug. 20, during a discussion on setting the next month’s meeting agenda. Hood said that agenda was not fully set at the time of the meeting.
Hood said Lazarus followed all the rules and regulations in filing his request, “appeared to have all his ducks in a row,” according to the case file. He said that their denial was not personal, just that the development went against the county’s farmland preservation policy. He said that the plan commission did not look at farmland preservation when they recommended approval, which is why the commission and town board came up with opposite conclusions.
The case file states that Lazarus claims that Smith has had personal issues with him, and claims Smith solicited comments from neighbors against the rezone.
At the county’s Land and Water Conservation, Zoning and Sanitation Board meeting Dec. 2, Smith denied Klar’s accusation of a violation of the Open Meetings Law. Hood is also a county supervisor who sits on the zoning board.
Bryan Kleinmaier of the law firm Stafford Rosenbaum LLP in Madison is representing the three members of the town board. On phone in court, he stated he was given the case a short time ago, and needed more time to proceed.
Day set the next hearing for Feb. 9 at 10:30 a.m.