By Roger Utnehmer
The Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront rested their case at 4:30PM yesterday and the defense is calling on their witnesses. The crowd is significantly smaller than yesterday. Three witnesses are expected to testify today on behalf of the City of Sturgeon Bay.
Judge Raymond Huber has told the courtroom that at the conclusion of the trial that he is prepared to rule on the case today. He simply asked for a 45-minute recess to review his notes, after which he will announce his decision.
Carrie Webb, a water management specialists with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is testifying on behalf of the defense by telephone. She has confirmed that she declined to compose a letter requested by City Development Director Marty Olejniczak that would have made it possible to obtain title insurance for property under consideration for hotel development. She said the reason she could not write the requested letter is because the property in question is considered by her to be below the Ordinary High Water Mark.
Her responsibilities with the DNR include regulation of properties that are located inside the OHWM.
She is expected to be the last witness. The defense has concluded questioning the witness and the plaintiff did not engage in cross examination.
Her testimony has concluded.
DNR Carrie Webb will be testifying by telephone on behalf of the City of Sturgeon Bay at 1:00PM.
“It’s ironic we’re being sued for trying to create more public access to the waterfront.”
That was just stated by Sturgeon Bay Community Development Director Marty Olejniczak.
The attorney for the Friends group is now starting their cross-examination of Olejniczak.
Sturgeon Bay Community Economic Development Director Marty Olejniczak is now testifying about communications with the Department of Natural Resources about where the proposed Lindgren hotel could be located. He stated that he was informed by a DNR attorney in 2013 that the department determination of the location of the ordinary high water mark was different from that of the city. Olejniczak commented on maps shared by the DNR indicating where development could take place and where it would be prohibited.
City Community Development Director Marty Olejniczak just testified that he met with Department of Natural Resources Department Secretary Cathy Stepp asking that she accept the city determination of the location of the ordinary high water mark. That request, Olejniczak, said was flatly rejected, forcing the city to either sue the DNR or revise development plans.
Olejniczak testified that some local elected officials regret the decision to not sue the DNR over the determination of the OHWM location.
Marty Olejniczak has just taken the stand. He stated that he believes the allegations of the Friends group are inaccurate.
He summarized his understanding of the case by stating it is his belief the lawsuit is attempting to prevent the sale of property on Sturgeon Bay’s west-side waterfront for the construction of a hotel because the property is located within the ordinary high water mark.
He is now reviewing his employment history up to the time of his hiring by the city as community development director.
Olejniczak started his current position with the city of Sturgeon Bay in 2002.
He is testifying now about initial plans for the former Door County Cooperative property that was considered for construction of a resort hotel. The development company that proposed the original resort hotel failed and plans were dropped. Olejniczak is now reviewing aerial maps of the Sturgeon Bay waterfront that depict the site of the hotel project that has prompted the current lawsuit.
In this clip, Olejniczak summarizes the goals of the west side redevelopment.
The State of Wisconsin cartographer, Howard Veregin, just testified that maps introduced as evidence by the Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront should not be used alone to determine the ordinary high water mark. That determination is the issue in the lawsuit between the Friends and the City of Sturgeon Bay. The proposed hotel, the Friends contend, is located inside the OHWM. The city maintains it is not. Property that was former lakebed located inside the OHWM is held in public trust by the State of Wisconsin and cannot be developed.
In further testimony, Veregin is bringing into question the value of map overlays that were also introduced into evidence yesterday by the Friends group.
Veregin is engaged in a very technical discussion about control points to assure the validity of maps when overlaid on another, suggesting the quality may not be very high if significant controls are not exercised by the process.
Two other witnesses are expected to be called today with one scheduled by telephone at 1:00PM. City of Sturgeon Bay attorney Randy Nesbitt predicts that the closing arguments by both sides will be submitted to the judge in writing and not presented orally. That would mean the trial will come to its conclusion several hours earlier than if oral closing remarks were made in court.
Earlier this morning, Dan Collins from the Friends of Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront stopped by the radio stations of DoorCountyDailyNews.com to talk about how Day 1 went. An invitation to visit the stations to talk about Thursday’s proceedings was extended to Sturgeon Bay Mayor Thad Birmingham.