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Parkland Mall Lawsuit Dismissed

Judge finds a "contentious" relationship between developer Art Dyer and the city, but ultimately ruled that the claims against the city could not be proven.

Judge Lee S. Dreyfus, Jr., has dismissed all claims being made against the City of Muskego by Art Dyer and Parkland Ventures, LLC, which included conspiracy and defamation of title, and punitive damages of $46 million.

The lawsuit has been pending in Waukesha County Circuit Court since 2009. Wednesday's ruling could close the chapter that has held up development on the "tree farm" land known once as Parkland Mall at the corner of Janesville Road and Lannon Drive.

Dyer had no statement after the ruling, and Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti was brief in her comments.

"We are pleased that all claims have been dismissed; it's been a long haul," she said.

Dreyfus made his decision after "reading through thousands of pages of material, including attachments of city council meeting minutes," and said while the city's relationship with Dyer, who owns the approximately 11 acres of land in the city's downtown area, was "contentious at times," there was also no proof that the city acted to conspire against him to prevent him from developing the land.

A Long, Strange History Stretches Back 15 Years

Dyer outbid the city for the property in May of 1997, and it was determined there were significant environmental and structural issues with Parkland Mall. Dyer had requested that the city develop a tax incremental funding (TIF) district to assist in developing the land. He also filed a notice of claim against the city in 1999 but did nothing to proceed with a lawsuit.

In 2000, the city asked for a developer's agreement from Dyer, something Dreyfus said was in their right to do, and granted the TIF in August for $2.8 million, subject to approved plans. The judge noted that Dyer did not object to those terms, but could have done so at the time.

By March 2002, the city established the Community Development Authority, which also approved a site plan for Beacon Square, the name Dyer chose for the development on the site. However, the judge noted no formal development proposal was brought forth, so the city had nothing it could act on, either favorably or unfavorably.

The judge ruled that because there was nothing for the city to act on, Dyer's claim that the city, in essence, "took" the property could not be proven. 

Dreyfus also dismissed the claim of slander of title, which came in 2006 after a lien was placed on the property because taxes weren't paid on it. The judge noted that it wasn't the city that had placed the lien on the property, but Waukesha County. The issue was ultimately resolved as well and the lien lifted.

Much of Dyer's claims, the judge said fell beyond the statute of limitations, and that he could have filed suit against the city at any time but chose not to do so.

No conspiracy, theory or otherwise

The most serious charge was that of conspiracy, which Dreyfuss said was unlikely as Dyer would have needed to prove that "all mayoral administrations acted together" against him and that there were continuous violations "over the course of five or six mayors."

The CDA was also seen in Dreyfus' eyes as the same entity as the city, and therefore could not be seen as conspiring with the city against Dyer.

A later claim of defamation, which stemmed from a discussion Mayor John Johnson had with a resident during a public meeting, was also dismissed. Dreyfus said the context where Johnson used the word "blackmail" was not specific enough to Dyer himself, but was in answer to a question regarding the land.

Johnson had told the resident that the city would not be blackmailed by anyone in order to get their way with regard to developments, which the judge didn't feel indicated the specific accusation of blackmail.

City attorneys said that they will file the dismissal as soon as possible, giving Dyer 45 days to decide whether or not he will appeal the case with the Court of Appeals.  

Mark Seghers February 20, 2013 at 10:33 PM
So many of us complain about national politics, and how so many people in Washington run around arguing and posturing, pointing fingers, worrying about themselves, getting nothing done, while America suffers (and pays for it). Sadly, we got that going on right here in Muskego. We are reminded of that every time we go to the grocery store, or grab a 6-pack. The Parkland "tree farm" is a perfect representation of the type of commerce and progress we have seen in our city over the years. I love the city and its people and we are happy to live here, but it's sad that nothing could have been worked out with this property, or regarding overall commercial expansion here, for so many years. Where is our town center? The parkland property is a very strange story, and has become a sad joke. It hurts Muskego and everyone in it. Those involved - WHATEVER the politics behind who said this or said that- should feel ashamed to be a part of this ridiculous hole that remains year after year in the middle of our city.
Brian Spring February 20, 2013 at 10:52 PM
So...does this mean we're any closer to seeing some development there?
Bryan K. February 20, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Hopefully soon, Muskego will be able to reinvent this property into a new downtown, just like Oak Creek is doing with the Delphi property, just on a smaller scale.
Denise Konkol (Editor) February 20, 2013 at 11:01 PM
Art Dyer still owns the property, and always has since he purchased it in 1997. He was not open for comment or questions after the hearing, but we hope to find out what his future plans are, or what can be done from here. Nevertheless, the City wins this case.
Mr.CommonSense February 20, 2013 at 11:02 PM
Being a "newbie" to Muskego (Resident for less than 25 years) I've never known anything but the tree farm. I don't know past mayors and what they said or didn't say. I'd like to think that these parties could have resolved this years ago without any lawyers being involved. I wasn't in the room, but I'm sure some stubborness kicked in and WALA..10 years later...empty parking lot/tree farm..I really like living in Muskego, but after the "let's keep 90 year old schools alive with band-aids crowd" and tree farms in downtown are normal crowd. I'm starting to become a bit alarmed. Concerned for the future, concerned for the community, not just Lowest taxes in the county solves all problems. Mr. Common Sense
thomas l. ralston February 21, 2013 at 01:27 AM
It is great day for Muskego. Dyer's lawsuits are dismissed! Too bad there are some who cant grasp why we have a "tree farm" in the middle of our city center. The land belongs to Art Dyer. The city is not responsible to develope it or buy it, Dyer is. Ever since he bought it, there has been this constant drumbeat that the city should do something. What should the city do? Pay any price Dyer demands? Condemn it and have Dyer drag it through the courts for years? Why not get used to the idea that it is private property and it's up to Dyer to figure out what to do with it. Stop expecting the city to use tax dollars to line Dyer's pockets. He's cost us a ton already on legal fees. This has been going on too long, but who is to blame? Answer that and you'll be able figure out why there is an eye sore, parking lot, "tree farm" in the city center. The next move is Dyer's. Want to bet his choice will involve taxpayer dollars?
Lib Hater February 21, 2013 at 02:28 AM
Mr. Ralston Couldnt agree more. You sounded like a pro free market, pro private sector person.
Michael Borkoski February 21, 2013 at 01:56 PM
You nailed it. There have been, what, 6 mayers but only 1 properly owner during all this. It's pretty clear where the problem lies.
Mark Seghers February 21, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Agree that it's pretty clear who the problem is here.
Tony delgado February 21, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Build for the kids we lost a batting cage and movie theater but have a ton of bars how bout a indoor sports complex were in the same div as arrowhead step up muskego
DF7712 February 21, 2013 at 06:10 PM
There was a sports complex just down the road not enough kids spent they're parents money there
Mark Seghers February 21, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Agree, Tony. We had a batting cage place but it was in my opinion poorly managed and incredibly expensive. We drive all the way to Oak Creek for hitting, pitching and conditioning training. Just crazy.
The Warrior February 21, 2013 at 07:21 PM
It's Dyer's property and much depends on what he is going to do. Will he make a deal or will he appeal this ruling? Based on his history, I think we could be in for more waiting. He over-valued that property and the Lake Park issue did one thing, in my opinion: It made it clear his "tree farm" is not the most valuable piece of property in Muskego. And that property would not work for a sports complex. It's right in the middle of the city.
Gregory Kluck February 21, 2013 at 10:45 PM
What is WALA? A radio station?
Standing Strong for Muskego February 21, 2013 at 11:17 PM
After 15 years, does anybody believe Mr. Dyer has actionable developmental plans for the former Parkland Mall now jokingly viewed as Muskego's treeless "tree farm"? Seriously, he's been horsing around the city, its leaders, the taxpayers and anyone else that believed a development for the City of Muskego was forthcoming. Put the onus on the private property owner folks and stop looking to city leaders to resolve this issue. It would only lead to Mr. Dyer costing the City and its taxpayers more money in the process. Thank you Judge Dreyfus for dismissing this frivolous lawsuit. Hope Mr. Dyer picks up the court costs on this one.
1600penn.ave February 22, 2013 at 02:12 AM
Let Dyer (or anyone else) build something there that will be profitable, viable and successful. I'm sure that wont be batting cages or a sports complex, unless Tony and Mark buy it from Dyer and develope it themselves. Then see how long you can keep the doors open. Unfortunately the only businesses that seem to thrive here is bars, banks and Walgreens. I myself would enjoy a go-kart track there but it would never survive. And good luck competing with "Arrowhead University". And while I'm at it, isn't it also curious that many people in this city are more concerned about high school sports than elementary kids attending 2 dumpy, antiquated schools on the same street as the dreaded "tree farm"? Step up Muskego.
Gerry Karn February 24, 2013 at 11:33 PM
I love Muskego , but let's face it , Muskego has not proved a good place to have a business . The latest casualty is the 90+ year old family owned Salentine Auto . Unfortunately , Mr Dyer bought a failing Parkland Mall , thinking he could turn it into a quick profit . However good his intentions may have been , it was too little , too late .The previous owner ,let it fall to such disrepair , the only solution was to tear it down . A bad investment ! But Muskego has a sorry reputation for keeping business here . Not the city's fault . People in Muskego do not support local business . Properties such as restaurants , movie theaters , sports venues , auto dealers , grocery stores have all gone . Market conditions ? Maybe . Find a Sentry foods . Little chance . Even Pick and Save is at risk with Walmart foods . No judgement , but we in Muskego either don't have the will or the resources to support the businesses we have . Who is to blame ?
Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce February 26, 2013 at 02:48 AM
We have some really great businesses in our business community that strive everyday to keep their business here because they love Muskego. Muskego has proven to be a great place to do business. Some have even reported increases in business traffic during road construction! Many in our community have been very supportive in keeping the $ right here in Muskego. How about you? Think Muskego when you go out to make your next purchase or need a service. It comes right back to you in tax dollars. So why not? visit www.muskego.org for a business where you live, work and play. Our businesses post special events on our events calendar as well as some really outstanding deals under the hotdeals category. Jammin on Janesville allows businesses to meet the community in a fun entertaining manner creating a great awareness. Businesses put a lot of effort in creating this event for the community. Mark your calendars for another J on J in 2013 Support Muskego in Business.
Gerry Karn February 28, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Muskego does have great local businesses , we just need to give them more support .

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