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.