January 20, 2023 – Town of Erin, WI – There were two overflow rooms full of people for a 7:30 a.m. meeting Thursday morning of the Washington County Land Use & Planning Committee.
The county board chambers were also packed with neighbors from the Town of Erin who wanted to express their concerns regarding a proposal by Washington County to build a trailer on a wetland parcel at the intersection of CTH K and CTH E to potentially house a violent sex offender.
Dozens of people approached the microphone, some crying or shaking with emotion at the thought of a violent sex offender being released in an area close to where their children play outside or visit regularly for horseback riding lessons.
Parent Katie Loosen said the proposed location for the county to put a trailer for violent sex offender Eric J. Dahl is 1,000 feet from her home. “We are the closest family to this proposed land with children. This has violated our constitutional rights if this man is place there,” she said. “My kids play outside. If this man were to be placed, it would be a threat to their freedom and safety. Their peace of mind would be gone. Our mental health and life would be seriously impacted. They would not be able to have friends over. That option would be eliminated. We couldn’t leave our kids outside and unattended. We moved here to have these freedoms. The freedom and beauty of our area. The appearance of the property and the values is huge but when it comes to the safety, that is extreme.”
After more than an hour-and-a-half of public testimony the committee voted 3-2 in favor or the rezoning proposal.
Those voting in favor of the rezoning Carroll Merry, Brian Gallitz, and Ken Mikulec. Those voting against include Jim Burg and Joseph Vespalec.
The issue will now come before the full Washington County Board in February 2023.
Neighbors say they still have hope that a “better placement” can be found.
Click HERE to read about Eric J. Dahl who has been deemed
a ‘violent sex offender’
Below are more comments from people in attendance at the public hearing.
Dennis Ganzer – “I live 1,000 feet from this proposed site. I found a Blanding turtle, 14 inches across, they’re a cross between a tortoise and a turtle. They live about 70 years. I also ran into 4 or 5 worm snakes and in Wisconsin there are only two sites that have them. I have springs on my property and there’s a line of springs that go along Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. In drought years they really slow down. These springs run to my neighbors, that are across the road from this site. The proposal is taking eminent domain a road too far and this proposal is a heinous violation of the public trust.”
Dave Rutowski – City of Hartford – “The people are here for the environment because we cannot win the fight against the individual. Calling on the DNR – the paperwork wasn’t filed. According to Washington County GIS – this site was a road and part of a road and has been filled from 1941 to 1969 – 53 years, no one cared about the environment. No soil borings were done on this site. Filling the site is not a new issue.”
Catheryne O’Keefe – “In 2008 we had devastating floods. We have the risk of flooding almost every spring and by filling the wetland that increases our chance of flooding and increases invasive species. Why would we give special privileges of the devastation we could face. I and my family are opposed to this.”
Mike Burrow – Town of Polk – “I’m privileged to live by a bog. The Town of Erin says it does try to protect wetlands as much as possible. The right to speak is being threatened more and more. I encourage you to listen to your constituents.”
Jeff Phillips – 22 years in Erin – “My grandkids play in the farms and field of Waterford Road. They enjoy it, up until now. The views are because our houses aren’t too close to the road. As a realtor, if you see a tin can on that corner… people will ask, there are no trailers out here and that will of course lower the value of our properties. The kids play in the woods and hunt for antler sheds. Once this guy is here that is over. Please reconsider this. The actual nature of this area depends on the decision you will make.”
Tim Getzke – “I grew up in the Town of Erin. I love the beauty, the hills and the wetland. I care about the people and not just myself. I bought 10 acres, 600 feet from this property and I had to make sure I wasn’t in the wetland or in the flood plain when I built my house. For me to see a trailer in the corner by my house is unbelievable. That road is one of the busiest and everyone will see this frickin’ trailer. There are better choices than this.”
Heather W. – “I live 1,500 feet and teach riding lessons to children. In September my data was used in court. I don’t understand how a judge deemed I wasn’t a youth center. I serve children on a consistent basis. The children I teach love coming to my farm. They say it is their favorite day of the week. I provide opportunities for children to learn life skills. If this goes through parents will pull their children from my program. I’m worried an offender will be watching us or hurt our children.”
Sandra K. – “You do have a DNR permit, but it is not valid for what you’re doing. I have the documents and the history of the correspondents, and you have a general permit for wetlands and that general permit is given out for a property that is less than 10,000 square feet. They don’t have the resources to send people for that. Any one thing on this list requires you to give a different permit. The DNR has been criticized for being sloppy. The law says there is a way to address this situation.”
Paulette S. -” I live across from this site. There have been a number of accidents at this intersection. The accidents end up in this land and I’d hate to see someone injured. I am concerned about the safety issue on that property.”
Greg – “We entrust this land to the future of our children. We have a sacred duty to give this right to the children. AS a reminder you have an obligation to balance property rights with the environment and the community at large. That is your sacred duty.”
After more than an hour-and-a-half of public testimony the committee chair called a 5-minute recess.
Paul Sebo – Washington County Conservationist – “There will be 5,400 square feet of new wetland identified and the petition is to rezone that for the building pad and trailer.”
Washington Supervisor Kenneth Mikulec – “I don’t represent Washington Co. but I do represent people of the district and I want to do what is best for the people. I am a logically driven person. I personally toured this property. In this circumstance I can’t view what the possible use of that property is. The property owner has the right to decide what will go there. In this particular case I will be voting for this to pass… because I don’t have any data that I should vote different in the past from the data I have.”
This is a working story, and more information will be posted when details become available.