Friday, July 12, 2013

Harassment claim filed against airport manager: Removal of trees at center of dispute -- Shawano Municipal Airport (KEZS), Wisconsin

Robert Mueller planted 10 trees along the airport fenceline on property he believed was his and which the airport says it owns. The trees were removed in November.

A Wescott property owner who has tangled in the past with Shawano City-County Airport officials over the airport fence has filed a harassment claim against the airport manager.

Robert Mueller filed a court petition Tuesday seeking a temporary restraining order and/or injunction against Clarence Schampers. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for July 22.

At issue is a stand of trees Mueller had planted on property outside of the airport fence. The trees, which Mueller said were worth about $2,700, were removed in November.

Mueller was one of nine property owners in the town of Wescott adjacent to the airport who unsuccessfully petitioned the Shawano City-County Airport Commission in 2010 to modify the boundaries of the fence in hopes of forestalling the clear-cutting of trees along the airport's border.

In April 2012, Mueller hired a landscaper to plant a new stand of 10 trees on what he believed was his property between Gumaer Road and the airport fence.

In May 2012, Shawano County Corporation Counsel Tony Kordus sent a letter to Mueller informing him the trees were on airport property and had to be removed.

Mueller took the issue to the Shawano County Board in July 2012. Chairman Jerry Erdmann recommended the Airport Commission meet with property owners and come to a resolution.

Mueller said he had no communication from the commission and closed up his cottage for the winter on Oct. 30. A friend informed him via email a month later that the trees had been removed. 

 "I was not given due process," Mueller said.

Mueller said he is representing all nine property owners in the action filed against Schampers, who he said was responsible for the removal of the trees.

The petition seeks to halt any contact, intimidation or harassment from Schampers, though Mueller admits there has not been any recent contact or communication with Schampers.

Schampers said he was surprised by the petition.

"I have no idea what the heck this is all about. I haven't seen the guy in probably a year or more," he said. "We'll just have to wait and go to court."

Mueller said he took the petition route rather than file a civil suit because he didn't want to involve an attorney.

"It's an act of desperation, actually," he said.

Mueller said he and the other property owners were given assurances by town of Wescott officials that they could landscape the area outside the fence to lessen the fence's visual impact on the neighborhood.

"What we want is something in writing or a firm answer as to what we can do or can not do to obscure the fence," he said.

Schampers said property owners are welcome to attend an Airport Commission meeting for an answer to that question.

"It's (the commission's) determination, not mine," he said.

Schampers also said the airport's property extends beyond the roughly 30 feet between the fence and the road and in fact goes under the road itself.

"That's actually an easement, not a road," he said. "It was granted to the property owners years ago so they would have access to their properties."

Mike Schuler, town of Wescott chairman, has not returned calls by the Leader for comment on the controversy.


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