Wynot board looking to solve crow’s nest land issue
WYNOT — A town hall meeting Wednesday night here attempted to deal with a land controversy that has been brewing for over a year in the small northern Cedar County community.
A public hearing was called as part of a special village board meeting to hear about a solution for a pending lawsuit the Village of Wynot is facing.
Last summer a group of Wynot Blue Devil and Expos fans came to the Wynot Village Board with a proposal to build a new crow’s nest at the football/baseball field on the north edge of Wynot.
The construction would hang over the village alley, so the group was looking for the approval to go ahead with the proposed project.
But here is where it gets sticky. Landowners adjacent to the alley had been maintaining the alley as part of their yard with landscaping. It was not used as an access alley since most of the utility work that was needed to be completed was accessed on west and north side of the ball diamond’s outfield.
At a monthly meeting last year, a board member, Kathy Promes, who was also one of the landowners on the west side of the diamond, asked the board to convey the property to her and her husband, Gene, as they had maintained it for 30 years.
The board approved the conveyance, although it was not a unanimous vote, but failed to properly advertise the land ownership transaction or place it on the monthly agenda.
In the ensuing months, talk at the coffee shop showed there was some disappointment in the way the conveyance was conducted and rumors of a lawsuit were heard.
The Wynot board consulted an attorney and he suggested a lease proposal to solve the issue. The land in question would be deeded back to the village and the two landowners involved would then be allowed to lease the property for five years for a fee of $1, provided they follow a set of mandates for maintaining the property.
The lease can then be renewed four times for a period of 25 years total. The lease agreement will change hands if the property changes hands for the maximum of 25 years.
During the public comment period, village residents questioned why a higher lease amount was not asked for and the attorney noted the landowners had the option to refuse a higher lease amount and would then possibly bring a lawsuit for adverse possession.
After board discussion and the public comment period, a board member made a motion to approve signature of the lease agreement and a second was made by another board member.
Three members voted for the lease agreement, one voted nay and one board member abstained.
The main goal and outcome of the approval of this lease agreement is to help the village avoid a lawsuit and the subsequent attorney fees and court costs.
If the board had avoided the approval for the lease proposal, the two current landowners were prepared to file a lawsuit for adverse possession because they had maintained the property for many years and paid real estate taxes.
When their attorney did research at the Cedar County courthouse, he found the landowners had been paying real estate taxes on the alley even though it was designated as village property. The Cedar County assessor had no explanation for this situation.
A criminal lawsuit against the Village of Wynot for not following proper protocol under the open meetings act is also pending.