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Minocqua Pier Controversy May Have a Solution

Town of Minocqua

Minocqua officials are leaning toward a licensing or permit system to control the number and configurations of private piers springing up on the public’s right-of-way on the Island of Minocqua.

The town board Tuesday directed town chairman Mark Hartzheim to draft a proposed permit document to be reviewed at their July 20 meeting.

About 20 people affected by the town’s actions attended the meeting. The board has concerns about the number and types of private piers being placed on Lake Minocqua along portions of East Chicago Street and East and West Park Avenue. There are about 25 portable piers in the town’s rights-of-way, according to Mark Hartzheim.

“We need to protect the public’s rights,” said Hartzheim. “I get a dozen questions a year (from the public) why piers are being allowed there. People pushed it one, two, three steps too far and that’s why we are here.”

Hartzheim added any private pier on public property would be considered accessible by the public.

The board action came after the two-hour meeting at which town attorney Greg Harold and outside legal counsel Larry Konopacki, of the law firm Stafford Rosenbaum in Madison, outlined the town’s statutory ability to control structures on or attached to the rights-of-way held by the town.

Not only are there more private piers being put on the rights-of-way, the piers themselves have grown in size and shape. Some sport benches and have shore stations. A few are allegedly being rented out, according to supervisor Brian Fricke. Last winter the town crew took out a permanent pier being built after the owner refused to do so.

The town attorney outlined several options the town could take, including doing nothing or banning all piers. The latter action would likely see a legal fight from those pier owners. Under a licensing or permit system the town could control their placement. However, a lease period would not extend beyond two or three years.

Helen Tumas, who lives on East Chicago, said she has a modest size, L-shaped pier with a shore station. A pier was there more than 25 years ago when they bought the home. She believes she holds riparian rights and can have a pier.

Another homeowner said they already had paid for a new pier. She lamented that they also bought a new, expensive boat and was distressed they may not be able to use a shore station to protect it from waves.

“For a lot of different reasons it’s important for us to get clarity, for all these people, for the board,” said supervisor Bill Stengl in urging a solution.

Whatever action the town decides upon, it won’t be applied until next year, Hartzheim said.

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