The Grafton Village Board on Monday declared the derelict Clark gas station on Washington Street a public nuisance and ordered its owners to remedy problems, which officials say range from vermin-attracting garbage to coolers that could be a danger to children, by March 15.
If the owner of the property, Lakeland Real Estate Investment of Franklin, doesn’t address problems on the property at 1020 Washington St. by the deadline, the village will do so and assess the cost of the cleanup to the owner on its property tax bill.
The board voted unanimously and without debate following a brief public hearing intended, in part, to give Lakeland an opportunity to make its case to the board. No representative of the company, which has not responded to multiple notices from the village, was at the meeting.
“We have made every effort to contact the owner so he could be here tonight,” Village Attorney Michael Herbrand said.
While the village is targeting problems at the station above ground, the state is dealing with potentially more serious issues underground.
An investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has concluded that there is fuel in the underground tanks, Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said.
The findings of the investigation have been referred to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for enforcement, he told the board.
“Unfortunately the best I can get is not a firm time line, but they’ve assigned it as a priority,” Thyes said. “They intend to move quickly.
“The village will be looking at the property above ground, while the state will be looking at it underground.”
The village’s investigation began in November after it received several complaints about the station, which went out of business last year, Tom Johnson, the village building and health inspector, said.
Among the nuisances on the property are untended and overflowing garbage cans, bags of salt piled on pallets, old tires on the lot and coolers, which like old refrigerators could be a danger to children if they become trapped in them, officials said.
Trustee Tom Krueger said the small store on the property could also be a problem.
“The building itself can represent an attractive nuisance for kids doing things that may or may not be acceptable,” he said.
The village warned the owner of the problem in a Dec. 1 notice of potential nuisance, Herbrand said.
“We asked if the owner could simply comply rather than getting to this point (a nuisance hearing),” he said.
The property owner did not respond to that notice or a subsequent letter, both of which were sent via certified mail, Herbrand said.
That, officials said, doesn’t give them a lot of confidence that the property owner will comply with the village’s order, whether he has a month or more to clean up the lot.
“They’ve had since Dec. 1,” Johnson said. “If they haven’t done it in 90 days, they’re not going to do it in another 25 or 30.”
Image Information: THE DEFUNCT Clark gas station at 1020 Washington St. in Grafton was declared a public nuisance by the Village Board Monday. Among the issues the owner has been ordered to address are refrigerators like the Pepsi unit next to the store (right), which officials said could be a danger to children. Photos by Sam Arendt