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Man tries to access a deal for Muskego lake land

Oct. 15, 2012

Muskego - Little Muskego Lake resident James Mortle was still trying to assess this week what his next step should be after the Muskego Parks and Recreation Board deferred his request to buy a large portion of a city-owned lake access.

Mortle said he wants the extra land to enhance his property, on which he would either raze his house and build new or remodel his the existing structure and build a small addition. He added that he would build a 4-foot tall fence or wall along the city's access and plant bushes around it to beautify the area.

The lake access at the foot of Park Drive is about the width of a road and goes to Little Muskego Lake. Boats cannot be launched from there, but people use the access to get to the lake to swim or to get to a pier to fish. The current access is anywhere from 30 to 45 feet wide.

Mortle, who lives on one side of the access, wants to purchase all but a 15- or 16-foot corridor leading to the lake. His plans aren't entirely dependent on the land deal - if he can't buy part of the access, he could still remodel his home, he said.

Ownership issues

Part of the reason the Park and Rec Board deferred action on Mortle's request last week was to pin down exactly what the city owns and what Mortle already owns.

Craig Anderson, parks and recreation director, said the city would likely pay for a survey to determine who owns what.

Besides sorting out where the lake access boundary is, the board must decide if it wants to sell part of a public access to a private person.

People around the lake pay lake fees even if they don't live right on the lake, and their deeds guarantee lake access. The city has 19 public access points, of which four are boat launches, Anderson said. The lake access in question is on the southeast shore.

At a public hearing last week, some speakers favored the proposal, saying it would beautify the area.

Admittedly, the city could do a better job of keeping up the area, officials said. There's simply not enough dollars and manpower for the city to take care of the access as some would like.

No view or ease of access

But other speakers said that while the plan would maintain access, it would squeeze lake users onto what they called a narrow path. It would be hard for families to haul water toys over an 11-foot path, they noted.

"You can barely walk through with a tube," neighbor Donna Ferguson said after the hearing where she joined others in opposing the request.

Another neighbor said the path would be too small for two people to carry something between them down to the lake.

Secondarily, the current access affords a wide opening that offers a lake view that the proposed wall would cut off, some said.

"It totally cuts us off from this wide open expanse," Ferguson said, noting that when she is seated by her bay window she would only get a peek at the lake if the wall was erected.

She and her husband built their house 26 years ago because of that lake access and the view it gives, she said.

Mortle said a 4-foot fence shouldn't block lake views, adding that the area would look better under his plan.

"If anybody looked at the renderings, I don't see how they couldn't see it would be a great improvement," Mortle said.

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