An online journal documenting the planning and building process of our modern home from start to finish. It is intended to share our experiences throughout this project with all those interested in modern design.

The Mill - R.I.P. 1860 something to 2009 - now a big unsightly hole and hazard...

It has been a long time since we last posted and much has happened since then. Much of it was related to legal issues we have had with the Village of Merrillan and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It is a long story with a lot of boring details but here is a short summary:

After some stones from the south wall of the Mill building foundation fell out and into the creek, the DNR decided to issue a "draw down" order to the Village for the lake behind the dam. They claimed it was a "high hazard" dam and the the stones falling out of the foundation of the building compromised the dam's safety. The funny thing is that just 12 miles away, there is a real dam with a hydroelectric plant, a big lake behind it, and substantial infrastructure below the dam. This dam actually is crumbling and needs to be repaired or removed (something being worked out by Jackson County and Black River Falls). The last time there was a major flood in 1993, a large part of the city was flooded damaging more than 100 homes (source here). Funny, this dam is rated as "low hazard". Compare this the the Merrillan dam which at most has around 10 acres of water in it and maybe 8 feet deep at the deepest part. Also, there are no homes/buildings in the flood plain area down river. Why would this dam be considered high hazard?
Regardless, the Village Board was upset at the lake being drawn down which became even more of an eyesore. They didn't want to work with us to try to improve the situation and instead decided to try to first issue a "raze order" and then try to eminent domain the property from us. Amusingly, they really couldn't decide what to do, because at various times they were trying to eminent domain it from us and at others, they claimed that we really weren't the owners and the original sale to the first private owner was "illegal". Really, they had no basis for the eminent domain since having a lake isn't really a public necessity.
We finally got tired of all of the trips and paperwork (and costs) to keep fighting and ended up selling the property to the Village in Jan 09. Which immediately afterward, they hired some local Amish people to tear down the wooden part of the Mill structure. The funny thing is, we can't figure out why they were so quick to tear down the wood since it really didn't accomplish anything.
The DNR still won't lift the draw down order since nothing was done to address the "safety" concern and it is going to cost a lot of money to remove the foundation and engineer fill the site to a condition the DNR finds suitable something the Village really can't afford. We could have (on the other hand) afforded it, and would have added a beautiful structure to replace the delapidated Mill and also would have added quite a bit in property taxes to the Village's tax base in the process.
In the end, no one benefited since the lake is still down, it is going to cost a bundle to fix it, and now there is a big, ugly, open hole in the ground next to the dam. So much for the public safety claims since the Village now does own the property (WITH A BIG OPEN HOLE) and has made no attempt to fence it in, or prevent someone from falling in to it (check out the video below).

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